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States Double Down on Sanctuary Status to Fight Trump's "Cruelty"

'These are not political games, these are real lives the president is targeting'

The "New York State Liberty Act" would prohibit law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration laws or questioning or arresting people based on suspected immigration status. (Photo: Joe Piette/flickr/cc)

States are getting ready to fight President Donald Trump's xenophobic agenda, with political trendsetters at the front lines.

The Democrat-heavy New York Assembly passed two bills on Monday to make the state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, and to give undocumented students access to tuition assistance programs.

The "New York State Liberty Act," introduced by Assemblyman Francisco Moya, a Democrat from Queens, would prohibit law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration laws or questioning or arresting people based on suspected immigration status. It would also guarantee the right to a lawyer for any individual facing deportation.

The Assembly also passed the DREAM Act, which has passed through the chamber five times since 2010 only to stall in the state Senate, to provide tuition assistance to undocumented students attending college in New York.

"It is our job to respond to his call to build border walls with a wall of our own, one that protects diversity and acceptance that have always been at the core of our state," Moya said during a press conference. "Not only is it a moral imperative to shelter every race or religion from bigotry, it is our obligation to protect the function of our local law enforcement and agencies."

Although they face an "uncertain-at-best" future in the GOP-controlled state Senate, as Politico puts it, the bills mark the state's strongest response yet to Trump's nationalist policies.

Meanwhile, California congressional leaders released statements countering Trump's recent threat to defund the "out of control" state for considering sanctuary status.


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"Sanctuary cities, as you know I'm very much opposed to sanctuary cities," the president said during an interview Sunday with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. "They breed crime, there's a lot of problems. We have to well defund, we give tremendous amounts of money to California.... California in many ways is out of control, as you know. Obviously the voters agree or otherwise they wouldn't have voted for me."

"So defunding is your weapon of choice?" O'Reilly asked.

"A weapon. I don't want to defund the state," Trump said. "I don't want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state. If they're going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon."

Assembly members responded by outlining California's economic strength and progress, and warning that any sanctions against the state could have nationwide consequences.

“If this is what Donald Trump thinks is 'out of control,' I'd suggest other states should be more like us," said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. "California has the most manufacturing jobs in the nation. Our state grows a quarter of the nation's food. Our minimum wage increase has not only helped our poorest workers, it has boosted the economy while unemployment continues to drop."

Senate leader Kevin de León also noted that California actually gives more to the federal government through annual taxes than it receives in funding.

"President Trump's threat to weaponize federal funding is not only unconstitutional but emblematic of the cruelty he seeks to impose on our most vulnerable communities," De León said. "Taking such irresponsible action would hurt our senior citizens, children, farmers, and veterans—these are not political games, these are real lives the president is targeting."

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