Fighting for Justice for All New Yorkers -- Schneiderman

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New York Attorney General Schneiderman

[Op-Ed]

'...While the average white household lost 34% of its wealth in the crash, the average black household lost more than 80%...'

Since taking office as attorney general nearly four years ago, I have been committed to making sure the law applies equally to everyone.

That is the definition of equal justice under law: everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

I believe all New Yorkers have the right to live on safe streets in safe communities. I believe all New Yorkers have the right to pursue the American dream, free of harassment and discrimination. I believe all New Yorkers have the right to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. I believe all New Yorkers have the right to honest representation by their elected officials.

As New York’s chief law enforcement officer, I have taken strong action in all these areas.

Working with our partners in law enforcement, my Organized Crime Task Force has busted up more than 20 major narcotics rings and put drug kingpins behind bars. We created the I-STOP program – the Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing – to halt drug dealers from collecting thousands of narcotic pain pills by going from doctor to doctor and then selling them on our streets.

And, as we worked to stem the flow of drugs into our neighborhoods, we addressed the scourge of drugs already in our communities by equipping police officers with naloxone, a proven antidote to heroin overdose that instantly saves lives.

We took action to keep illegal firearms off our streets by closing the gun show loophole in New York, so no one can buy a firearm at a gun show without undergoing a background check, and by sponsoring gun buyback programs around the state to encourage people to properly dispose of unwanted weapons.

We have gone after businesses that engaged in illegal racial profiling and stopped some major retailers from following and detaining law-abiding customers solely because of the color of their skin; and we are pursuing a bank that engaged in illegal redlining, refusing to provide loans and even basic banking services in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Buffalo.

After receiving complaints that a major New York City university was requiring applicants to disclose every instance of having been arrested or detained – irrelevant information that disproportionately disadvantages African-American and Latino men – my Civil Rights Bureau investigated and got three metropolitan area schools to agree to stop this discriminatory practice.

We went after the major banks whose fraudulent financial practices nearly crashed the U.S. economy and sent millions of families into foreclosure. When the mortgage bubble burst in 2008, communities of color bore the brunt of the crash; black and Latino families lost a disproportionate amount of their household wealth when the value of their homes disappeared. While the average white household lost 34% of its wealth in the crash, the average black household lost more than 80%.

I held the banks to account and got a record $60 billion in settlements, of which more than $4 billion is coming to New York State -- and we are devoting a portion of that money to help distressed families stay in their homes.

My Labor Bureau has pursued unscrupulous employers who stole hard-earned wages, overtime and tips from their workers, and we secured more than $17 million in back pay for more than 14,000 workers in the fast-food, construction, car wash and other industries.

We have brought cases against more than 50 public officials and their cronies all over our state who stole from taxpayers and violated the public trust, and we have gotten the people’s money back and sent some of the miscreants to jail.

Those are just some of the ways my office has pursued social justice, economic justice and public safety for all the people of New York State. It is an honor to serve as your attorney general, and I will continue to work every day to uphold the principle of equal justice under law and to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

 

Eric T. Schneiderman is  New York State Attorney General

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