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New York State Department of Labor

Governor Cuomo Signs Executive Order Prohibiting State Agencies from Inquiring About Immigration Status

Executive Order Available Here

Order Protects Immigrants in New York From Fear and Intimidation

Action Also Forbids Law Enforcement Officers from Inquiring About or Disclosing Immigration Status Unless Investigating Illegal Criminal Activity

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(September 15, 2017) -

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued Executive Order 170 that prohibits state agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an individual's immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service. Law enforcement officers will also be prohibited from inquiring about immigration status unless investigating illegal criminal activity. This prohibition against inquiring into status includes, but is not limited to, when an individual approaches a law enforcement officer seeking assistance, is the victim of a crime, or is witness to a crime.

"As Washington squabbles over rolling back sensible immigration policy, we are taking action to help protect all New Yorkers from unwarranted targeting by government," Governor Cuomo said. "New York became the Empire State due to the contributions of immigrants from every corner of the globe and we will not let the politics of fear and intimidation divide us."

The Executive Order builds on Governor Cuomo's commitment to ensure full protections for all immigrants in New York. In March, Governor Cuomo launched the Liberty Defense Project, the nation's first public-private immigrant legal defense initiative, to respond to the surge in demand for help that is overwhelming nonprofit organizations serving immigrants. The partnership is supported by more than $10 million in funding to offer legal assistance and representation to immigrants in New York, regardless of their status, through a statewide network of attorneys and advocacy organizations.

Protecting New York's Immigrants
New York State has and continues to serve as a beacon for immigrants. For the past five years, New York State, through the Office for New Americans, has helped immigrants fully participate in New York State civic and economic life through a network of 27 community-based centers around the state that provide English classes, civic education, guidance on how to start / grow a business, and naturalization assistance. ONA also has a hotline, a toll-free, multi-lingual information center, as well as a dedicated website that guides New Americans to available resources. The hotline number is 800-566-7636 (operating 9AM-8PM (ET), Monday through Friday) and the website is http://www.newamericans.ny.gov/#_blank.

Since taking office, the Governor has taken aggressive steps to provide assistance to immigrant communities. In 2011, he signed a wide-reaching Executive Order to ensure language access across state agencies, suspended the State's participation in a federal program that required local law enforcement to help identify deportable individuals, signed legislation holding entities that defraud immigrants accountable, and established the Office for New Americans. He launched NaturalizeNY, the first public-private partnership of its kind to encourage and assist eligible immigrants in New York State with becoming U.S. citizens. As Attorney General, Governor Cuomo also worked to combat immigration fraud, having utilized general civil rights laws to successfully investigate and prosecute companies for defrauding immigrants. He also secured court judgments and settlements in excess of $23 million dollars on behalf of the state's immigrant population.

The signed executive order can be viewed here, and its text is available below:

No. 170

Executive Order

State Policy Concerning Immigrant Access to State Services

Whereas, New York State will remain true to the ideals that founded this country, and will continue to welcome immigrants as a source of energy, and celebrate them as a source of revitalization for our State; and

Whereas, New York State's residents make up one of the nation's most diverse communities, as over 4.3 million immigrants reside within the State and over twenty percent of the State's population is foreign-born; and

Whereas, immigrants residing in New York State are an essential part of the economic fabric of this State, as over 29% of all business owners in New York are foreign-born, such businesses generate millions of dollars in total net income, and the combined purchasing power of immigrant communities exceeds $165 billion dollars; and

Whereas, the reporting of unlawful activity by immigrant witnesses and victims is critical to strengthening ties between immigrants and law enforcement, reducing crime, and enhancing the State's ability to protect the safety of all of its residents; and

Whereas, the New York State Constitution and the New York State Human Rights Law protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of national origin in the areas of education, benefits, employment, housing, and public accommodation, and the State is committed to enforcing those protections to the fullest extent of the law; and

Whereas, State government has a responsibility to ensure that services are provided equally, and consistent with civil rights laws, to all individuals eligible to receive them; and

Whereas, access to State services is critical to the vitality and well-being of immigrant communities and their continued integration into the State's economic, civil, and cultural life; and

Whereas, providing State services to immigrant communities is necessary to meet the needs of the State's diverse population, to maintain public confidence in State government and its agencies, and to comply with State and Federal civil rights laws; and

Now, Therefore, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of New York, do hereby order as follows:

A.            Definitions

1.            "State entity" shall mean (i) all agencies and departments over which the Governor has executive authority, and (ii) all public benefit corporations, public authorities, boards, and commissions, for which the Governor appoints the Chair, the Chief Executive, or the majority of Board members, except for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
2.            "Alien" shall mean any person who is not a citizen or national of the United States.
3.            "Illegal activity" shall mean any unlawful activity that constitutes a crime under state or federal law. However, an individual's status as an undocumented alien does not constitute unlawful activity.

B.            Agency and Authority Responsibilities Respecting the Privacy of Personal Information

1.            No State officers or employees, other than law enforcement officers as provided in B.3 infra, shall inquire about an individual's immigration status unless:
a.            The status of such individual is necessary to determine his or her eligibility for a program, benefit, or the provision of a service; or
b.            The State officer or employee is required by law to inquire about such individual's status.

2.            No State officers or employees, including law enforcement officers, shall disclose information to federal immigration authorities for the purpose of federal civil immigration enforcement, unless required by law. Notwithstanding such prohibition, this Order does not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any state employee from sending to, or receiving from, federal immigration authorities, information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual, as required by law.

3.            No law enforcement officers shall inquire about an individual's immigration status unless investigating such individual's illegal activity, provided however that such inquiry is relevant to the illegal activity under investigation. Nothing in this section shall restrict law enforcement officers from seeking documents for the purpose of identification following arrest.
a.            This prohibition against inquiring into status includes, but is not limited to, when an individual approaches a law enforcement officer seeking assistance, is the victim of a crime, or is witness to a crime.
b.            Law enforcement officers may not use resources, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting and apprehending any individual suspected or wanted only for violating a civil immigration offense. Law enforcement officers have no authority to take any police action solely because the person is an undocumented alien. This includes identifying, questioning, detaining, or demanding to inspect federal immigration documents.

Given under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this fifteenth day of September in the year two thousand seventeen.

By the Governor           

Secretary to the Governor

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