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Cuomo proposes immigrant defense fund, decries post-election anger

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday took to an historic Harlem church to rail against what he says has been increasing public expressions of anger and anxiety in the nation by supporters of Donald Trump since his election as president.

The Democratic governor said New York will take specific steps to highlight what he says has been the state’s role as "the social conscience" of the nation.

"New York is going to lead the way in stopping the anger," Cuomo told congregants in Abyssinian Baptist Church during its 9 a.m. service. He added, "You spread fear and we will spread love."

The governor said he will be proposing a new "public/private legal defense fund" that will be available to immigrants who are unable to afford legal services. The plan will be included in his proposed 2017 state budget that he will unveil in January.

The Cuomo administration described the new fund as a first-in-the-nation program to provide emergency legal representation to immigrants – regardless of whether the person is in the country illegally or not. It will be run through the state’s Office for New Americans in partnership with some colleges, law firms and advocacy groups.

Additionally, Cuomo said he will also press for a change in the state’s human rights laws to "specifically protect every child in every school, public and private."

The proposal will expand current law that provides certain anti-discrimination protections to students in private schools, so that it encompasses students in public schools who are discriminated against but who currently have no legal claim against the school or district.

The administration said a 2012 decision by the state’s highest court determined public schools are not technically an "education corporation or association," leaving the state Division of Human Rights unable to investigate incidents of bullying or harassment at the state’s 700 school districts. The administration Sunday said the court decision forced the agency to drop 70 open complaints it was investigating at the time.

With a number of vandals using graffiti to leave hate messages around the state since Election Day 3 — including in Wellsville and on Grand island — Cuomo said the State Police is also creating a new hate crimes unit to investigate and assist local police looking into such crimes. The unit, working with local district attorneys, will be charged with investigating any bias-related crime.

In Harlem, Cuomo told the congregants that he came to the church "with a heavy heart" amid a climate of "division getting worse" since Election Day. He said many Americans "feel alienated, disrespected and confused by what they hear. … We are in a whirlwind of hate and division all across this country."

Cuomo railed against the president-elect’s campaign promise to deport illegal immigrants. Noting that he was the grandson of immigrants, Cuomo said, "If there is a move to deport immigrants, I say then start with me."


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