New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) compared the Trump administration's efforts to crackdown on illegal immigration to the zealotry of Jihad, an Arabic word describing a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty.
Cuomo made the comments while in Puerto Rico on Monday, where the governor had journeyed with a delegation of New York elected officials, students, and labor leaders to observe recovery efforts undertaken since Hurricanes Maria and Irma ravaged the island last year.
During a press briefing to publicize his visit, the governor was asked about his decision to issue a pardon to seven illegal immigrants residing in New York that were facing deportation by federal law enforcement for "minor convictions."
The governor justified his actions, claiming the Trump administration had launched a "crusade" against those they do not "consider original Americans."
"This administration is on a crusade against people who they do not consider original Americans," Cuomo said. "Which is specious and hypocritical at best [because] unless you're a member of a Native American tribe, then you're really an immigrant to the United States."
The pardons, which were issued on Monday, marked the third time Cuomo has intervened using his gubernatorial authority to shield illegal immigrants from "potential deportation."
Citing what had been done in "Puerto Rico" and "at the border," the governor claimed President Donald Trump and his administration were waging a "Jihad" on illegal immigrants.
"They are on a Jihad to deport as many people as they can who they believe are not in the United States legally," Cuomo said.
The governor lambasted the notion of using prior criminal history as a basis for deporting illegal migrants.
"One of the rationales they use is people who have committed crimes in the past, even if they have no criminal activity, even if they are now leading productive lives," Cuomo said.
He also committed his administration to "doing everything" within its power to "frustrate" the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
"They deport people based on past crimes," Cuomo added. "We're doing everything we can to frustrate their efforts."
In recent months, the governor has attempted to position himself as a vociferous critic of the Trump administration, especially on immigration, in an effort to blunt the primary challenge posed by Cynthia Nixon, a former "Sex and City" actress and longtime progressive activist.
Last month, the governor announced plans to sue the federal government over its "zero tolerance" policy on illegal border crossings, claiming the Trump administration was "violating the constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children" and their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In April, Cuomo sent a cease-and-desist letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency responsible for border control and immigration, accusing it of using "aggressive" and "un-American" tactics in recent immigration raids across New York. In response to the raids, the governor issued an executive order mandating ICE secure a warrant when seeking to arrest illegal immigrants in state facilities.
Cuomo's triangulation has not been sufficient in outflanking Nixon, however, as the actress has staked out positions firmly to the governor's left in the national immigration debate. This was best exhibited by the candidates contrasting views on the future of ICE. Nixon, who in June denounced the agency as "terrorist organization," has joined the burgeoning cry for abolition. Cuomo, meanwhile, has resisted such calls.