Embattled Sen. Peralta Defends Controversial Move

José Peralta (Photo via El Diario)

Democratic state Sen. José Peralta has recently become the center of controversy after he decided to join the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of legislators who have sided with Republicans on a number of bills in the upper chamber in Albany.

The Jackson Heights legislator has been called a traitor, and hundreds of residents of his district signed a letter demanding him to take back his decision or resign.

Though he remains the target of criticism, the senator said in a conversation with El Diario that he will not resign, and defended his announcement as a way to achieve consensus with Republicans on a number of bills that will be crucial to protect New Yorkers during the turbulent Trump years.

“I have always been open and available to explain my decisions to my constituents, and that is why last week I explained to them that my intention is to make this legislative session more productive, and I do not regret that decision,” said Peralta, who, in the midst of a community meeting on Friday faced the rejection of several people in attendance, whom he described as “outside agitators.”

Peralta said that although he continues to be a Democrat he will not necessarily applaud everything his party’s fellow legislators do in Albany. He added that his colleagues have not been effective when the time has come to push urgent initiatives forward.

“The Democratic Conference does not have a legislative plan yet, but the Independent Democratic Conference has a clear work plan. We will fight to halt the homelessness crisis, to avoid having 16-year-olds jailed as [if they were] adults, and we are on the front line to stop Trump’s racist policy and protect immigrants,” said the politician. “These decisions are not just made to move legislation forward but to stop the racist legislation and policies we are expecting to see from Trump. Being in the minority, we were not going to be able to have that.”

The senator pointed out that the IDC promoted projects that have benefited the community, such as increasing minimum wage, paid leave and universal pre-K, among others, and added that his critics are being unfair.

“They feel that they need to attack me even more, instead of taking a look in the mirror and saying what problems we have had as a party so we can fix them and see where we went wrong,” he said. “I didn’t run to sit on the sidelines; I ran to represent, defend and protect my constituents.”

The state legislator sent a clear message to those who have questions regarding the way he plans to work inside the committee he just joined.

“I tell them that I still have 18 months to reelection, and I ask them to give me a chance to show everyone that I am not only going to vote on progressive issues and stop racist policies, but I am also going to see to it that this is a productive legislative session,” he said.

The IDC currently has nine members, which include Sen. Marisol Alcántara, of Dominican descent, who occupied the seat left vacant by now-U.S. congressman Adriano Espaillat.

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