Last year, an agreement took much of the Capitol by surprise: the state legislature would approve a measure allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for and access driver's licenses in New York. The bill's passage was significant: Long a third rail in state politics for Democrats, a version of the proposal went over so badly under then-Governor Eliot Spitzer that it tripped up the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.
But politics shift, and less than a year later, advocates are pushing the legislature to go further.
On Tuesday, immigrants and advocates from Make the Road New York will hold a rally in Albany at the Capitol to push for a range of measures that would further aid the undocumented community and are being sought by progressives.
Advocates will push for a bill meant to block Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from state courthouses. They will also rally for bills requiring "good cause" evictions, change how schools discipline kids with suspensions, the decriminalization of sex work and tax hikes for the rich in order to spend more money on health care, schools and housing.
Democrats control both the state senate and assembly for the first time in a decade, and lawmakers last year approved bill after bill that had been long-sought by liberal interests. Those include new measures bolstering abortion rights, early voting a sweeping rent control law and the driver's licenses law.
But advocates have continued to push for more. A bill legalizing marijuana in New York was not approved last year, and its chances of passage in 2020 remain murky.
At the same time, some suburban lawmakers are leery of going further and further to the left, especially in a re-election year while representing a more moderate constituency. Some of those suburban Democrats are working to alter a provision approved last year that ends cash bail requirements for those accused of misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses — a signal that some lawmakers are nervous about embracing an agenda that goes too far to the left this session.
Nevertheless, advocates want to press their case for going further this year with large majorities in both chambers.
“We made great progress in 2019, but we have a long way to go to ensure respect and dignity for all New Yorkers, especially black and brown people, immigrants, and trans people," said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. "Hundreds of our members are coming to Albany on Tuesday to demand that our state act to fully remove ICE from the courts, ensure protections for all tenants, stop the school-to-prison pipeline, make billionaires pay, and more. It’s time for New York to truly lead on these progressive priorities.”
The rally is set to take place at the Million Dollar Staircase at the Capitol.