Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/751 Sun, 18 Nov 2018 01:58:43 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Immigrant-Service Organizations, Struggling with Immense Demand, Need Our Support http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7971-immigrant-service-organizations-struggling-with-demand-need-our-support http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7971-immigrant-service-organizations-struggling-with-demand-need-our-support cm carlos m franciso m jumaane w protest

(photo: John McCarten/New York City Council)


The news that immigrants who legally access public benefits, such as food, housing, and medical assistance, could be denied green cards will make it increasingly difficult for many immigrants across our city and nation to meet their basic needs, placing a sizeable burden on the nonprofit sector.

Already, the sector is faced with an unyielding demand for support by families and communities as immigrants turn to nonprofits for support in steeper numbers.

What has become abundantly clear from our work with more than 400 organizations each year that focus on immigration and other social service and advocacy groups is that the current challenges are formidable: nonprofits are doing the best they can despite a national climate of bias and discrimination against immigrants and the groups that serve them.

This increased workload is experienced not only by organizations with an immigrant-serving mission. It is seen by hundreds of the nonprofits we work with each year, from hunger organizations to affordable housing organizations, to those with an educational mission, and countless others.

Amid this climate, Community Resource Exchange recently convened six nonprofit leaders to illustrate the obstacles their staffs and constituents are facing. Speakers, whose work focuses on grassroots organizing, legal support, immigrant youth, economic justice, and LGBTQIA immigrant rights, pointed to issues that are creating a double-bind for nonprofits: increased demand coupled with changes to the system that make delivering services harder.

This the result of multiple factors, including that immigrants already have a heightened fear of being viewed as a public charge when accessing necessary services such as public assistance, Medicaid, and food stamps, for which they are eligible. The proposed change only exacerbates this fear.

This fear is the result of persistent myths that are being exaggerated in the current environment, for instance, that immigrants don’t pay taxes, come to the United States purely dreaming of opportunity (as opposed to fleeing life-threatening conditions in their homelands), and do not contribute to the economy, which have been proved untrue.

Complicating factors have been revisions to information required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, amplifying fears of immediate deportation due to things like any accidental errors in completing applications.

Our panelists posed solutions to better serve immigrants: federal and international action to change the reality for immigrants in this country, including the need for a transnational conversation about the treatment of migrants and immigrants not just here in the U.S., but in Europe and other places. Local governments—city and state—and individuals must step in not only with financial help, but with common sense approaches.

Nonprofits need sufficient funding to support increased needs of immigrants coming through their doors, and elected officials who “get it” are those that are on the ground and in the neighborhoods, visibly witnessing the challenges being faced every day.

We must use our voices to seek change. This November 6, Election Day, is one opportunity, when people can support candidates who understand the needs and benefits of our multicultural society—and not just give lip service to secure votes.

Even simply starting a conversation with friends and family—albeit difficult ones—can springboard to broader awareness of the issues surrounding immigration, greater support for nonprofits on the frontlines of serving immigrants, and, most importantly, a better life for immigrants seeking a life in America free from discrimination and fear.

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Katie Leonberger is the President and CEO of Community Resource Exchange. On Twitter @katieleonberger & @CREinNYC.

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Immigrant-Service Organizations, Struggling with Immense Demand, Need Our Support Thu, 04 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
City Leaders Say They Stand with Muslims & Immigrants, But Do They Mean it? http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7786-city-leaders-say-they-stand-with-muslims-immigrants-but-do-they-mean-it http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7786-city-leaders-say-they-stand-with-muslims-immigrants-but-do-they-mean-it cojo pablo

(photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


New York City’s leaders have recently been protesting with Muslim and immigrant New Yorkers, but these same leaders are often missing once the cameras are gone. After last week’s stunning Supreme Court setback, the time finally has come for these same leaders to ditch New York City’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant police policies.

We clearly say we’re a sanctuary city, but the facts on the ground are unclear. No, city workers can’t ask about immigration status, but NYPD officers continue to use dragnet surveillance on immigrant communities. Most importantly, they continue to share that data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which the Trump administration is using to intensify its deportation efforts.

Every day, license plate readers all across New York City monitor cars in real-time. These cameras create a massive database of our movements across the city. But instead of using this database just to do police work, the NYPD shares the data with private, for-profit firms like Vigilant Solutions, a company that struck a deal to share New York data with ICE earlier this year.

But the license plate readers aren’t even the worst part. At least the City told us about them. All-too-often, we only find out about spy tools after they’ve been used for years. Tools like stingrays, fake cell towers that can suck-up all the phone data for miles around. To target one suspect, stingrays often need to track thousands of phones. Worst of all, the NYPD has even used these devices without a warrant. Wondering if your texts or calls were copied before? There’s no way to tell.

The City Council knows about the problem now – we told them about it – but for years this spying went on in secret. How? The NYPD has a slush fund: millions in federal and private dollars that can be spent without any oversight by the City Council. The mayor could end this tomorrow; Mr. de Blasio could require the NYPD to disclose how its spy data is shared with ICE with the stroke of a pen. But I’m not holding my breath.

Instead, we need the City Council to act. For years, CAIR-NY, NYCLU, and other advocates have pushed the POST Act, a commonsense bill that would require the NYPD to tell our lawmakers what military-grade spy gear they’re buying with private and federal dollars and how they’re keeping that information safe. The NYPD could continue surveillance, but the cowboy-era of buying whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted would be over. More importantly, the NYPD would finally enact policies to make sure our city’s resources won’t help ICE deport our neighbors.

But, the bill has stalled.

Our city’s leaders have long promised to make New York a sanctuary for all—a symbol of inclusion at a moment of presidential prejudice. So far, action has fallen short of soaring rhetoric, but that can change. This is the moment for our city to practice what we preach. This is the moment to prove we can do more than just show up for the protest.

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Albert Fox Cahn is the Legal Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York, a leading Muslim civil rights organization. On Twitter @CahnLawNY and @CAIRNewYork.

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City Leaders Say They Stand with Muslims & Immigrants, But Do They Mean it? Tue, 03 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
This Must Be The Year For The New York Dream Act, A Game-Changer For Immigrant Youth Like Me http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7461-this-must-be-the-year-for-the-new-york-dream-act-a-game-changer-for-immigrant-youth-like-me http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7461-this-must-be-the-year-for-the-new-york-dream-act-a-game-changer-for-immigrant-youth-like-me dream act presser mtr

The author at a press conference in Albany for the Dream Act


On Monday the New York State Assembly passed the New York Dream Act. For immigrant youth like me, this legislation would be a game-changer.

I am a Dreamer. I came to this country at the age of two from Mexico. I am an American through and through. I have worked hard to get ahead. I’ve excelled in school. Without state tuition assistance, I worked throughout college to be able to pay tuition and other costs. Finally, last year, I graduated from City College. It was harder than it should have been, because I couldn’t get financial aid. Still, I overcame the obstacles.

But others face even harder situations. Too many undocumented students graduate from public high schools every year only to face the reality of not being able to go to college because they can’t get financial aid. It’s bad for immigrant youth, and it’s bad for New York, which loses out on having more future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and nurses—and the additional tax revenue that these professionals bring to our state. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has found that Dreamers who obtain a bachelor’s degree would each pay more than $60,000 in additional state taxes over their working lives, which is far more than the maximum $20,000 state financial assistance that eligible students can get for that degree.

By passing the Dream Act today, members of the Assembly have shown once again that they understand the struggles that undocumented youth like me face. And we’re grateful to Speaker Carl Heastie, bill sponsor Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, and City Councilmember Francisco Moya, who led the work on this bill for many years when in the state Legislature.

The Assembly believes what I believe: everyone deserves equal access to college. It’s why I’ve worked for years to organize with other students like me at City College and Make the Road New York to pass the Dream Act. And it’s why today is a critical day in our fight for equality.

Now, we need to make sure this bill becomes law. We know that this fight won’t be easy. We know that conservative State Senators have blocked this bill before, and that many will spread misinformation about it once again to block our progress. But we’re committed to finally passing our bill in both chambers of the Legislature, and to have it signed by Governor Cuomo, who says he supports it.

With Donald Trump in the White House, we’re living in a new time—with mounting attacks from Washington against immigrant youth and families. And, in this time, it’s up to New York to take bold action to offer protection and equal opportunity for all. The Dream Act is a critical way for our state to lead the way in defense of immigrant communities.

Immigrant youth like me are Americans in everything but paper. We go to school here, our families and communities are here. New York should finally pass the Dream Act to ensure that we are treated like the rest of our peers—and that the doors of colleges and universities across this state are open to us.

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Yatziri Tovar is a Dreamer and Media Specialist with Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: @YatziriTovar & @MaketheRoadNY.

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This Must Be The Year For The New York Dream Act, A Game-Changer For Immigrant Youth Like Me Tue, 06 Feb 2018 02:35:24 +0000
Standing Up for Immigrants in Your Neighborhood http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7444-standing-up-for-immigrants-in-your-neighborhood http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7444-standing-up-for-immigrants-in-your-neighborhood wethepeople1

We The People


When the President recently reportedly referred to El Salvador, Haiti, and African nations as “s***hole countries,” it once again served as a reminder of the rampant prejudice and discrimination experienced by immigrants and ethnic minorities. And as the livelihoods of 800,000 young Dreamers living in our country hangs in the balance, we need to support immigrants now more than ever.

At Educational Alliance (EA) – the social service provider and network of community centers I lead on the Lower East Side and East Village – we have dedicated much of the past year to ramping up our programs and services for immigrants. The demographics of the Lower East side have changed since EA was founded 128 years ago, but the challenge is the same: immigrants need help adjusting to American life. We believe that our successful “We the People” initiative this past year can serve as a model for the rest of the city.

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, we saw a substantial rise in hate crimes. Here in New York, hate crimes increased by 24% from the previous year, with a major proportion of the rise the result of bias crimes against Muslims and LGBTQ people.

So at EA, we launched We the People as a way of promoting inclusiveness and protection from the hateful and divisive rhetoric targeted at vulnerable populations. We knew that the President’s attacks on immigrant communities would only increase in time, so it was important to show immigrants in our community that there was a safe space they could go to for information and help.

Within a week after taking office, President Trump signed the infamous travel ban, prohibiting travel from seven predominantly-Muslim countries to the United States, sending a clear message that immigrants from Muslim countries don’t belong in our country.

We were ready. Under We the People, we worked with local businesses to identify themselves as welcoming to immigrants, and began training people to be “upstanders,” giving them the tools they need to effectively stand up for justice and intervene in conflict if they witnessed discrimination or attempts to bully our immigrant Muslim brothers and sisters.

Soon after, Trump issued an executive order stating that cities that refused to comply with federal immigration authorities would be ineligible to receive federal grants. And soon after, he rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, placing hundreds of thousands more lives in limbo and in danger of being separated from their family, friends, and colleagues. Though both actions were halted by the courts, the aggressive stance towards immigrants undoubtedly had a chilling effect on their comfort in seeking services or reporting crimes.

But not in our neighborhood. Our partnerships with businesses and other local community groups early on helped spread the word that EA had the community’s back and that this was a place they could turn to for help. Under the initiative, we began to host a series of events, workshops, and community forums, including “Know Your Rights” events where we provide people with access to information on immigration fraud, rights, and legal services.

In the coming year, we will continue this work, investing in programs and services where we can be most impactful and joining together with local residents and businesses to ensure that our community remains safe and supportive for people of all backgrounds.

That’s because regardless of just how divisive and discriminatory our national leaders are towards immigrants and vulnerable communities, we will stand strong – as we have for 128 years – for all people, regardless of race or religious creed.

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Alan van Capelle is President and CEO of Educational Alliance, a social service provider for the Lower East Side and East Village.

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Standing Up for Immigrants in Your Neighborhood Wed, 31 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Protecting Immigrant Workers in the City of Immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7213-protecting-immigrant-workers-in-the-city-of-immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7213-protecting-immigrant-workers-in-the-city-of-immigrants nice immigrant protections

(photo: NICE)


Just last week, Juan Chonilla and another still unidentified worker died from construction accidents. These men were important members of our immigrant community. As one of the members of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), one of these men was family. These tragic deaths and severe injuries of multiple construction workers last week, on sites with safety violations, underscore the urgency for New York City to enact legislation that meets the needs of all workers.

The City Council is currently considering a bill, Intro. 1447-C, that would mandate increased safety training standards, and the Council has the opportunity to ensure that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are talking about safety - and the very lives - of the city’s immigrant workers.

On any given day in New York City, there are thousands of immigrant construction workers seeking increased access to trainings for higher safety and health standards in their workplaces. These workers live under precarious and dangerous conditions every day due to their immigration status and work conditions. There are countless examples of bad-acting employers who use immigration status as a threat to workers, denying their rights to health, safety, and fair wages.

Organizations like NICE, a worker center and member of the New York Immigration Coalition,​ are often the only support these workers have. We are able to help workers get critical services such as health and safety trainings in their native language and help address other labor issues they face. Many of these workers come to us after they have already started working, only to discover health and safety violations at their worksites after receiving training.

The story of one of NICE’s members, Antonio, is the embodiment of the unique struggle of our city’s immigrant construction workers. Antonio and his two co-workers noticed a crack in the reinforcement of an excavation and informed their supervisor of the danger, as they had been trained to do. Their supervisor instructed them to begin work, and within minutes of beginning, the wall collapsed, trapping Antonio and another worker under crushing dirt and concrete. While the employer was busy locking the entrance to the site so no one could see, Antonio’s colleagues called 911 and recorded the incident on video. Antonio’s co-workers were subsequently fired for this act of solidarity and humanity.

Antonio’s story shows that construction workers are often the victims of blatantly negligent employers, who value their production over workers’ well-being. Workers like Antonio are not only deprived of safety on their jobs, but also of real protections and compensation after an accident. Their bad-acting employers face weak penalties and are able to continue construction projects that will inevitably put more workers at risk of injury or death.

Immigrant workers come to New York City with aspirations to support their families and build a better future, only to find that they are the target of unscrupulous employers, offered lower-wage work, and put in abusive and dangerous working conditions. If New York City is truly committed to its immigrant population, it cannot let these conditions continue on its watch. When workers like Antonio or Juan Chonillo are hurt or killed on the job, it is far from incidental. Accidents can be prevented when employers respect and adhere to the labor rights of their workers. We know from our experience that when an employer ignores health and safety laws, they will likely violate other labor laws; studies have shown this correlation.

This week, as the City Council considers Intro. 1447, we call on it to ensure that immigrant workers are able to obtain adequate safety training required by the bill. We furthermore call on the Council to develop stricter enforcement for safety protocols at constructions sites in the City in the future. The health, well-being and very lives of our members, our families, our neighbors are currently at stake. We need to make sure we are listening to their voices to develop solutions that protect them.

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Manuel Castro is executive director of the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE). On Twitter @NICE4Workers.

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Protecting Immigrant Workers in the City of Immigrants Mon, 25 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
City Expands Free Legal Clinics for Immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6911-city-expands-free-legal-clinics-for-immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6911-city-expands-free-legal-clinics-for-immigrants de blasio immigrants

(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


The city is expanding an existing free legal-aid program for immigrants that was set up two years ago but has now gained particular importance under the Trump administration and a Republican-led Congress threatening to impose immigration policies that could affect thousands of New Yorkers.

The ActionNYC program, run by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, provides free legal screenings to determine if immigrants qualify for city benefits and also aids immigrant New Yorkers in preparing and applying for work permits, residency and even citizenship. 

MOIA is now partnering with NYC Health + Hospitals, the city’s municipal health care system, and LegalHealth, a division of the New York Legal Assistance Group, to give immigrants legal screenings at health care facilities and to expand the agency’s legal training for community-based organizations (CBOs) that work with immigrants. The program expansion will formally be announced Thursday at a roundtable with the news media at City Hall. ActionNYC currently has a $7.1 million baselined budget, and the administration has proposed increasing that baseline by $900,000 for the 2018 fiscal year that begins July 1. By the end of the current fiscal year, the program will have served approximately 8,000 New Yorkers, according to MOIA estimates.

MOIA Commissioner Nisha Agarwal stressed that the program was needed now more than ever, and that the agency had seen a particular uptick in calls for ActionNYC appointments since January. “We’ve been encouraging immigrant New Yorkers to get legal screenings all along and certainly the current political climate...and the ramp up in outreach is driving people to seek legal assistance,” she said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.

Since the presidential election, New York City has seen a massive outpouring of advocacy and public sentiment in favor of immigrant rights. Activists and elected officials have consistently expressed concern about the Trump administration’s policies that are causing considerable anxiety among immigrant communities, including the city’s sizable undocumented population. Among the few steps the federal administration has taken, some less successfully than others, are an attempted ban on immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East, stricter vetting procedures in general for visa applicants, a ramp up in immigration enforcement action and deportations by federal officials, and a thus-far unsuccessful executive order aimed at cutting federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities like New York.

New York City government has responded in force, with top elected officials vowing to stand up to federal authorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have already taken steps to limit cooperation with federal immigration officials on immigrant detainees in city jails, and, building on a City Council program, the mayor recently announced a $16 million investment in legal assistance for undocumented immigrants facing deportation and other related legal challenges. The city has also implemented other immigrant-friendly policies in the last three years, including the popular municipal identification program, IDNYC, which was ostensibly set up to aid undocumented immigrants in accessing city resources and interacting with city government.

The expansion underway for ActionNYC, budgeted at $1.3 million from the agency’s current fiscal year budget, will cover three NYC Health + Hospitals facilities -- in Elmhurst, Queens; Lincoln, South Bronx; and Gouverneur in Lower Manhattan. The Queens site is already up and running, while the others will begin operations in the coming weeks. “Hospitals are places where many immigrant families are seeking services,” Agarwal pointed out, noting that some immigrants could potentially qualify for health insurance but may be unaware.

ActionNYC will also award 20 fellowships to 17 community based organizations (CBOs) to bolster their legal aid activities, particularly for growing immigrant populations and “hard-to-reach and recently arrived populations from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean,” according to a MOIA advisory. The CBO trainings will run from May through June. “We want to create a pipeline for those communities to access more city dollars,” Agarwal said. These CBOs, she said, have stronger ties to immigrant communities and are trusted by the people they serve, making it crucial that they have the capacity to meet an ever increasing demand.

“I think we’ve seen a huge need for that,” Agarwal added,” and we’re stepping up to meet that need.”

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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City Expands Free Legal Clinics for Immigrants Wed, 03 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000
New York’s Immigrant Families Need Action from Albany http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6810-new-york-s-immigrant-families-need-action-from-albany http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6810-new-york-s-immigrant-families-need-action-from-albany  mtr

(photo: Make the Road NY)


Sixteen years ago, my daughter was about to give birth, and I knew she needed my help to take care of my new grandchild. So I came to the United States. I have now been here for 16 years, and I have six grandchildren. We are Americans through and through.

I've worked hard to educate and support my family. But we’re now in a moment when we're under attack from Donald Trump's administration—it’s the worst political moment that immigrant communities like mine have faced since I arrived in 2001. But we’re here to stay, and we’re not going anywhere.

Since Trump’s election, my community has faced the fear of a newly-elected strongman who has pledged to tear our families apart. We have responded not by hiding in the shadows, but by showing our resilience. We have gone to Know Your Rights workshops. We have spoken with our families and our neighbors to prepare ourselves. And we have taken to the streets to protest.

What we have yet to see, however, is strong action from New York State to show us that our state government has our backs. And that’s why last week I joined other members of Make the Road New York to introduce our Immigrant Opportunity Agenda—a platform for Albany’s leaders to show that they really stand with immigrants.

Our undocumented families are suffering from the president's attacks and attempts to separate us, which cause fear and pain. That’s why our New York platform calls for Governor Cuomo and the State Senate to pass the New York Liberty Act—which has already passed the State Assembly—to keep families together and keep all New Yorkers safe. The Liberty Act limits cooperation between state and local agencies and federal immigration enforcement, and it prevents sharing of information about our immigration status. This bill would help my family feel relief and support from our state government.

Meanwhile, the statewide expansion of another program, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, would make sure that all immigrants facing deportation would have access to a lawyer. For families at risk of being torn apart, having a lawyer can be the difference between a mother like me seeing my child again—or being sent off to a country that I no longer know.

The Immigrant Opportunity Agenda also calls for driver’s licenses for all, which is so important for families like mine. Twelve other states have access to licenses for all, regardless of immigration status. Particularly in areas with little public transportation, immigrant New Yorkers often have to drive to get to work or drop their kids off at school. Everyone should have access to licenses, which will help protect our families and make our roads safer.

To make sure that immigrant families enjoy the opportunities we deserve—and that we get our fair share of the billions we pay in New York State taxes—the Immigrant Opportunity Agenda also includes the DREAM Act, to ensure equal access to college for all of our youth, and increased funding for adult education. And it demands that New York step up for workers by cracking down on wage theft, one of the key ways that immigrant workers continue to be exploited.

The governor has said he stands with immigrants. But neither he nor the State Senate—whose Republican leaders have mostly endorsed Trump’s agenda— has yet pushed legislation or significant budget items to protect our community and ensure our access to opportunity.

It’s not too late. The Immigrant Opportunity Agenda shows how New York can ensure that we are all protected from attacks by President Trump and New York politicians who have embraced Trumpism. Now, more than ever, we need Albany leaders to show whose side they're on.

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Magdalena Brito is a member of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: @maketheroadny.

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New York’s Immigrant Families Need Action from Albany Wed, 15 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000
A Budget for the City of Immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6353-a-budget-for-the-city-of-immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6353-a-budget-for-the-city-of-immigrants  adult lit classes 12

Students of an adult literacy class (photo: Make the Road New York)


In recent years, New York City has taken major strides forward in its engagement with immigrant communities. Under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Council as a whole, our city has adopted and invested in new initiatives to welcome and protect immigrants and embrace their tremendous economic, cultural, and political contributions.

Now, with the 2017 budget process in final negotiations, our leaders have a key opportunity to further address the barriers to opportunity and equity that immigrant communities continue to face. That’s why today, five leading immigrant organizations are releasing a new report, “A Budget for the City of Immigrants,” which identifies key policy areas in which immigrant communities need further investment.

Despite path-breaking initiatives like IDNYC (the municipal identification card program), ActionNYC (one of the nation’s first large-scale municipal navigation and outreach programs to connect people to free immigration legal screenings), and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (the nation’s first program to guarantee counsel to low-income immigrants facing deportation), immigrants still face enormous challenges in accessing public services, getting the support to succeed in the workforce, and being informed of their rights.

The new report highlights key priorities across various issue areas, ranging from adult education to youth programs to health care access, but a few priorities bear particular mention.

First, our City must expand its investment in adult literacy to a baselined $16 million per year.

Adult newcomers who have come here to work and support their families often struggle with limited English proficiency (LEP). Despite enormous demand for adult literacy classes, supply has lagged—less than three percent of those in need can access community-based adult education programs. A recent Make the Road New York and Center for Popular Democracy report, “Teaching Toward Equity: The Importance of English Classes to Reducing Economic Inequality in New York,” highlights how meeting the language needs of LEP New Yorkers would both further immigrant integration and generate billions of dollars in new earnings. New York City can lead again by making sure that adult immigrants can learn English and develop the tools they need to thrive.

Second, our city must direct $13.5 million for immigration legal services for complex cases.

Currently, New York City provides few resources for complex immigration legal cases where an individual is facing imminent deportation yet cannot be served under most existing funding streams. This leaves thousands of immigrants on waiting lists. A survey by the New York Immigration Coalition of the city's legal services providers noted that 60% of immigrants seeking their services had complex cases that need intensive representation. Further resources must focus on these complex immigration cases—especially for families who are on the verge of being torn apart without adequate legal representation.

Third, our city must expand its investment in Access Health NYC to $5 million.

This new City Council initiative has shown tremendous promise by working with community organizations like the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families to educate immigrants about health care options and enroll them for coverage, wherever possible. Health care access is another area where our city has shown leadership, and it should expand its commitment in this budget year.

Fourth, our city must move forward with the investment of $868 million in capital funding for the construction of new classrooms and schools to combat overcrowding and pursue additional means to meet the more than 100,000 school seats needed citywide.

The 2017 budget must include strong investment to address this widespread problem, while our leaders explore further action in future years to fix it once and for all.

Finally, New York City must take further steps to strengthen the landscape of grassroots, immigrant-led nonprofit organizations that are the backbone of our communities yet often struggle, as the Asian American Federation and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies have noted, to operate on a level playing field with larger organizations.

By increasing the Nonprofit Stabilization Fund to $5 million and amending municipal contracting policies to open new opportunities for these smaller organizations, the city can go a long way to strengthening immigrant communities as well.

The priorities outlined in A Budget for the City of Immigrants, of which these are just a few, show concrete opportunities to consolidate the progress our city has made with respect to immigrant communities and ensure that we continue to move forward. With immigrant communities at the heart of our global city, we must use this budget cycle to continue to lead the way in welcoming and protecting immigrants.

What is good for immigrant communities is good for New York City, the city of immigrants.

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Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Steve Choi is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadNY & @thenyic.

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A Budget for the City of Immigrants Tue, 24 May 2016 15:21:53 +0000
A Good Investment: Supporting New York's Immigrant Communities http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6217-a-good-investment-supporting-new-yorks-immigrant-communities http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6217-a-good-investment-supporting-new-yorks-immigrant-communities steve choi

Steven Choi, the author (photo via NYC DOE)


New York prides itself on being a gateway of opportunity, a place where people from across the world come to build their businesses, send their children to school, and provide for their families. With more than four million immigrants in New York, these newcomers make tremendous, vital economic, social, and cultural contributions to the Empire State.

And yet there is an enormous amount that our state - led by our elected officials - can do to support our newest New Yorkers move up the economic ladder. That’s why on Thursday, March 10, the New York Immigration Coalition is holding a statewide advocacy day, all the way from Buffalo to Brentwood, to commit to NYIC’s 2016 “Immigrant Blueprint for New York” – the framework for a comprehensive, long-term plan for the state to improve outcomes for immigrant communities and help be a national leader in immigration.

On Thursday, we'll meet with 38 legislators across New York - in Buffalo, Rochester, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island - to emphasize the needs of their communities.

Our “Blueprint” includes five major pillars for how to achieve immigrant prosperity:

Strengthen integration efforts for New Americans by providing adult education programming for immigrants that need them, and ensuring that limited-English-proficient speakers are able to access government services;

Address the persistent achievement gap for immigrant students and English Language Learners by ensuring tuition equity on the college level, creating multiple pathways to a high school diploma, reducing the required number of Regents exams, and investing in career and technical education;  

Provide access to healthcare for immigrants who are excluded from coverage by federal law, and improving access, coverage, and care for immigrants who are eligible to participate in New York’s health exchange;

Advance immigrant justice and uphold due process through ensuring access to affordable and reliable legal services, as well as limiting intrusive and unlawful collaboration between local and state law enforcement and immigration officials to improve trust between communities and law enforcement;

Protect workers’ rights for New York’s most vulnerable, including farmworkers and other low-wage workers exploited by unscrupulous employers, and by meeting basic needs such as including access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants who play critical roles in our economy yet lack tremendous barriers around transportation access.

These strategic steps are not pie-in-the-sky. They are concrete and achievable, and will do wonders for New York’s economic growth - catapulting New York even further as a leader in successful immigrant integration.  This March 10, our message is simple: By supporting immigrant communities, we are investing in New York - and we call on our elected officials to use this blueprint to make sure we secure New York’s present and future as the greatest state in the union.

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Steven Choi is the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter @SteveChoiNYIC & @thenyic.

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A Good Investment: Supporting New York's Immigrant Communities Thu, 10 Mar 2016 02:02:36 +0000
A Budget for Immigrant New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6204-a-budget-for-immigrant-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6204-a-budget-for-immigrant-new-york MTR 15

photo via Make The Road New York


Growing up in Puebla, Mexico, I was raised to believe that all families, and all communities, deserve their fair share.

Since immigrating to New York, however, I've seen clearly that immigrant communities here often get far from their fair share. Immigrant communities like Woodside, Queens, where I live, too often lack the basic infrastructure and opportunities that residents need—good schools, safe and affordable housing, access to good-paying jobs, and more. We just get the short end of the stick relative to better-off neighborhoods.

As I've followed recent political debates in our state, I've learned that a lot of that has to do with the state budget. The budget, more than anything else that happens in our state each year, has an enormous bearing on shaping the priorities of our state government and determining which programs and regions will get the funding that they need. The budget determines funding for everything from education to housing to health care. And, with more and more policy decisions getting inserted into the budget in recent years as a way of getting around Albany's dysfunction, the budget is actually now the biggest policy-making vehicle in our state.

That's why, this year, my fellow members of Make the Road New York and I are calling for immigrant communities across the state to get our fair share of the state budget. In a new report that we released this week, "A Budget for Immigrant New York," we call for greater equity across the budget, so that immigrant communities can thrive as they deserve.

The report highlights 25 items, but my own story shows why three are so important.

First, we call for the state to include in its budget an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour as soon as possible, with indexing to inflation. As a minimum wage earner, my dream has been to improve the lives of my four children, but the wages I earn are too low for me to do that. The truth is, on my wages it is impossible to get ahead in this expensive state. Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour for me is an issue of survival. A $15 minimum wage would mean enough food in my house at night for my family, and peace of mind that I could begin to meet all of our other needs.

Second, we call for an increase of $2.9 billion in new school aid. As a parent of four, I worry every day about my children's education, and it pains me to see them attending schools that don't have all the resources they need. Under-resourced schools like theirs are not the exception—they are the rule. We need billions of dollars in additional school aid, and it must prioritize high-needs school districts.

Third, immigrant adults need the opportunity to fully integrate themselves in their communities through adult literacy programs. I'm currently enrolled in an English class that I know will help me engage better with my children's teachers and find a better job, but too many other immigrants can't access classes because there is not enough state funding. We need $17 million in adult literacy funding in this year's budget.

On these issues and so many more, this year's budget offers an opportunity to do more for immigrant communities in desperate need. We need leaders in Albany to step up to make sure that we get our fair share.

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Cristina Molina is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: @maketheroadny

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A Budget for Immigrant New York Thu, 03 Mar 2016 03:28:17 +0000