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Transcript: Mayor Bill de Blasio Hosts Press Confernce Call with Fellow Mayors on National Immigration Action

March 8, 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, thank you very much Nisha. Thank you for the extraordinary work you and your office are doing on behalf of immigrants. And I want to thank your colleague, Ms. Lopez, from Los Angeles for her great work as well. I know we’ll hear in a moment from Mayor Garcetti of L.A. and Mayor Bell of Birmingham who have been key partners in this work, and I want to thank them.

We are here today because this amicus brief is so important to all of us – all of the cities and counties that have come together because we are at the frontline. We’re where immigrant families need our help, and they are part of the fabric of our communities. There are so many immigrants who contribute in so many ways to our cities and counties. And in New York City we know of almost half-a-million undocumented New Yorkers who we see as families, we see as neighbors. And at this moment they need the help that would be provided by President Obama’s executive action. But that can’t happen until the issue is resolved in the courts. So, we thought it was crucial for cities and counties to get together to speak from the local perspective and let the Supreme Court know what this means for us.

I mentioned the total number of people who are undocumented in New York City – when it comes to the specific relief that will be available under the president’s executive action, our estimate is about 220,000 New Yorkers would be eligible under the executive action. And we know it’s many millions more around the country. So, this is important to all of us in cities and localities around the country – and we wanted to stand up and offer our voices and say to the Supreme Court it’s the right thing to do to let the executive action go forward. And we think it’s the American thing to do. We think it is recognition of America today and the needs of our people and of our families. And the coalition that we’ve all worked to put together – Cities For Action – has been working to support the executive action from the very beginning. And when it was challenged we filed an amicus brief at the District Court level with 30 signatories, when it went to the Court of Appeals that became 70 signatories, and then on the verge of the movement to the Supreme Court 80 signatories – now over 100 mayors and county leaders, including the U. S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.

And it’s important to note that so many of the people that have signed are from states where their state governments challenged the action of the Obama administration. But the cities and counties of those states want to see the executive action move forward – that includes, for example, Atlanta in Georgia, and Austin and Houston in Texas, Dayton in Ohio – so many major cities that are standing up and saying, “Look, our people need help.” And they’re trying to send a clear message to the Supreme Court that localities all across the country believe that we can’t see families divided. We can’t see people deported and families torn apart. We can’t leave families without the help that will allow them to thrive in our cities and in our counties.

So, we believe that the Supreme Court will find in-favor of the executive action. We believe it will allow us to do so much more for families in our cities and counties – and that those families will be able to live in dignity and in free in fear.

And again, I want to thank all of the leaders from all across the country who signed onto this amicus brief – particularly honored to be joined today, together with Mayor Garcetti and Mayor Bell. And we look forward to victory in the Supreme Court.

Thank you very much.


I’ll tell you what, let’s give it one second. If we can’t resolve it, I’ll happily take some questions. But let’s see if we can figure out where Mayor Garcetti and Mayor Bell are and – the miracle of modern technology here.

Alright, well while we’re trying to get them, why don’t we go ahead with a few questions, and we’ll improvise once we find them.

Anyone from the media have a question on this?

Question: Mayor, can you hear me?

Mayor: Yes, who’s this?

Question: This is Kyle from UNF News.

Mayor: Hey Kyle.

Question: Hi, I would like to ask you, Mayor, you supported President Obama’s executive action on immigration time and time again. And you’ve said before, New York City is a city of immigrants. So, why do you think this action is so important to the city?

Mayor: Well, when you think about the 220,000 people who would be eligible under the executive action for additional opportunities – and that’s what’s so striking here – 220,000 people, that’s, you know, a larger population than many major big cities in America and these are folks who are in families that every day have to worry about potential deportation, and certainly who cannot access a lot of the services that, I think, the rest of us take for granted. So, when you think about the tangible impact it has on families’ lives – that’s what’s so important to us; is assuring that families are not going to get torn apart and making sure that they have the greater ability to contribute to our communities and to thrive. For example, under the executive action, there’d be greater access to health care, the ability to get – under the appropriate circumstances – a work authorization, or a driver’s license. We want to see people have the kind of opportunities that will allow them to live fully, and that’s why the executive action is such a tangible support for so many families.

Mayor Eric Garcetti: Bill can you hear me? This is Eric Garcetti.

Mayor: Yes, Eric. I’m sorry we had some technical –

Mayor Garcetti: Don’t worry. I was listening to everything you said and you said it well so –

Mayor: Yes, let me welcome the Mayor of Los Angeles, my good friend [inaudible] Eric Garcetti. Take it away.


Mayor: Alright. So anyone – any media questions for Mayor Bell, Mayor Garcetti or me – or all of the above, we welcome them.

Commissioner Nisha Agarwal, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs: And also, we ask press that once you get into the queue to please dial *9, and we’ll make sure you’re in the queue and able to ask a question.

Mayor: Okay, Nisha if you’ve got questions, start them up.

Commissioner Agarwal: Yup. We have our communications crew. Can you line up the questions now?

Unknown: Hi, someone at 3-2-3-9-0-0-2-0-7-0?

Mayor Garcetti: That is KNX News Radio in Los Angeles. I know that number well.


Mayor: Impressive, Eric.


Question: [Inaudible] the drain on resources for the city, and state, and counties get would be the big thing – if you agree that that is the key focus here? What that would do to cities and counties so far if the parents of these kids [inaudible]?

Mayor Garcetti: Unquestionably. And, first and foremost, you cannot deport everybody that’s here without documentation in the country. So, what it also means is that we still have to pick up things like healthcare that people can’t get legally because this action is preferred in our emergency rooms. It means that we have to see people who are scared to be witnesses in crimes, and to participate with police as witnesses to solve things that happen in our streets [inaudible]. But there’s no question that the local government is left holding the bag when deportations do occur, and when deportations don’t occur. We are in a better place to be able to integrate folks to get them scholarships and to go to college – higher paying jobs that boost up everybody’s wages, help make our streets safer, when the president’s executive action is upheld. And, I think the last thing I’ll say is – we all recognize this is not the ideal scenario, but, as Mayor Bell said, President Obama was left with almost no other options. The clear majority of Americans including majorities in both parties, want a pathway to citizenship and want comprehensive immigration reform, but this Congress has not produced that. And so, using much less executive power than his predecessors had in other arenas, he has taken action to at least give temporary legal status to those who qualify in DACA and DAPA, and a better pathway to citizenship for those that are illegally. We don’t want to pay for that. We want to see cities that are prosperous, not that are picking up the failure of Washington.

Unknown: Thank you. Next up in the queue, I believe we have Courtney Gross for NY1 who has a question.

Question: Hi, this is [inaudible] actually from NY1 and Noticias. Mr. Mayor – Mayor de Blasio, I just wanted to know if this is a bipartisan document? Are there any Republican mayors or leaders signing this document? 

Mayor: Well, I’m going to have Nisha speak to the specific names of any Independent or Republican signatories. What we’ve found – I’ve certainly found in talking to mayors and other local officials around the country is there’s a recognition across the ideological spectrum that something has to be done. And I think you’re going to see in the years ahead more and more Republicans and Independents stepping forward, because they just believe that morally and practically it is necessary. The amicus brief, obviously, is a specific action and it relates to addressing a matter that the Obama administration initiated. For some Republicans and Independents, that has made it something that they’re less likely to engage, but I do think a lot of people are willing to engage the broader issue of immigration reform and the fact that the status-quo can’t continue. But, Nisha, do you want to fill in the blank there?

Commissioner Agarwal: Absolutely. So, on the brief itself, we don’t have Republicans or Independents, but we do have Independents in the larger coalition, which speaks to what Mayor de Blasio was saying, which is the support for immigration reform is quite broad and mayors make decision about whether to sign onto things like amicus briefs on a case by case basis. 

Question: Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you – other questions?

Unknown: Looks like our next question is from the Observer. Please, go ahead.

Question: Hey, it’s Jill Jorgensen at the Observer. I was just curious if, you know, all of the mayors can sort of weigh in a little bit on how cities have to react to the lack of federal immigration reform, and, you know, what you’re doing to help people on a local level. I know in New York there are some legal services being made available to undocumented people. [Inaudible] how does the lack of action on the federal level impact local municipal governments?

Mayor William Bell: This is William Bell, speaking on behalf of Birmingham. As you know, Birmingham is the cradle of the human and civil rights movements, and we see this as the modern day human rights and civil rights issue. Without action at the federal level, they have left states and municipalities to deal with this issue on their own. And I know some time ago, Alabama passed a House bill [inaudible] which wreaked havoc with our immigration population. There was undue burden on the local police department and local agencies to really be the spy-arm for the State. We don’t need shifty State immigration policies. We need one policy coming from our federal government. As long as we don’t have that, it leaves the states and the local governments in a quandary as to what to do. We’re being pulled in one direction by our state government when we all know that the real answer lies at the federal level. And we need is assistance from Congress, but, right now, we need a proper ruling from the Supreme Court so that the presidential executive order will be upheld. 

Mayor Garcetti: Jill, this is Eric Garcetti, I can chime into your question as well. We’ve set up citizenship quarters in every single public library in our city – trained by a librarian – each one of our branch libraries to be a citizenship helper. And we’ve had over 45,000 residents – that are legal, permanent residents now – navigate the citizenship process through these citizenship quarters. We’re focused on tens of thousands of other [inaudible] already who went through their initial DACA process. And we joined businesses and others together – we have a campaign called Step Forward L.A. that combines efforts with [inaudible] which is reaching 100,000 lawful, permanent residents to become – in the L.A. region – to become citizens. And we’re working with the White House – I know a number of cities are doing this – happens to be [inaudible] new Americans at our City Hall; to have national officials and regional officials come here together to really continue the work – because whether it’s registering people to vote this year, whether it’s making sure people can become citizens, whether [inaudible] qualified in the first round of DACA – we’ve been very focused on making sure there’s services, legal protections. And, of course, we have a policy with our police departments – Special Order 40 – that they do not ask citizenship status unless asked during an arrest and a violent felony has been committed, etcetera, to make sure that people – that we don’t turn our local police into a job the federal government should do. 

Mayor: Alright, other questions? Nisha, do you have any other questions?

Commissioner Argawal: Are there other questions in the queue? If not, we will thank the mayors for their participation. If there are questions that come up after the call, you can email, and we will make sure that your questions are answered. We’ll also provide questions for Mayor Reed, who was unable to join this call, but is happy to take questions. But thank you again, all, for joining the call, and we look forward to [inaudible] questions.

Mayor: Thank you, everyone. Thanks to my fellow mayors. Take care. 

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