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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks on President Trump's Executive Order to Cut Federal Funding To Sanctuary Cities

January 26, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Okay, everyone ready? Everyone ready? 

Okay. President Trump issued an executive order today and its purported purpose was to enhance public safety. But here in New York City, and in cities across this nation, this executive order could in fact undermind public safety and make our neighborhoods less safe – firstly, because this executive order could undermine the relationship between our police department and our communities, which has been the foundation of our ability to drive down crime; second, because the potential funding cuts suggested in the executive order would first and foremost fall on the NYPD, thus taking away resources that we use every day to protect the people of this city against crime and against terrorism. So, the executive order on its face contradicts its stated purpose. And, again, this is true here in New York City and will be true in cities all over the country. There are hundreds of cities that work with their immigrant populations, including their undocumented immigrants – here in this city, a community number numbering almost half a million people. 

Hundreds of American cities where this executive order could undermine public safety, create a rift and a disconnect between the police departments and those they serve, and take away funding from law enforcement – that’s the potential magnitude of what we face here. But, at the same time, it is important to understand that in New York City this executive order does not change who we are or how we will go about doing our work. 

The stroke of a pen in Washington does not change the people of New York City, or our values. 

It does not change how this city government protects its people. 

The executive order will not change how we enforce the law in New York City, or how we do business on behalf of the people, all 8.5 million New Yorkers. This is a city of immigrants – we always have been for almost 400 years. This is our fundamental nature. When you look at all those gathered around me – I want to thank the leaders of this administration and key partners who have gathered here. 

If you look at this group of New Yorkers, who represent nations all over the globe, in terms of the backgrounds of our families – this is a picture of the immigrant experience right here before you. And it is also a picture of a city that works and a city that respects all people – tries to include everyone and respect their rights. This is the American dream right before your eyes, and we are not going to allow it to be undermined. 

We are going to defend all of our people, regardless of where they come from and regardless of their documentation and status. We are also proud of the fact that New York City is the safest city in America. It’s because of the extraordinary work of the men and women of the NYPD, but it’s also because of the work of so many partners and communities all over the city who help the NYPD in its work, who trust the NYPD, who provide information and support of the NYPD, who help our officers to stay safe. 

We are a city in which people regardless of documentation status know that they can report a crime or, if they are a victim of a crime, can come forward – witness to a crime and come forward and know that information will be used to keep us all safe but it will not be used to deport them – that fundamental compact that goes back in this city decades through Democratic, Republican, and Independent administrations here in New York City. It’s one of the reasons we became the safest big city in America, and we are not going to undermine the progress the NYPD has made over a quarter-century. 

The spirit of this executive order runs contrary to our character and our values as a city, and, I would argue, it runs contrary to the character and values of the United States. Now, as we have looked at the executive orders just in the last hour or two, we do want to let the people of New York City know that there is less here than meets the eye. This executive order is written in a very vague fashion. We believe that not only will it be susceptible to many legal challenges, but that it will be met with tremendous public resistance all over the nation – that there will be a fundamental sense of unfairness recognized in this executive order and that the legal issues that will be raised could fundamentally change the outcome. 

I want to note that we believe that we are on solid ground for the legal challenge to the executive order, should the occasion arise and be necessary. Specifically, among other reasons – specifically because some recent years ago when the federal government tried to withhold unrelated funding from states in a similar action. None other than Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion of the Supreme Court case, NFIB v. Sebelius, in 2012, which prohibited the federal government from broad-brush withholding of funds. And Justice Roberts wrote that such an action would be the federal government “holding a gun to the head” of states and cities. 

So that broad-brush action was banned by the United States Supreme Court. Following that logic, a narrow application of executive order means that money that would be withheld – would be withheld from law enforcement, specifically from the NYPD. So the sum total would be both an unfair action that would cause a rift between the NYPD and the community it serves, while simultaneously taking resources away from the NYPD that is uses to keep us safe – a double jeopardy for the NYPD. Notwithstanding the challenges and problems we see here.

It is important to remind all New Yorkers that the NYPD, the Department of Corrections, the City of New York has been cooperating with the federal government over these last years in terms of sharing information and working in cases involving individuals who have committed 170 different offenses. This is public record – hold it up here and we will distribute it. These are the lists of the 170 offenses that by city law trigger specific cooperation between the City of New York and the federal government in the case of an undocumented individual. These are serious offenses, violent crimes. This is the law of New York City. It has been for years and it has been the basis for productive cooperation with the federal government. This works. It has been working and it has helped to keep us safe without undermining the relationship between our police and our communities. This will continue. But, we will not deport law abiding New Yorkers. We will not tear families apart. We will not leave children without their parents. We will not take bread winners away from families who have no one else. And we are not going to undermine the hard one trust that has developed between our police and our communities. NYPD began this day winning the war against crime and terror using the right approach and that approach will continue tomorrow. A few words in Spanish –

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that, I want to introduce our Police Commissioner, Jimmy O’Neill.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

So I started off today – I gave the state of the NYPD at a police foundation breakfast this morning. And I talked about all of the gains we’ve made not only over the last three years, but over the last 25 years. And if you look at where New York is right now with the homicides down in 2016 – a tremendous reduction in shootings down over 12 percent; overall crime down four percent. And we are starting out 2017 in a pretty good place too. And I don't want to do anything that will put any of that at risk. And a huge part of that is our neighborhood policing program. And the neighborhood policing – the goal there, of course, is to keep New Yorkers safe, but it’s also to build trust. And we build trust by having that connection between the communities that we are sworn to protect and serve and the police officers. And again, I wouldn’t want to do anything to put that at risk.

Every day we work closely with our federal partners, specifically the FBI, the Marshal Service, the DEA and the ATF. And it is in conjunction with our federal partners that we will continue to push crime down. And we wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. The U.S. Marshal Service, the Regional Fugitive Task Force – continue to do an outstanding job going after the worst of the worst that commit crimes in the city or if they commit crimes in other cities and come here. So the financial backing for these efforts comes from a pool of money from the federal government. Part of that funds the overtime for those task forces and it’s also the UAC funds that we’ve spoken about in the past – the Urban Area Security Initiative.  That’s about $110 million that we use to protect this great city and that money goes toward the radiological detection equipment, highly trained Vapor Wake dogs. We’ve spoken about that in the past. Our intelligence analysis, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, our network of public and private   cameras that aid in numerous investigations, the training and equipment for the NYPD’s bomb squad, which most recently proved itself invaluable in the investigation of the Chelsea bombings. So again, I would not want to put any of that at risk. We already removed the worst criminals from New York including those who have been convicted of serious crimes and have been deported and violent felons. So I think there is a very delicate balance in New York City right now. I think that’s why we’re doing so well and to do anything that would eat at that trust, I think would be a disservice to the people of this great city. So thank you Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor: Thank you, Commissioner.


Mayor: Okay, with that – thank you very much Congressman for that very powerful statement, and I think we’re all feeling that same passion today. We welcome your questions on the executive order.

Question: Mayor, on a practical level how much can the president withhold money that is earmarked for law enforcement? And I also wondered if you see what you’re doing now as an act of civil disobedience against the federal government?

Mayor: I do not see it as civil disobedience. I think we are doing what is right for our people. We are defending the interests and needs of New Yorkers under the law. And we’re supporting law enforcement and the work it does. And as I said, this executive order is very vague and our corporation Counsel Zach Carter is here, former U.S. Attorney earlier in his life, and made very clear to me today that if any action is taken as a result to restrict our funding, at that point we will bring legal action to stop it. So, remember the executive order in addition to be vague is theoretical, but if anything actually starts to move, the City of New York will take legal action to stop the executive order from hurting our people and our city.

Question: And the first part of that, you said what he could do is under the law he couldn’t, you know, withhold transportation funding or school funding, but he could withhold, probably, NYPD funding or at least theoretically. Can you get it without congressional approval or is a pocket of money that the president has that the NYPD is banking on?

Mayor: Well, let me – I’ll start and Zach may join in here, or Jimmy may join in here to add to it. Look, the way we read this it identifies two agencies, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. Those agencies do provide some funding to New York City, primarily to the NYPD – to a lesser extent the Department of Correction. By our understanding of the law, and a very recent and clear and sharp decision of the United States Supreme Court, the only action that could be taken is specifically related to the subject matter at hand, and it means those two agencies. So, low and behold what does that mean? This executive order, if it were to come fruition would substantially take money away from the NYPD. But again, if that were ever attempted, we would be in court immediately to stop it. And I know that will happen in cities all over the country.

Do you want to add?

Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter: As the Mayor said, it is well established by Supreme Court authority that the federal government can’t use the threat of withholding funds to coerce the states to conform with federal government issued policies. It’s a bedrock principle of federalism and quite frankly a bedrock conservative principle – somewhat ironically. So that can’t happen lawfully. With respect to funding that is law enforcement specific – you know, like other executive orders that have been issued over the last few days there are hedges embedded right in the order itself. It gives the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security discretion to permit funding to law enforcement agencies. So, it threatens on the one hand, but provides a safety valve on the other. So it appears to be frankly more gesture than legal force.

Mayor: And as you – one other thing I’ll cue you to mention – the constant invoking of the phrase ‘as appropriate under the law’.

Corporation Counsel Carter: Correct. That is absolutely correct. If you look at the executive order, a couple of times there is the language that the Attorney General and the secretary have discretion to do things consistent with law. They know what the law says, and they know what the law permits and what it doesn’t.

Question: Counsel Carter, you differ from what the Mayor said regarding John Roberts decision because the Mayor said that – talked about putting a gun to the head of the State –

Mayor: That was John Roberts’s words.

Question: John Roberts.

Mayor: Not my words.

Question: [Inaudible] state and cities, and you were very clear that it really just applies to states – that the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot coerce states into following certain policies.

Corporation Counsel Carter: The City is part of the State.

Mayor: Look at the executive order. The executive order refers to states and [inaudible] subdivisions thereof.

Corporation Counsel Carter: Right.

Question: [Inaudible] cities don’t have the same authority, the same standing vis a vis the federal government to sue. This has been established in 1920s and 1930s.

Corporation Counsel Carter: To the extent that we are – a. first of all, we expect that we will have the cooperation with our state counterpart, the Attorney General of the State of New York. But we are also, again, part of the State. We will have standing and capacity to sue to defend the City against defunding.

Mayor: We can get you the whole history of times we have been able to take legal action as a city. It is quite extensive.

Question: The Comptroller’s Office is saying – quoting us a figure that there is the funding that is at stake here – I just want to make sure that this is consistent with what you are saying that it is $156 million in Urban Areas Security Initiative funding and then two other grants of six million and three million dollars a piece. Can you just breakdown what you understand is the funding that’s at risk here?

Commissioner O’Neill: I’m going to give you the total breakdown after the press conference, bit out of that $150, $110 is UASI funds, and that is anti-terrorism funding. There is also funding for our federal taskforces, which pays for overtime and is also a transit counterterrorism overtime that is part of that also. And there is also funding we receive to cover all the missions – the U.N. missions and the national missions that are in New York City. So, it’s anywhere between – it’s above $150, and we’re figuring anywhere between $150 and $160.

Question: Is any of the grant funding that we’re talking about here for programs like domestic violence victims?

Commissioner O’Neill: There are miscellaneous grants that total about $1.3 million. And I would have to get you the breakdown of exactly what those grants are.

Mayor: Let me just jump in for clarity, I think the simplest way to say it – first of all, very important, nothing has happened yet. If – remember there are two outs in the executive order and Zach will correct me if there is anything that needs to be said more sharply; one, consistent with the law. So, it sounds very intense and very powerful in the first instance until you say consistent with law that it immediately gets you to the Supreme Court decision and that limits the options of the federal government among other laws that will; two, that law enforcement can be exempted. It says it right there in the executive order. That could be applied to say ‘well, wait a minute, in this case we won’t take resources away from the NYPD. We don’t know yet. The minute any specific action to withhold funding were to occur, that’s when Zach Carter is in court the next hour, and then we would, of course, seek an injunction to freeze any effort to remove our funding at the point of contact. So, I want you to hear those procedural points because it is not real until it happens. Second, just to what the Commissioner said, so when you add everything together – we’re still analyzing – but as he said somewhere in excess of $150 million, but overwhelmingly that is anti-terrorism funding. Anti-terrorism funding is the thing they would have to take away. And the second thing, as he mentioned, was the support we get to protect all of the leaders who come to New York City for the U.N. and so many other things that are crucial to the standing of the United States in the world. So, these are big decisions the administration has to make. Do they actually want to take away that kind of funding from New York City?

Question: So in some way could Mr. Trump’s order cut the funding to protect Trump Tower?

Mayor: Rich, it’s a fair question. Again, theoretically it could be in th3 same bucket, but I would make the same point and then some that I think that the President and his team are going to look long and hard at the notion of taking away anti-terrorism funding from New York City, taking away funding that protects foreign leaders who visit New York City, and taking away funding that protects Trump Tower and everyone who works in it and lives in it and visits it. So, we’ll see on each of those things, but the very fact is the executive order would be aimed at the funding that keeps people safe is going to be something they have to think about long and hard.

Question: Two questions: First is just a numerical one. You held up a list of 170 offenses that you would turn someone over to ICE. How many folks have been turned over to ICE each year under those 170 crimes?

Mayor: I want to see if either Zach Carter or Nisha Agrawal, who is our Commissioner for Immigrant Affairs, have those numbers handy or do you want to get back to him?

We’ll get them to you right after.

Question: The second thing is under the executive order folks are deported who have been convicted of any criminal offense; charged with any criminal offense, have committed acts that would constitute a [inaudible] criminal offense. Are you reconsidering Broken Windows enforcement given that you would be saddling folks with criminal records and then subjecting them to potential deportation?

Mayor: Look, let’s take one thing at a time here. This has come out today. And as we are saying very squarely to you, we think there is a lot of vagueness in this executive order and tremendous opportunity for it to be challenged legally, let alone in the court of public opinion. So, we’re a long way from this having the effect that so many wish it to have. In the meantime, this is the safest big city in America. The NYPD continues to drive down crime while healing the relationship between police and community. We’re going to stay on that track. It’s as simple as that. 

Question: A follow-up.

Mayor: Hold on. You had –

Question: You mentioned the City seeking an injunction after a certain chain of events had happened.

Mayor: Yes –

Question: What is the City is denied. How do you go about filling the holes then?

Mayor: I want to say first of all Zach may want to jump in. We are not the only ones who are going to bring real action. I think cities and states all over the country are going to bring real action. Remember President Obama put forward executive action on immigration, which a lot of us thought was a good idea. And you remember that played out in court over well over a year, or year and a half and ultimately was not able to proceed. So we have very recent history proving to us that a presidential executive order is far from sacred and there will be many, many jurisdictions that oppose this. And again then there is the court of public opinion on top of it. And I think there has been many angles that which is approached legally as well. Do you want to speak to those?

That’s why I am not going to get into the business of theoretical next steps because we think there is a long playout here. Congressman please –

Congressman Joseph Crowley: The UAC accounts when they were created 15 years ago post 9/11 had gone through a lot of politics in Washington. Many smaller cities and smaller states in the country wanted more access to those accounts. I think it’s important to note that they are based on threat assessment. So this is relevant to the Trump Towers. That’s an increased threat assessment here in the city now that didn’t exist maybe three or four months ago. So I think in that sense that these are reevaluated every year and that the allotment is based on a threat assessment. That’s why New York City has such a great portion – that we are a threat.     

Mayor: Constantly.   

Question: The executive order also says that the federal government will essentially deputize local law enforcement to act as immigration officers [inaudible] secretary of homeland security to begin negotiations with states and cities too. How do you respond to that?

Mayor: I’ll start and would welcome the Commissioner or corporation counsel to jump in if you want to after I start.

We’re not going to use our officers to be used as immigration enforcement agents. It’s very simple. We have come so far in making this city safe and building a better relationship between police and community. We are not going to take the very people who keep us safe every day and turn them against the communities they serve. It’s as simple as that.

Question: [Inaudible] think that New York is one of the few states left with a Democratic governor –do you think that [inaudible] should make up the difference as far as any lost federal funds?

Mayor: I don’t even want to get into a discussion of loss federal funds because again I never hold against you guys that you want to ask the theoretical or the situational question of what we might do in each circumstance. I want you to hear loud and clear, I think the example I gave about President Obama’s executive action should put a point on it for you. We are going to fight this and cities and states all over the country are going to fight it. And looking at it and I yield to the corporation counsel on this, we are immediately struck by how vague it is and how subject to challenge it is.

We are also struck by how many outs this executive order gives itself and gives the administration. So we’re not going to get into the theoreticals of what it what do if we had a funding cut. We have not had a funding cut at this moment. We’re going to continue to do our work.

Question: Melissa Mark-Viverito and Joseph Crowley both talked about how Trump is trying to essentially criminalize immigrants, but he speaks very clearly that he’s really just talking about illegal aliens. And even among those, just those that have committed crimes. Do you see a difference between illegal aliens or undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants who are most of the immigrants in New York City and Americans, generally? Should there be any distinction made?

Mayor: Look it’s simple. I appreciate the ideological bent of your question but I will answer it very clearly. I agree 100 percent with Speaker Mark Viverito. There has been an attempt to demonize immigrants across the board. That is what’s happening here and the vast majority, even of the undocumented, are law abiding people and that’s not pointed out in the discussion. The first words out of his mouth were his characterization of Mexicans as rapists and criminals. So this is not even close, this has been a very systematic – and this is where Steve Bannon is behind this 100 percent. This has been a systematic effort to demonize people of color and immigrants as playing out today.

Yes –

Question: Mayor, did you discuss this at all in your meeting with Donald Trump first and the second question is you often said you think because Donald Trump is a New Yorker that he wouldn’t do things that would harm the city, do you think you need to recalculate that assumption?

Mayor: I appreciate both questions. On the first one when I met with President-elect in the week after the election we spoke specifically about the New York City law. This same list of categories – I did not hand him the list, but I went over with him, and at that moment actually Jeff Session had come into the room literally at that point in the conversation, so we had a conversation all three of us. And I said here is an example of a middle ground that works. This city which is very interested in public safety and in keeping law and order in tact – this city by law, by a vote of our city council and a bill signed by me, determined 170 categories of crime where if someone commits these crimes, they are undoubtedly going to be deported, and we’re going to work with the federal authorities on that. I then emphasized that what we wanted to guard against was individuals who had done exceedingly low level crimes – and I’ll give you examples, someone has a small amount of marijuana, some who committed a traffic offense that did not cause any harm to anyone else. You’ll look at this list – I want to ask all of you please this is such an important issue. Literally for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers they’re very deeply concerned. When you look at this list you will not doubt for a moment this covers everything conceivable in terms of serious and violent crime. So I explained that to the President-elect. I explained that to the Attorney General, and I said this is a model – and I know other cities have similar approaches – that could address the fair concerns people have about those who commit serious crime but respect millions of others who are part of the fabric of our community.

There were two parts, I’m sorry.

Question: The second question was you said you didn’t think Donald Trump would hurt the city because he is a New Yorker. Do you think that [inaudible] this action that you need to recalculate?

Mayor: I think your statement is a little too generous in terms of what I said previously, meaning I was not that blank check for the president. I said I hoped that the president as a New Yorker would remember where he came from and would understand what his words had meant and his proposals had meant already. I told him about the fear they had created, and I told them that – you know I didn’t doubt he loved the city, but he had to understand what 8.5 million were experiencing as a result of his words and proposals. Today we see something that’s very troubling and is not encouraging at all, but again I’m not going to minimize the danger for a moment, but I am going to tell you in terms of how we stand and fight. When we look at this executive we think there’s lot of ways to stand and fight.

Mayor: Let me just ask – anyone who didn’t get one who has one before we go back to Laura?


Question: Is it at all possible or is it in the realm of the imagination of lawmakers here, you that the, maybe, millions of dollars in tax abatements that he’s given on his building might be reevaluated?

Mayor: Well, Henry, that is a rather fascinating proposal.


If we do it we’ll call it Henry’s Law. Hadn’t thought of that one – I will certainly have the authorities look into that. Thank you.


Question: I wanted to ask you specifically about this line from the executive order that says the director of OMB is directed to obtain and provide relevant and responsive information on all federal grant money that currently is received by any sanctuary jurisdiction. Are you saying that to understand that to mean just DOJ and DHS or –

Mayor: No, we talked about this. I’ll start, and you jump in or come on over and help me. I’ll start. I’ll speak English. He’ll speak lawyer. We believe, again there are a series of vague items, somewhat contradictory items – items that could be implemented one way or another. There’s a lot going on. We think the Supreme Court decision written by Justice Roberts suggests narrowness very clearly – or demands narrowness. That it only can relate to the specific agencies that are the subject. So that would be Homeland Security and Justice. That’s how we read this. But that’s if they want – if, if, if – if they wanted to threaten funding, it would be those two agencies, which specifically means from the New York City point of view overwhelmingly NYPD and to a lesser extent correction. On that last line, that’s a nice line to include but we don’t believe that conforms with the law.

Corporation Counsel Carter: I agree. I believe that that last line falls into the category of gesture. It raises alarms, but again in the earlier parts of the executive law it talks about everything having to be consistent with law, and I think they knew as they drafted this that that broad catchall in the end that asks OMB to look at all funding streams without regard to whether or not they were related to an immigration enforcements is clearly not in play.

Question: What makes you think though that given the presidents demonstrated ability or willingness to do things outside of what we might see as normal in the scope of political activity that he doesn’t intend to I mean – you know going to nominate a new Supreme Court justice and could potentially have a majority in the supreme court that could re-litigate that.

Corporation Counsel Carter: You used two different words. You used ability and willingness, and they are very different. He might be willing to do a lot of things. He’s not able to do very much.

Mayor: Can I add and Zach your Supreme Court expert you will catch me if I make a mistake here – 2012 Justice Scalia was alive, the court makeup was the same as it will be when the president names another member?

Corporation Counsel Carter: That’s correct.

Mayor: So it was a Republican dominated court and a decision written by Chief Justice Roberts, so when you say unusual things have been happening in America you’re right about that but that’s a real recent decision, and it’s a very clear decision and we think that’s going to be dispositive.

Thanks, everyone.


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