New York moves to protect immigrants from Donald Trump

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks in New York, US on June 28, 2016.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks in New York, US on June 28, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - The New York attorney general moved Thursday (Jan 19) to protect immigrants from potential deportation under Donald Trump, issuing a raft of legal advice on the eve of the incoming president's inauguration.

The Republican billionaire, who takes office on Friday (Jan 20), has vowed to immediately deport or jail as many as three million undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds, and build a wall on the Mexican border.

His stance has girded liberal politicians into moving to protect immigrants, with Eric Schneiderman, the Democrat attorney general of New York, the fourth most populous state in the country, the latest to act.

New York, which has an estimated population of 19.75 million, ranks second in the country in terms of number of foreign-born workers, according to the state department of labour.

"New York has a long history of welcoming immigrants and embracing diversity. Now, more than ever, we must stand up for our values of inclusion and pluralism," said Schneiderman.

"Public safety relies on trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. No local law enforcement agency should have to undercut that trust just to carry out Donald Trump's draconian immigration policies," he said.

One in five New Yorkers are immigrants, according to the American Immigration Council. The state is one of the most ethnically diverse in the country, and an historic gateway for immigrants from virtually every part of the world.

Schneiderman's "legal roadmap" says New York authorities can refuse to enforce warrants not signed by a judge and deny federal requests to hold any uncharged individual longer than 48 hours.

Trump has also controversially vowed to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which Barack Obama instituted in 2012 to allow more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the country as young children to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

He has also promised to cut federal funding to "sanctuary cities" - places where local law enforcement can choose not to alert US Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities when they encounter residents without papers.

There are an estimated 300 sanctuary jurisdictions in the United States.

Mayors of New York sanctuary cities on Thursday welcomed Schneiderman's move and authorities in California have also girded themselves to fight any attempt by Trump to expel immigrants.

In addition New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, has also vowed to establish a legal defense fund to ensure that all immigrants can get a lawyer.

Schneiderman has been a vociferous opponent of Trump and brought a class-action lawsuit accusing the now defunct Trump University of fraud, which ended in the president-elect agreeing to a US$25 million (S$36 million) settlement in November.