Attorney General

Lawsuit Challenges ‘Public Charge’ For Immigrants

Attorney General Letitia James’s office announced Tuesday a lawsuit attempting to overturn President Donald Trump’s so-called public charge regulation.

Under this regulation change, immigrants would be denied green cards and visas when seeking forms of public assistance, including Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. Administration officials say it’s meant to encourage self-sufficiency. James in the lawsuit argues the move circumvents the intent of Congress and will hurt immigrant children.

The suit was filed by Connecticut, Vermont and New York City.

“Generations of citizens landed on the welcoming shores of Ellis Island with nothing more than a dream in their pockets,” she said in a statement.

“The Trump Administration’s thinly veiled efforts to only allow those who meet their narrow ethnic, racial and economic criteria to gain a path to citizenship is a clear violation of our laws and our values. Quite simply, under this rule, more children will go hungry, more families will go without medical care and more people will be living in the shadows and on the streets. We cannot and we will not let that happen.”

The public charge rule change is set to take effect in two months. ​

The lawsuit was cheered by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is among the crowded field seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

“The ultimate city of immigrants will never stop fighting President Trump’s xenophobic policies,” he said.

“We are proud to join the Attorney General and let our immigrant brothers and sisters know New York stands united behind them. When you mess with our neighbors, you mess with all of us. To the President, we’ll see you in court.”

James Says New York Should Defend Census Count Against Alabama Challenge

New York should lead a legal defense of the U.S. Census counting non citizens in its upcoming count of the population next year, Attorney General Letitia James said on Monday.

The counting of non-citizens residing in the United States was challenged last May by the state of Alabama and a congressman from the state. The defendant in the case is formally the U.S. Department of Commerce, but New York is moving to intervene in the case.

New York is intervening under the pretense that President Donald Trump’s administration will not muster an adequate defense of the Census. Trump withdrew an effort to require a citizenship question on the Census, which advocates worried could lead to an undercount.

The state will lead a 26-member coalition that includes 15 states, the District of Columbia, three counties, six cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“No individual ceases to be a person because they lack documentation,” James said in a statement.

“The United States Constitution is crystal clear that every person residing in this country at the time of the decennial census — regardless of legal status — must be counted, and no matter what President Trump says, or Alabama does, that fact will never change. So we are intervening in this case and taking on the role of defendant because the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution deserve better than a halfhearted and inadequate defense. We will continue to lead this fight because, despite the Trump Administration’s previous racist and xenophobic attempts to tip the balance of power in the nation and Alabama’s endeavor to continue down that path, we will never stop fighting to ensure every person counts.”

AG Settlement With Student Loan Debt Relief Firm Bars Operations In NY

A company purporting to offer student loan debt relief has been barred from collecting debts by students who purchased its services as part of a legal settlement announced Thursday by Attorney General Letitia James’s office.

The settlement with Equitable Acceptance Corp. stemmed from a September 2018 lawsuit against the company and 11 others that were accused of running a scam that included more than 4,000 New Yorkers that had financed through the Equitable.

The companies were accused of having deceived borrowers, who paid more than $1,000 for a service that is available for free through the federal government.

“Higher education is supposed to be a gateway to prosperity, not a trapdoor to financial ruin,” James said. “Equitable scammed students by offering worthless services that were available at no cost. No longer will Equitable be able to prey on New Yorkers, and they will, instead, be forced to wipe the slate clean and forgive the loans of those it victimized.”

The company will be required to pay back student borrowers $225,000 of the $1.66 million it collected within 60 days. If it fails to do so, the company will be required to pay the remaining judgment in full.

And the company must send a notice to borrowers explaining that their previous debts will be wiped clean.

James: Green Light Law Will Withstand Challenges

The controversial Green Light Bill has seen multiple legal challenges since it was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June.

Attorney General Letitia James will be defending that law in court. She is confident the two-month-old law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for and receive driver’s licenses will survive challenges in federal court.

“New York is a sovereign state and two, driver’s licenses are the function of states,” James said. “It’s important to understand 11 states, including the District of Columbia, have driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. They’ve all [withstood] challenges, and I’m confident this law will withstand a challenge.”

The challenges were filed last month by two county clerks who oversee local motor vehicle offices. Several county clerks in New York have said they will refuse to issue licenses to anyone they believe is in the country illegally.

In an exclusive interview with Spectrum News, James said she’s focused on the legal defense when asked if those clerks should be removed from office by the governor.

“The issue is really enforcing the law in the state of New York, and my job is to defend the law in the state of New York,” James said. “I will defend the Green Light law. For me, it’s an issue of safety.”

One of those county clerks challenging the law is Democrat Mickey Kearns of Erie County, who said the measure is unconstitutional. He says several of his fellow county clerks agree.

“Many of them are concerned. They don’t want to violate the law. They want to do their jobs,” Kearns said.

Kearns is seeking a temporary halt to the law being enacted through a preliminary injunction.

“A preliminary injunction would say, ‘let’s take a break,’ ” Kearns said. “Let’s take a break, stop writing the regulations, let’s stop until we can get a ruling on this one way or the other.”

Meanwhile, James is also confident the law won’t be used by the federal government to gather information on undocumented immigrants and that there’s enough safeguards in place to prevent that.

“It only allows individuals who have judicial subpoenas to gather information,” James said. “We are confident that the information of undocumented immigrants as well as New Yorkers as a whole will be protected.”

The Green Light Law is set to take effect by the end of the year.

James: Justice Served If Pantaleo Is Fired

As the New York City public advocate, Letitia James had urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to fire Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who held Eric Garner in a chokehold when he died.

But Pantaleo remains employed by the force, and his status has dogged de Blasio during his presidential campaign.

An NYPD judge on Friday recommended Pantaleo be fired, a move James, now attorney general, hailed.

“If in fact the recommendation is to terminate Mr. Pantaleo, than justice would have been served,” she said in an interview with Spectrum News. “It’s been five years since the death of Eric Garner, and clearly it should have happened a longtime before that.”

De Blasio at a news conference on Friday declined to say whether he believes Pantaleo should be fired and the decision is ultimately up to Police Commissioner James O’Neill.

The New York City PBA in a statement blasted the judge’s decision, calling it “pure political insanity.”

James didn’t criticize de Blasio’s handling of the case.

“The Justice Department obviously took a long time,” she said. “They asked the city of New York to defer its decision.”

AG James Launches Investigation After Capital One Data Breach

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced her office will begin an immediate investigation into the data breach at Capital One, which is believed to have exposed the personal information of 100 million customers.

“It is becoming far too commonplace that financial institutions are susceptible to hacks, begging the questions: Why do these breaches continue to take place? And are companies doing enough to prevent future data breaches?” James said in a statement.

“My office will begin an immediate investigation into Capital One’s breach, and will work to ensure that New Yorkers who were victims of this breach are provided relief. We cannot allow hacks of this nature to become every day occurrences.”

A 33-year-old Seattle woman has been arrested and charged with computer fraud.

The Capital One data breach comes after last week’s settlement with Equifax, the credit bureau whose data breach resulted in the exposure of personal data for more than 147 million people.

James And AGs Blast Clean Water Act Change

More than a dozen attorneys general, including Letitia James of New York, filed a letter on Friday criticizing a guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency they called an attempt to roll back part of the Clean Water Act.

The guidance centers around the role states play in permitting federal projects under a section the clean water measure. James said the guidance weakens the ability and authority of states to protect their water quality.

“The Clean Water Act is a major tool for states to protect against the pollution of our waterways,” James said in a statement.

“For every effort to weaken environmental protections and erode oversight over big polluters, we will respond in kind. New York is committed to fighting to protect our waters and our environment.”

The EPA is implementing the guidance following an executive order by President Donald Trump in April, calling it unlawful and a workaround of the existing law.

All told, 14 attorneys general from around the country signed onto the letter.

AG Says She Will Defend ‘Green Light’ And Trump Tax Return Laws Vigrously

From the Morning Memo:

Attorney General Tish James, D-NY, in Buffalo to announce a $66 million settlement in regards to illegal debt collection scheme, also weighed in on several lawsuits against the state of New York.

That includes two lawsuits brought by the Erie County Clerk and the Rennselaer County Clerk challenging the state’s new Green Light Law which will grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. James said, as AG, it is her duty to defend the law vigorously, but she also believes in its constitutionality and its merit.

“Individuals who, let’s say, have hit and runs, they tend to run as opposed to having insurance, being educated and having the system where they can be taught the rules of the road and that’s what’s critically important for me. This is all about safety,” she said.

It’s been speculated the Trump administration may sue over the Green Light Law as well but it has already challenged another new law. The Legislature passed a bill this session that would allow the chair of congressional tax committees to request public officials state tax returns in New York.

The administration requested an injunction barring the committee from doing so.

“The president unfortunately has been using lawsuits to hide behind the release of his tax returns. It’s really critically important that sunlight be shed on his tax returns,” James said.

The attorney general said, as a candidate, she released her tax returns and Trump should be required to do the same.

James: $66M Settlement Reached For Debt Collection Schemes

Buffalo-based debt collectors have reached a $66 million settlement with New York for money collection efforts that included threats of prosecution, impersonating government officials, claims debtors would have their wages garnished.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday announced the settlement with Douglas MacKinnon and his debt collection companies as well as Mark Gray.

“There is zero tolerance for individuals who use illegal and unconscionable tactics to cheat consumers out of their hard-earned money,” James said in a statement.

“Not only did the defendants force consumers to pay more than they owed, but they falsely threatened to have consumers arrested for not complying with these predatory practices. This settlement demonstrates our commitment to protecting consumers and I thank the CFPB for their partnership to stop this exploitative scheme.”

Both Gray and MacKinnon were accused of inflating the debts owed in order to collect more from people that were legally required to pay. Collection offices also used a variety of outlawed tactics and schemes to obtain payments, including threats of arrest.

The settlement requires both men to no longer work in the debt collection industry.

AG James Raises $405K

The re-election campaign of state Attorney General Letitia James in the last six months has raised $405,395, according to a filing on Tuesday made public.

James, who cleared a crowded field of Democrats to win the nomination, defeated Republican Keith Wofford to win her first term.

Her campaign reported spending $117,569 and has $338,919 in cash on hand.

The vast majority of her donors gave less than $1,000 and her largest individual donor was lobbyist Rick Ostroff, who gave $20,000. Labor unions, including those who represent teachers and transport workers, also gave to her re-election campaign: The New York State United Teachers Union’s VOTE COPE gave $10,000, as did the Transport Workers Union Local 100.