Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/751 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 17:41:21 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Protecting Immigrant Workers in the City of Immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7213:protecting-immigrant-workers-in-the-city-of-immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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/?id=6911:city-expands-free-legal-clinics-for-immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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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/?id=6810:new-york-s-immigrant-families-need-action-from-albany http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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/?id=6353:a-budget-for-the-city-of-immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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/?id=6217:a-good-investment-supporting-new-yorks-immigrant-communities http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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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/?id=6204:a-budget-for-immigrant-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=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
Council to Examine City Support for Ethnic Media http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6115:council-to-examine-city-support-for-ethnic-media http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6115:council-to-examine-city-support-for-ethnic-media menchaca idnyc staff

Council Member Menchaca (photo: William Alatriste) 


When City Council member Carlos Menchaca heard the recent news of layoffs at El Diario, the country’s oldest Spanish-language daily newspaper, he was troubled to say the least. Menchaca, who represents Sunset Park and Red Hook, penned an editorial (reproduced here in English) for the newspaper in which he pledged his support for ethnic media outlets that serve local communities and announced an upcoming hearing of the Council’s immigration committee, which he chairs, to look at ways the city can provide support.

Menchaca hopes the oversight hearing, scheduled for Wednesday morning, will explore an oft-overlooked but large section of the city’s news industry. New York City is home to 95 ethnic newspapers with a circulation of nearly 3 million people, more than a third of the city’s population. (According to a report by New York Magazine in 2014, that surpasses the combined print audience of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post.)

“We’re at a pivotal point in the history of our city and we need to have this discussion,” Menchaca told Gotham Gazette. The hearing will feature testimony from community newspapers, non-profit groups, academics, and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal. This testimony, Menchaca hopes, will lay the foundation for the city’s “fact finding mission.”

“We need the press,” he said, “to be able to talk about how we’re opening the doors of government to different communities.” He stressed that the hearing is about the city’s relationship with ethnic media and about ensuring the outlets are well represented by city government. “I don’t believe in silos. I believe in symbiotic relationships. It’s not about telling the media what to do and how to do it,” he said.

An important stakeholder at the hearing will be the the NewsGuild of New York, a union which represents around 3,000 employees of New York-based organizations including the New York Times, The Daily Beast, Amsterdam News, and El Diario. The guild will also host a rally on the steps of City Hall shortly before the hearing. “We’re very glad the Council is taking an interest in how immigrant communities are being served by the press,” said NewsGuild president Peter Szekely.

Although they have a horse in this particular race -- the recently laid off El Diario reporters -- they also believe it’s a matter of public interest. “This is about journalism,” said NewsGuild staffer Jesus Sanchez. “This is about making sure that the news gets to the community.” Voice of NY, a publication of the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism published a closer look at El Diario's struggles on Monday, noting its shrinking staff and bleak outlook.

Other local journalists also welcome the City Council hearing, which they feel will bring attention to their woes as an industry.

For Milton Allimadi, publisher and CEO of Black Star News, the hearing is about more than just ethnic media. “The city of New York doesn't support any businesses when it comes to people of color, period. It's not just ethnic media,” he said in an email, citing Comptroller Scott Stringer’s 'Making The Grade' report on the city’s investment in Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprises. Stringer’s annual reports have indicated what he has called less than satisfactory contracting by the city with MWBEs.

“We are really overlooked by the city,” said Elinor Tatum, publisher and editor-in-chief of New York Amsterdam News, the city’s oldest and largest black newspaper. “Ethnic media plays a huge role in New York. We’ve got people who speak directly to these communities and the mainstream press is not able to do that.” She said the city should increase its advertising with ethnic media, pointing out that many city initiatives are specifically geared towards immigrant communities and communities of color.

“It’s a business decision and it’s a good decision, if they’re trying to reach ethnic communities, to use ethnic media,” she said.

A 2013 report by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at CUNY J-School found that the city spent nearly $18 million in fiscal year 2012 on public messaging and that 82 percent of the city’s advertising budget went to mainstream publications through two contracted advertising agencies. This was before Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, of course, and under the new administration, outreach for large city initiatives has been geared for multiple languages and platforms. The City Council, under the leadership of its first Latino Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has also pushed for increased reliance on ethnic media.

“The de Blasio administration is committed to reaching communities across the city through ethnic and community media,” said a city official in a statement to Gotham Gazette. The official cited the city’s 2014 multilingual campaign for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, calling it “the first time the City has had a mass marketing campaign targeted to immigrant communities.”

The campaigns for several city initiatives, including the new municipal identification card program (IDNYC), paid sick leave, and universal pre-K, “made significant and deliberate investments in community and ethnic media, and in multilingual outreach, to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers can connect to crucial city programs,” the official added.

Seemingly in line with the city’s commitment, Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña is hosting a roundtable on Tuesday morning specifically with members of ethnic and community media.

Allimadi, of Black Star News, recommends the city establish a "Deputy Mayor of Diversity," whom he said should oversee city spending with ethnic media, among other responsibilities.

Wednesday’s City Council hearing will likely shed new light on how far the city has come in the last couple of years on this front and help Council Member Menchaca and his colleagues begin to build policy recommendations for how the city can support these outlets. “You can’t have solutions,” Menchaca said, “without first having a discussion.”

[Related: New Data Indicates IDNYC Popularity Among Immigrants]

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by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurshid

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Council to Examine City Support for Ethnic Media Tue, 26 Jan 2016 04:54:20 +0000
New Data Indicates IDNYC Popularity Among Immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6085:new-data-indicates-idnyc-popularity-among-immigrants http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6085:new-data-indicates-idnyc-popularity-among-immigrants idny bdb mmv museum

The Mayor & others flash their IDNYC (photo: Madeleine Ball)


It has been one year since New York City launched its ambitious municipal identification program, dubbed IDNYC, and reports show that the program has been a resounding success. More than 725,000 card applications have been approved, about 10 percent of the eligible population of New Yorkers 14 years of age or older.

One of the primary purposes of the program is to provide valid identification for undocumented immigrants living in New York City, of which there are an estimated 640,000. By the very nature of the program -- accepting applications regardless of immigration status and not asking about it on application forms -- quantifying enrollment among undocumented immigrants is hard, if not impossible. But, as the success of the card has led to its celebration and assumptions that undocumented New Yorkers are taking advantage of the program, there is indeed evidence that the de Blasio administration and advocates point to.

Ancillary data provided to Gotham Gazette by the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, which is one of the agencies leading implementation of IDNYC, indicates that immigrants in large numbers have availed of the program.

By the end of last year, 732,630 people had applied for the ID, with a high ratio of enrollment coming from immigrant-rich communities across the five boroughs. In Queens, 25,366 identity cards were issued in Corona, another 28,707 in Flushing and 13,654 in Jackson Heights. In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, 22,139 people were issued IDNYC. In Manhattan, 10,142 Chinatown residents and 27,213 people from Washington Heights enrolled in the program.

In providing further indication of interest from immigrant New Yorkers, MOIA reported that 52 percent of IDNYC inquiries to the city's 311 helpline were from non-English speakers. Of these, 88 percent spoke Spanish, 4.6 percent spoke Mandarin, followed in turn by Cantonese, Russian, Korean, and at least nine other languages.

"We knew there was a huge need for identification but the dramatic response was more than we expected," said MOIA Commissioner Nisha Agarwal in an interview. "This indirect data suggests that immigrants are benefitting from it."

Non-profit organizations that work with immigrants agree that IDNYC has been an unqualified success. "If hundreds of thousands of people are getting the IDs, you can imagine that tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants are getting it," said Thanu Yakupitiyage, communications manager for the New York Immigration Coalition. NYIC is an umbrella advocacy organization that works with more than 200 groups across the city helping immigrants and refugees.

"Immigrants now feel that they're part of the city in a meaningful way," said Yakupitiyage. "For immigrants, the IDNYC is supporting police-community relations. They can now enter municipal and federal buildings, sign a lease and get a bank account. It's a badge of being a New Yorker." She also cited the program's unprecedented success compared to other municipal identification initiatives elsewhere in the country, such as San Francisco, where enrollment in the first year only touched about two percent.

Other groups tell similar stories. Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation, said that thousands of the people they serve have received the identity cards and now feel a sense of safety and security from it. "It's changed lives in ways that it's hard to quantify, but it's transformative," he said. "It has opened up a new city to people who for decades, even generations have been denied it."

Calderon said the next step forward would be ensuring that immigrants can receive all the benefits of the card. "We're hoping this ID creates a bridge between the financial sector and this largely unbanked community," he said. "The hope is to make that connection that's long been missing."

This will take some work. Major banks operating in New York recently announced that they would not be accepting IDNYC as a primary source of identification in opening a bank account. This was met with disappointment by leading elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller SCott Stringer, and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Amalgamated Bank, among about a dozen financial institutions operating about 75 branches across the city, does accept IDNYC for banking purposes.

In announcing an expanded year two for IDNYC in December, de Blasio called it "the leading municipal identification program in the country, and an example to cities all across the world."

In a statement at the time, Mark-Viverito pointed to access for all, saying, "No matter your status, whether it's immigrant, economic, financial, or if you're homeless or transgender, New Yorkers will be able to take advantage of benefits by signing up for this valuable card."

Make the Road New York's co-executive director, Javier Valdes, called IDNYC a "homerun." He said it provides immigrants security and alleviates the anxiety in interactions with the police. His main concern is related to banking, he said.

Valdes also hoped that the program stays affordable. "It's going to be free for the second year as well, which I think should be done in perpetuity," he said. There had been some speculation that the card would cost around ten dollars in the second year, but the city announced it would remain free and that there were enhanced benefits, continuing its efforts to make the card appealing to all New Yorkers.

Besides keeping IDNYC free of cost, the city has already announced partnerships with more cultural institutions for 2016, bringing the total to more than 40 museums and other organizations. The IDNYC also provides discounts on pet adoptions, the New York Theatre Ballet, soccer matches of New York Football Club, and CitiBike memberships, among other benefits.

For MOIA's Agarwal, the next big step is increasing outreach efforts, particularly in immigrant communities. Last year, IDNYC held pop-up enrollments in 53 locations and the outreach team attended at least 1,700 community events, besides its massive advertising campaign. Agarwal said they would set up more pop-up enrollment centers and also look into bringing art and culture to the program with the help of an artist-in-residence at MOIA.

"We're exploring the next generation of IDNYC enrollment," she said. Her focus will be reaching out to vulnerable groups such as youth populations (Last year, 21,239 minors received the card) and using more portable technology to work with seniors while making it easier to connect the card with city services.

"I think it unifies our city," said Valdes from Make the Road NY, "regardless of who you are, where you live or where you're from."

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by Samar Khurshid, Gotham Gazette
@samarkhurshid     @GothamGazette

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New Data Indicates IDNYC Popularity Among Immigrants Thu, 14 Jan 2016 00:15:25 +0000