With the tolling of flag poles all around, and a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, top lawmakers from New York and New Jersey huddled together in opposition to President Trump’s travel ban.
“My name is Senator Michael Gianaris. I’m from New York, not New Jersey but we’re happy to be here on the New Jersey side today.”
Gianaris is the deputy democratic leader of the New York State Senate and author of legislation that would prevent the Port Authority from using its resources to support Trump’s Executive Order.
“This Executive Order, which has told legal Americans, some people holding green cards, some people who’ve already been screened to come into this country by the federal government that they cannot be let in. That they get detained, that they get held without access to their lawyers in some cases, without access to their families. It’s so unlawful that we believe that our states should not participate.”
So how would the legislation work against the travel ban?
“Prohibit the Port Authority personnel form participating in the enforcement of this order. Prohibit the facilities of the Port Authority from being used. Prohibit even any resources from the Port. So it the federal government somehow has control of a room that they’re using but the electricity or the climate control comes from the Port Authority, that too should be shut off. So we can do everything we can to impede this process and make sure these people are allowed to enter our country.”
The Port Authority is a bi-state agency. Any changes that take effect in New York must be agreed upon with New Jersey. Enter Garden State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who’s introducing the same bill.
“We will be asking the Port Authority to refrain any assistance, any help, any resources to keep this kind of inappropriate and illegal issue moving forward.”
This particular legislation would have to go through four houses of government, 2 in New York, 2 in New Jersey before hitting each governor’s desk. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has been a public detractor of President Trump’s policies. New York state senator Gianaris expects Cuomo would support the bill.
“I will say that the governor on our side has taken a very active approach to provide assistance at JFK for the detainees and the refugees. He’s set up a state wide hotline, so we certainly believe we have some sympathetic ears on that side. I would also say this should not be a partisan issue.”
Many would call that wishful thinking, but Senator Weinberg says recent criticisms from New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie regarding the roll-out of Trump’s Executive Order have her thinking he might at least consider it.
“Hopefully he will see that there is more wrong with this than the roll out. The content is what is wrong. Perhaps he will listen to what I think is an overwhelming majority of his constituents.”
For now, President Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and immigrants is law. And as controversial as it is to many, Trump says it’s about keeping the country safe.