By Jimmy Vielkind
July 20, 2016
New York will have a permanent task force dealing with the rights of immigrant workers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday as he signed an executive order combining two existing bodies into one.
Cuomo, a Democrat, used the occasion to speak up for and denounce anti-immigrant rhetoric that has permeated the presidential campaign (though Cuomo, a prominent Hillary Clinton surrogate, did not name Donald Trump during his speech). The governor was also praised by labor leaders and immigration rights advocates for combining the task forces on exploited workers and the misclassification of workers.
“These challenges are not going to go away. This is not a one-time, episodic situation. This is a chronic, long-term problem,” Cuomo said. “No state in the nation has done it. This state is the progressive capital of the nation. This state will lead on the issue of immigration as a matter of principle, as a matter of ideology, as a matter of the basic underpinnings of this country and this society that was founded on immigration.”
This is the second pro-immigrant announcement in as many weeks for Cuomo — last Thursday, the governor announced a lottery to cover the fee for citizenship applications — who next week will travel to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The governor said he expects to have some kind of speaking role.
There are several roles Cuomo could take in the months after the conventions, including surrogate attack dog, spokesman for gun control laws and moderating voice on civilian-police relations.
While Cuomo has long pushed for the rights of immigrant workers (he was celebrating the work of a task force he created a year ago, after all), the new focus may be a sign of things to come. Here is what Cuomo said about the national dialogue:
“What we are hearing in the political dialogue right now is the worst of scapegoating. Rather than dealing with the real issues that this country has — and we do have real issues, we have economic anxiety, we have international anxiety, we have racial anxiety, we have real problems to deal with — rather than deal with the real problem, it’s always easier to scapegoat and point the finger. And the new scapegoat is, it’s all about the immigrants! [If] we just didn’t have the immigration, everything would be fine. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The governor also detailed what’s next for his panel: state regulations to protect dry cleaning workers, car wash workers and home health aides from various chemicals. Cuomo also announced $5 million will be competitively distributed to nonprofit groups “who can represent exploited workers, make their case, work out resolutions.”
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