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Old 04-10-2019, 02:55 PM
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Default Why this lawmaker wants off City Council’s immigration committee


Why this lawmaker wants off City Council’s immigration committee
By Rich Calder
April 9, 2019 | 3:16pm | Updated

A Democratic lawmaker from Queens quit the City Council committee overseeing immigration because it is so far to the left that members wouldn’t meet with federal officials.

“I’ve been asking for this for some time because it’s all one-sided,” Councilman Robert Holden said of his request for reassignment, which was granted Tuesday.

“The agenda is already set, and I could never get anything on it,” he added, including setting up a meeting with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Holden said he’s had to meet alone with ICE personnel at their Lower Manhattan offices because he “could not get any other Council member to go with me, … like it’s a bad thing.”

The intransigence left him baffled, said Holden.

“Why is it?” he asked. “They’re law enforcement. They’re saving us from … bad people who should not be in this country. So why wouldn’t we invite them to an immigration hearing to at least hear their side?”

Holden also charged that the seven-member committee “doesn’t get anything done,” saying it’s focused on fringe issues like a non-binding resolution calling on the state to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

Councilman Carlos Menchaca, the panel’s chair, responded to Holden by saying the committee is on the side of immigrants.

“I’ve very proud of the work that this committee is doing, and we will continue to fight for the rights of all immigrants,” the Brooklyn Democrat said.

He didn’t deny the boycott of ICE.

Holden’s comments came hours before a contentious meeting in which the Council approved new committee assignments, including removing Councilman Kalmen Yeger (D-Brooklyn) from the same Committee on Immigration.

Yeger was being punished for tweeting “Palestine does not exist” last month — remarks Council Speaker Corey Johnson and many other legislators said were “divisive.”

Johnson, the Council leader, defended the decision to replace Yeger.

“We want a committee that all immigrants feel welcome when they come and testify, and so that was how this decision was made,” he said. “One of the things that I find disappointing is that he hasn’t acknowledged how hurtful this.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, 35 council members voted in favor of the new committee assignments, 8 voted in opposition and 2 abstained.

Six members opted to skip the meeting, which featured a heated debate over freedom of speech.

“I want to make it clear that I do not agree with Council member Yeger’s comments, … but I don’t believe censorship should be a tool that this institution could utilize against First Amendment rights,” said Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx), who still supported the committee changes.

Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., whose for-hire vehicles committee was dissolved in February after he claimed the legislative body is “controlled” by gays, had a lot to say on the free speech issue.

“This City Council keeps on taking away people’s right to speak…,” said Diaz. “We got to stop trying to quiet people. This is wrong! This is wrong! This is wrong!”

Yeger and Diaz face disciplinary actions before the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee for making divisive comments.
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