Gotham Gazette Sat, 24 Mar 2018 17:36:53 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Expanding Immigrant Access to Health Care in New York Statue of Liberty

(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

In January of 2017, after living in this country for 17 years, I was able to access health insurance for the first time in my life. I became eligible as a new graduate studentl at NYU, which had a Student Health Insurance Plan—and, because in New York, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients were eligible for health insurance.

Now, when I am ill or in need of a checkup, uncertainty and stress are no longer part of the equation. When I feel sick, I no longer need to try to force my body into thinking I’m not sick or treat myself with Tylenol or Theraflu. Instead, I can see a doctor, get the prescription I need, and recover quickly.

Having access to high-quality health care in the past year has lifted an enormous burden from my shoulders. I used to feel anxious and scared every time I started to catch a cold. Now, each time I find myself at the Student Health Center since then, I feel gratitude and relief.

But now, as President Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants escalate, health care access is in jeopardy again for Dreamers like me, as well as immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

New York has long led the way in providing more expansive health care access than the federal government and most states. In Florida, where I went to college, I could not get health insurance. Earlier this year, Dreamers in New York received good news when Governor Cuomo announced that income-eligible DACA beneficiaries would continue to be eligible for state-funded Medicaid. This was an important step forward for the immigrant community and for health care for all in New York.

But the governor’s announcement does not mean that all Dreamers and immigrants will have access to health care. We need further action to ensure that all Dreamers and TPS holders have access to health insurance.

For immigrant youth like me, and young people across the state more generally, the solution is to pass legislation to increase the upper age limit of the Child Health Plus (CHP) Program from 19 to 29.

CHP was founded on the fundamental truth that health care is a human right. The program honors this principle by providing comprehensive health care services to uninsured young people not eligible for Medicaid or Marketplace coverage. For a mere .5% of the state’s annual budget, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature could expand CHP in this way to increase access to nearly 100,000 more young adults who would be newly eligible for high-quality coverage, since they have been aging out of CHP when they turn 19.

Additionally, with Trump acting to terminate TPS for countries like El Salvador and Haiti, hundreds of thousands of current TPS holders are at risk of losing legal status. In New York, this will put tens of thousands more in jeopardy of losing access to health care, in addition to potentially facing deportation.

New York State must take measures to ensure that TPS holders maintain their health coverage regardless of the reckless—and, frankly, racist—policies from Washington. First, the State must pass legislation to ensure TPS recipients remain eligible for Medicaid, even if they are stripped of their protection. Second, New York should create a state-funded Essential Plan for all New Yorkers who earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level, regardless of immigration status. This plan would be of particular urgency for immigrants who will be losing their TPS and thus, their current health insurance.

These policies offer a clear path for New York to lead on immigrant health care access. That’s why immigrant-led organizations like Make the Road New York (MRNY), which has included the policies as part of their statewide Respect and Dignity for All Platform, and the Coverage for All Coalition are lobbying legislators and the governor to adopt them. In fact, more than 500 MRNY members will be rallying and talking to legislators in Albany today -- Tuesday, March 6 -- about this issue as a central part of their 2018 agenda.

Day in, and day out, immigrants build this country. We are the ones who cook your food, care for your kids, stock your shelves, pick your vegetables, mow your lawn, and clean your house. We graduate in the top percentile of our classes, pay for our own education, serve our communities, and make lasting contributions to the beautiful tapestry of American culture. 

Like all Americans, and all New Yorkers, we deserve access to health care—not as a privilege, but as a right.

New York has led the way before on health care access and standing up for immigrants. This legislative session, it’s time for Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to renew that commitment by adopting further measures to protect immigrants like me.

The Trump administration doesn’t want immigrants like me to have access to health care. We need New York to have our backs.

Lucas Lopes is a Master of Public Administration student at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

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Expanding Immigrant Access to Health Care in New York Mon, 05 Mar 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Diversity Visa: A Ticket To A Better Life Diversity

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

This past October my mom passed the United States citizenship exam. On November 7, she became a U.S. citizen. And this past December my dad passed the United States citizenship exam. On January 31, he became a U.S. citizen. Soon, my sisters and I will become U.S. citizens as well. None of this was guaranteed to us, and it almost didn’t happen.

My family is from Bangladesh. We moved to the United States in July 2011 through the Diversity Visa process, which is currently being called into question at the federal level, especially after a recent terrorist attack in New York City. The experience of my family -- me, my parents, and my two younger sisters -- is a testament to what the Diversity Visa program can do for people, and for the United States, a country we are proud to call home.

Simply put, the Diversity Visa changed our lives. It gave us a second chance. It allowed me to be where I am today: 15 years old and a tenth-grader in a New York City high school.  

In Bangladesh, my dad was a businessman, running a company called Nicos Digital Color Lab. Armed with a bachelor’s degree, he was also a self-taught photographer, and sometimes taught computer lessons to high school students. My mom has a master’s degree, and helped to support our home.  

Back in Bangladesh, there was a lot of pressure on my parents: my grandparents, two cousins, two uncles, and an aunt all lived with us in the same house. My dad paid all of our family’s expenses, and my mom cooked and took care of everyone. The entire family depended on my parents, and it put an obvious strain on their marriage. Things began to fall apart between my mom and my dad. Since they were the caretakers, though, no one much noticed.

One day, when my dad was in his Color Lab staring at his computer screen, one of his friends stopped by and asked for a cigarette. He told my dad to apply for the Diversity Visa to the U.S.

My dad laughed at first, “A common person like me, with no extraordinary talents, living in a small town in a country named Bangladesh, will get a visa to go to the United States?”

My dad’s friend smiled and told him to ask my mom to apply. “Your wife is your lucky charm. Her application will get accepted.” My parents quickly filled out an application under my mom’s name.

Soon after, we received a first letter notifying us that we had been selected, and then a second letter notifying us that we would be interviewed. After an extensive vetting process, we were approved. My mom, my sisters, and I were given a visa. A month later, my dad’s visa was approved as well. While the process may seem easy, it was not. It took time, preparation for the interviews, and anxiety until the visas were in hand.  

As we looked up airline tickets to go to the U.S., we realized we didn’t have enough money to get there. But, we soon found, miraculously, that our family was surrounded by supportive guardian angels. All my dad’s childhood best friends came to our rescue. They all contributed, not only helping to pay for our plane tickets, but providing extra money to survive in the U.S. as we started our new lives.  

After moving to the U.S. and gaining employment, my dad paid all their money back. But we will never be able to give back the generosity, kindness, and opportunity they gave us. I am forever grateful to my dad’s friends for helping to change our lives.

In the years since, we have established our lives in the U.S. It has not been easy. My father, a former businessman, works as a taxi driver. My mother, with her master’s degree, takes care of my sisters and me. We all go to school, studying for a better future for our family. But we feel so lucky to be living in the United States. It has changed our lives immeasurably.

If we were still in Bangladesh, I’m confident that my family would have fallen apart, and my parents might have separated. My sisters and I wouldn’t have been able to receive a proper education because education in Bangladesh costs so much. I wouldn’t be independent, navigating the subways of New York City on my own. I wouldn’t have my parents as close to me as they are to me right now, and they probably wouldn’t be able to give much time to my sisters and me as they do right now. My parents wouldn’t be able to financially support my grandparents and all their siblings as they do now.

Getting settled here in the United States was not easy; it still isn’t. Adjusting to the new environment around us, being away from our extended family, hearing threats because we are Muslims and people see us as foreigners. But life is better. And there is the possibility of an even better future. A future I work toward every day at school.

That is what the Diversity Visa has meant to me. A ticket to a better life.

The United States is my home. It always has been. I may not be born here, but I am an American. I love this country so much. The Diversity Visa changed my family’s life forever. For that for so many Americans to come, I pray we do not get rid of it.

Laila Dola is a high school student in Queens and a former member of the Generation Citizen Student Leadership Board.

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The Diversity Visa: A Ticket To A Better Life Thu, 15 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
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.

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
As Trump Pushes Deportations, Volunteers Intensify Immigrant-Accompaniment Program jericho walk 1

A New Sanctuary Coalition "Jericho walk" (photo: Katrina Shakarian)

The day before Thanksgiving, a group of volunteers met Manuel, an asylum seeker from El Salvador, in back of the Dunkin Donuts at 321 Broadway in Manhattan, to accompany him to his immigration court hearing at 26 Federal Plaza.

The volunteers were part of the New Sanctuary Coalition’s accompaniment program, which trains people to accompany undocumented immigrants on check-ins with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to immigration court hearings. The program aims to support people caught in deportation proceedings by creating a community that is present with them and bearing witness to the process.

“I think it’s really important that people that show up for a hearing or a check-in know that there are people supporting them,” said Denise Rickles, a retired teacher from Manhattan, who attended Manuel’s accompaniment. “I try to come once a week and I’ve been doing it for a number of months.”

The New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC, founded in 2007, is an interfaith network of congregations, organizations, and individuals that stand in solidarity with the city's undocumented residents facing deportation. The coalition receives funding through Judson Memorial Church, its fiscal sponsor. In addition to organizing accompaniments, the coalition hosts immigration clinics and leads weekly prayer walks around Federal Plaza in protest of deportations.

In 2017 -- as the national conversation around immigration and deportation reached fever pitch after the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump, who has regularly demonized immigrants and promised crack downs on immigration -- the coalition organized about nine accompaniments a week, said Managing Organizer Sara Gozalo.

Volunteers go on three types of accompaniments: ICE check-ins and court hearings for non-detained individuals at 26 Federal Plaza, and hearings for people who are detained at a location on Varick Street.

“Advocacy without confrontation,” is how Gozalo described the program at a recent volunteer training in a hall of St. Boniface Church in Brooklyn, speaking to about 60 attendees. “Even if you feel like you’re not doing anything, your presence there means a lot. I promise you. It’s much harder to deport someone when people are watching.”

Gozalo’s reassurance, and the support of the coalition’s volunteers, comes at a time of sweeping rhetoric from the White House and increased immigration enforcement by the federal government under President Donald Trump.

Arrests by ICE are at a three-year high, although total deportations are actually down from fiscal year 2016. The discrepancy is due, in part, to the backlog of cases in federal immigration court. There are more than 650,000 pending cases nationally, about 85,000 of which are being heard in New York City courtrooms, according to data from the Transition Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC).

While President Obama was not seen by many immigration advocates as adverse enough to deportations, one of Trump’s first acts as president was signing an executive order that sought to increase enforcement of federal immigration laws.

ICE explicitly attributes its increase of administrative arrests to the direction set forth in Trump’s order. The agency made 143,470 administrative arrests in fiscal year 2017, which it describes as the highest number of such arrests over the past three fiscal years. Fiscal year 2017 ended on September 30, and according to its latest Enforcement and Removal Operations Report, the uptick in arrests began after Trump’s inauguration.

On November 23, seven people followed Manuel out of the Dunkin Donuts and through security at the Worth Street entrance of 26 Federal Plaza. The group piled into an elevator and rode to the twelfth floor where Manuel was scheduled for a Master Calendar hearing -- a short and preliminary hearing at the very beginning of deportation proceedings, months and sometimes years before a final determination is made and enforced.

On this day, Manuel, whose last name is being withheld at the request of New Sanctuary Coalition leadership, intended to bring his asylum application, completed with the help of the coalition, and those of his wife and children, to the attention of a judge.

An undocumented immigrant detected by the federal government is served with a Notice to Appear in federal immigration court by the Department of Homeland Security. The Master Calendar hearing is that person's first appearance in front of a judge, during which they confirm having received the notice and acknowledge the government's case against them.

During Master Calendar hearings, judges inform defendants that they can obtain legal counsel. However, since deportation proceedings are considered civil cases and not criminal, the right to counsel guaranteed by the sixth amendment does not extend to immigrants facing deportation. Many people end up facing government attorneys, litigating their status alone.

On one side of the twelfth floor, the names of judges line a black bulletin board with the day’s caseloads and room numbers printed on white sheets of paper underneath. On the other side are the courtrooms, which on this day had waiting rooms so packed that appointment holders and their families overflowed into the grey and windowless hallway.

At least 30 people lined the walls. One woman held a baby across her chest, others had toddlers in strollers, and some were grown children and teens plopped onto the floor with their backs against the wall. Sections of the hallway’s fluorescent lights had blown out, so most of the crowd waited in the dark.

“The waiting is the worst part,” said Melvyn Stevens, a retiree from Manhattan on his sixth accompaniment with the coalition. “When I got up this morning I already had anxiety. It’s manageable, but given everything, it’s not a good environment. The building is made to make you feel small.”

People showing up for ICE check-ins and hearings often do it alone and with little to no English language proficiency. So, coalition volunteers help them navigate their appointments.

Upon arrival, the volunteer group leader confirms their appointment on the bulletin board, and helps them locate their courtroom. Others on the accompaniment offer small gestures like conversation during the wait, and making a run to the sixth floor cafeteria to buy them a bottle of water or a snack.

The New Sanctuary Coalition’s accompaniment program is “very reassuring for people,” said Anne Pilsbury, director of Central American Legal Assistance (CALA) in Brooklyn. “[26 Federal Plaza] is a very confusing place and it’s hard to get information from anyone. The accompaniments humanize a very inhumane process.”  

CALA sends its overflow of asylum seekers to the New Sanctuary Coalition’s weekly immigration clinics for assistance completing applications.

On accompaniments to Master Calendar hearings, such as Manuel’s, volunteers can sit in the courtroom during the hearing. When his case was called, volunteers in the room made their presence known to the judge by standing up when he walked to the respondent’s table, and sitting down when he did.

This is different from accompaniments to ICE appointments, on which volunteers are not allowed in ICE’s waiting room on the ninth floor. Instead, the group waits in the sixth floor cafeteria, and one by one they take turns going to the ninth floor and briefly checking in on the person until they’re called into the appointment. If the outcome is detainment, the volunteers spring into action, contacting the detainee’s family, launching a letter writing campaign in their defense, and in some cases, rallying the press and other organizations in their support.

Back in the courtroom, Manuel’s hearing was brief. His lawyer was not present. An in-house Spanish interpreter translated the judge’s every word, and in turn, Garcia’s responses were translated into English. He submitted a printed copy of his asylum application to the judge and now waits for a decision.

According to TRAC, across the country in fiscal year 2017, “asylum grants increased, [but] denials grew faster.” Its report shows that roughly 60 percent of asylum applications were denied, making it the fifth year in a row that denial rates increased nationally.

The same report cites an increase in the proportion of asylum seekers who go through the process without a lawyer. Ten years ago, only 13 percent of applicants were unrepresented, while in 2017 the figure shot up to 20 percent. Asylum seekers who are not represented by an attorney are denied 90 percent of the time.

There aren’t enough immigration lawyers to keep up with demand, and some people can’t afford them even when they are available.

Recently, in New York City, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and the heavily Democratic City Council, under the leadership of former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, sought to bridge that gap and counter the Trump administration’s immigration policies, by allocating $30 million for immigrant legal services in the city’s budget for the current fiscal year.

The money will pay for legal representation of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, at all stages of the process, whether they are applying for asylum, fighting deportation, or have been detained. De Blasio and the Council have expanded the counsel program, known as the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), over the past few years, with additional urgency since Trump’s election.

Immigration proceedings are hardly straightforward. Someone can have one or multiple Master Calendar hearings over the course of several years. Eventually, a hearing for a final judgment does takes place, once a determination on asylum is made, or for those not seeking asylum, once they’ve made some other case for remaining in the United States.

If a judge rules to deport, the case can be drawn out further, as people have the option to file several rounds of appeals.

All the while, ICE has broad discretion over requiring check-ins. For some, check-ins start before or during the Master Calendar Hearing process. For others, there are no check-ins until a final judgement to deport is made.

While a person cannot be deported before an order of removal is final, they can be detained. People in deportation proceedings who are convicted of crimes are generally detained. Those convicted of less serious crimes, however, may be given an opportunity to post bond, explained Edward Cuccia, the attorney representing Riaz Talukder, a beneficiary of the New Sanctuary Coalition’s accompaniment program.

Talukder came to the United States from Bangladesh in the 1980s. Today, he is the sole breadwinner for his family of two American-born children and a wife, who is battling thyroid cancer.

In 2010, he discovered there was an 11-year-old deportation order against him stemming from a failed application for asylum years before. That year, he was granted a stay of deportation, and has been checking in with ICE annually every since.

During Obama’s presidency, such deferments of deportation were a courtesy to thousands of people like Talukder who had been living in the United States for many years, abiding by the law, forming families, and establishing their lives.

Under Trump, the directive has changed. ICE officers are under tremendous precious to ratchet up numbers. There are no more courtesies, everybody is a priority, explained Cuccia, the lawyer.

On November 20, Talukder showed up for his second appointment in four weeks. He was granted a temporary stay of 6 more months, an apparently lucky outcome.

"There are a lot of factors determining decisions made by ICE,” said Cuccia.

“Certainly, having a community presence with a client, even a small one, has the potential to influence the outcome positively. For my client, the volunteer accompaniment, the massive press response, and the overwhelming community support, was, in part, what resulted in a favorable decision at his last check-in,” he said.

Similarly, organizers and volunteers at the New Sanctuary Coalition say that the vast majority of judges are happy to see community support in the courtroom. Some judges will acknowledge them during the hearing, and commit their presence to the record.

“For our friends,” as the coalition refers to the undocumented immigrants they support, “often times, for the first time since they’ve entered the whole removal process, people are treating them with respect and dignity,” said Carol Scott, a self-defense instructor in Brooklyn who was the volunteer leader of Garcia’s accompaniment on the twenty-third.

“We’ve had friends send notes after. One person who was in detention said, you didn’t send people, you sent seven angels,” said Scott. “So, the language is just beautiful. Not being alone in a hostile environment is a powerful balm to the soul.”

Earlier in the day, while Manuel waited for his hearing, he was approached two times by people waiting for their own names to be called, inquiring about his entourage. At the end of  each conversation, he handed them a New Sanctuary Coalition business card with a smile on his face.

by Katrina Shakarian for Gotham Gazette

As Trump Pushes Deportations, Volunteers Intensify Immigrant-Accompaniment Program Sun, 07 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
New York City Now Has Its Own Legal Parameters for ‘Disorderly Conduct’ vanessa gibson city council john mccarten

Council Member Vanessa Gibson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)

A City Council bill that creates an alternative to the state’s “disorderly conduct” statute, and mandates lower punishment for the infraction, became law on Friday along with numerous other bills relating to protecting undocumented immigrant New Yorkers. The bill, sponsored by City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, chair of the public safety committee, also adds another plank to the Council’s broad agendas of criminal justice reform and immigrant protections.

The new city law prohibits “disorderly behavior” much in the same way the existing state law currently does -- for incidents involving public altercations, unreasonable noise, obscene gestures in public, obstruction of traffic and other similar offenses --  but it provides for a maximum sentence of five days in prison or a $200 fine, and also includes a civil (as opposed to criminal) penalty option in the form of a $75 fine.

Under the state law, in which punishment can reach up to 15 days in prison or a $250 fine, there were roughly 54,000 convictions in 2016 in New York City criminal courts.

The rationale behind the new city law is simple, but controversial: lowering punishment can prevent the involvement of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, which is often triggered when undocumented immigrants interact or are pulled into the criminal justice system. A punishment longer than five days can also make immigrants ineligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections.

“It’s an option for district attorneys, for judges and for police to use in instances of disorderly conduct, and obviously for non-violent and low-level cases,” said Council Member Gibson, in a phone interview on Monday, during which she warned of dangers undocumented immigrants face from an openly hostile federal administration.

Since before he took office, Donald Trump has been aggressively attacking undocumented immigrants with rhetoric, and, under his presidency federal immigration authorities have followed through with action, stepping up their enforcement efforts. They have taken particular aim at so-called “sanctuary cities” such as New York, which are home to massive populations of undocumented immigrants and relatively friendly local laws.

The New York City Council has responded to the federal administration in kind, by passing a slew of measures aimed at limiting cooperation with ICE and protecting the city’s immigrant population. “We did it so it wouldn’t propel a negative consequence,” Gibson said of her bill. “We wanted to give DAs additional tools to employ. For us, while it applies to everyone, there’s obviously a very intentional focus on immigrants.”

In April, then-Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez (who has since been elected to the position) announced that his office would try to avoid prosecution strategies that could result in deportation proceedings for immigrants. “I am committed to equal and fair justice for all Brooklyn residents – citizens, lawful residents and undocumented immigrants alike,” he said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Now more than ever, we must ensure that a conviction, especially for a minor offense, does not lead to unintended and severe consequences like deportation, which can be unfair, tear families apart and destabilize our communities and businesses.”

As Gibson noted, the Council has moved to reduce penalties and create civil fines for numerous low-level offenses, most significantly through the Criminal Justice Reform Act passed last year. Those efforts have taken on increased importance under Trump. In the last few months, ICE agents have begun to stake out courthouses to nab immigrants showing up to court appearances, even in cases involving nonviolent crimes.

Initial data has shown drastic reductions in criminal court summonses issued under the offenses that were included in the Criminal Justice Reform Act. Between when the act took effect on June 13 and October 1, 2017, there were 4,370 criminal summonses issued under those offenses, compared to 55,224 in the same period in 2016. The NYPD issued 26,154 civil summonses for the covered offenses.

Gibson said her bill was just another part of that larger agenda to ensure “proportional penalties” that match the crimes committed. The efforts don’t necessarily mean an easing of enforcement or so-called broken windows policing of low-level crimes in an effort to prevent larger ones, but it relates to how violations like disorderly conduct are classified and punished. “It falls in line with work we’ve done on criminal justice reform,” she said. “It’s absolutely critical. In light of the current climate, it’s really important for the City Council to advance progressive legislation that protects all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.”

Murad Awawdeh, vice president of advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, said the organization was glad to see the Council take proactive measures to protect immigrants from the “nexus of the criminal justice system and the immigration system,” which can often endanger their status in the country.

“By lowering the maximum punishment for this offense, the city is ensuring that immigrants aren’t unnecessarily detained or possibly deported,” he said of the new disorderly conduct law. “I think it’s timely and also long overdue.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

New York City Now Has Its Own Legal Parameters for ‘Disorderly Conduct’ Mon, 04 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Our Families Are Under Attack, So We Rise Up Make The Road DREAMers

I came to this country at the age of two. I have grown up in this country for over two decades, and I am a New Yorker through and through. New York City is where I go to school, where I work, and the place my family and I call home.

But my life here, and my family’s life, is at risk because I am a “Dreamer.” My only protection from being separated from my family is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Donald Trump’s administration has already started trying to tear apart families like mine, including detaining Dreamers like me. Daniel Ramírez, a Dreamer, was detained in Washington. Daniela Vargas, also a Dreamer, was detained in Mississippi. Whether or not Trump decides to repeal DACA, it is clear that our families are under attack.

But, for immigrants like me, there is one key lesson from the first months of the new administration: when we fight back, we win.

When Trump issued the Muslim and refugee ban, it was enormous grassroots opposition, coupled with legal advocacy, that blocked these policies.

When Daniel and Daniela were detained, it was a groundswell of popular support—protests, petitions, and more—that got them free.

When Trump and Paul Ryan tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance away from tens of millions of people, it was ordinary people taking to the streets, town halls, and congressional offices that defeated them.

Despite these early losses, Trump shows no signs of slowing down his anti-immigrant agenda. Having failed to pass healthcare reform, Trump now wants to pass a budget that will allow him to build a wall that we don’t need and spend billions more to terrorize our families. But our communities will defeat his wall and his budget in the same way we’ve beaten him on his other priorities: by taking to the streets.

That’s why, on Monday May 1, at 5pm in Foley Square, I’m joining a coalition of dozens of immigrant, community, and labor organizations to rally for immigrant rights and workers’ rights.

On May 1, whether you were born here or in another country, whatever you believe in or however you got here—we need to stand together and resist together. With 50,000 people packed into Foley Square, we will demand that Trump stop his unjust attacks towards our communities.

Immigrant families are under attack. Workers’ rights are in jeopardy. And Muslims and refugees are in the crosshairs of this administration. Together, we will send a strong message of resistance against Trump’s agenda of hate.

As immigrants, we demand a stop to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies that are separating families throughout the nation and seeking to terrorize us all.

As workers, we demand good jobs, the right to organize and join a union, and for Congress to pass a federal budget that reflects our priorities.

As New Yorkers, we demand respect and dignity for all.

On May 1, with 50,000 people in the streets, we will show that we will not live in fear and that we stand united for a better future for all New Yorkers.

Yatziri Tovar is a Youth Power Project 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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Our Families Are Under Attack, So We Rise Up Wed, 19 Apr 2017 04:00:00 +0000
How Obama Can Help New York Immigrants Before Leaving Office menchaca city hall press conf

City Council Member Carlos Menchaca, the author (photo: William Alatriste)

Barack Obama may have given his farewell address, but he still has work to do. In his speech, the president rightly celebrated America’s history of welcoming immigrants and their contributions to our country. But Mr. Obama’s legacy on immigration is mixed. He has both deported more people than any prior president and acted in America’s best traditions by letting the Dreamers - undocumented youth brought to the United States as children – emerge from the shadows. There is one final step that President Obama can, and should, take to cement his legacy on the side of history we know is in his heart.

Most immigrant families in the United States are mixed status, meaning most have children who are citizens and immigrant parents, including Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs). The incoming administration’s promise to deport 2-3 million people with legal infractions threatens to rip these American families apart, because the threshold for deporting legal permanent residents is so low. Experts argue that this 2-3 million number cannot be reached without deporting people for minor offenses, such as traffic tickets. This is why I recently joined 60 local elected officials from across the country in asking President Obama to grant a blanket pardon to legal immigrants who have minor infractions and pose no threat to the country. He can prevent the breakup of these American families.

Pardoning this group of immigrants fits with the president’s recent actions on criminal justice and immigration. His clemency initiative and Deferred Arrival for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program seek to fix the broken criminal justice and immigrant systems that harm American families.

Having already designated Legal Permanent Residents with minor convictions as low priorities for deportation, President Obama could protect these American families further with a presidential pardon.

Some will object, arguing that America is a country of law and order. We agree, and support the deportation of those posing a risk to our community. We also support the American belief that punishment should fit the crime. Someone who had a minor infraction such as shoplifting or excessive traffic violations as a teenager could be eligible for deportation 20 years later as a responsible adult with children who are citizens. These deportations make no sense, and hurt families and children without enhancing the wellbeing of the country.

The group making this request, Local Progress, is composed of local elected officials that know, work with, live in, represent, and are part immigrant communities. We know that deportations cripple families and harm neighborhoods and the economy. We also know that the American Dream lives in our communities and that the country benefits from these newcomers and their children. Pardoning this group would prevent the unnecessary breakup of our American families, and allow parents to stay where they belong, raising their children in the communities they have helped build.

Watching President Obama’s farewell speech, I could not help but think about the many families in my Brooklyn district that have lost a family member to deportation. The effects are harsh. When a father gets deported, the family loses income and can lose their apartment. The education of children can be disrupted, and those remaining long to be with their missing family member. For the children – citizens, immigrants, or both – it is a hurt that does not go away. It is a step the U.S. government should not take lightly, or for symbolic political reasons.

I stand with my fellow elected officials to ask President Obama to grant these pardons. I also call on my fellow New Yorkers to call the president’s office and tell him to grant clemency to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who stand to lose under President Trump. Before he leaves office, President Obama can help cement his legacy with such a pardon. He has the power, and should use it, as other presidents have done in the past. There is still time.

Carlos Menchaca is a New York City Council Member and Chair of the Council’s Immigration Committee. On Twitter @cmenchaca.

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How Obama Can Help New York Immigrants Before Leaving Office Mon, 16 Jan 2017 05:00:00 +0000
New York: A Sanctuary City with A Plan ferreras-copeland menchaca press conference

The authors: Council Members Menchaca, left, & Ferreras-Copeland, center

New York’s immigrant families are waking up terrified as President-elect Trump, his supporters and growing administration spew hate. In spite of his new stance to “work something out” for Dreamers, Trump’s words are met with lack of trust. As the children of immigrants, we take attacks from Trump and his supporters personally and are filled with the courage needed to fight harder and smarter than ever to protect the rights and freedoms of diverse immigrant communities throughout New York City.

To this end, the New York City Council passed a resolution this week affirming our commitment to remain a sanctuary city for immigrants, and we personally delivered it hours later to Trump Tower. Our resolution codifies past commitments to sanctuary while signaling to everyone that we will invest the time, energy, and resources required to make good on our promises.
Our resolve is clear: we are here to stay.

Our City Council, like those in municipalities across the country, will play a lead role in this fight by redoubling our efforts to keep New York City a true sanctuary city. With the support of our Council colleagues, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor Bill de Blasio, fierce advocates, and brave New York families, we commit to immigrants that this city will remain a safe home.

This week’s sanctuary city resolution memorialized our commitment, and we will ensure it through, in part, the following:

First, we will defend our victories by preserving existing policies, initiatives, and programs that protect immigrants.

Detainer Law: The Council’s 2014 detainer discretion law has protected between 3,000 and 4,000 New Yorkers per year from deportation. The law draws a bright line between municipal law enforcement and overly aggressive federal immigration enforcement. All New Yorkers are safer when there is trust between immigrants and the NYPD because crimes are more likely to be reported and witnesses feel safer. Under the Trump Administration, we commit to gear up for legal challenges to this law, and we expect to prevail.

The New York Immigrant Family Unity Program (NYIFUP): NYIFUP provides legal services for New Yorkers who are detained and facing deportation. It has been highly successful and serves as a blueprint for other progressive municipalities. Continued funding for NYIFUP is not guaranteed by the city. The de Blasio administration must increase NYIFUP funding and make it permanent.

CUNY Citizenship Now!: Since 1996, the City University of New York lawyers, paralegals, and volunteers have assisted hundreds of thousands of immigrants with legal advice, representation, and referrals. Programs like this are worthy of celebration and require our continuing support.

IDNYC: IDNYC is the largest municipal ID program in the country with over 900,000 subscribers. It promotes civic participation, the economy, and public safety. We will ensure it continues to thrive. We call on the de Blasio administration to do everything in its power to protect the personal data of IDNYC cardholders. Entities like the NYPD, banks, and cultural institutions must continue to honor this government-issued ID. We will do our part in the Council, and in conversations with the mayor, to protect and defend the privacy of current and future IDNYC cardholders.

Second, we must expand protections and investment for New York City immigrants.

We are committed to building upon our victories, expanding existing initiatives, and creating new services, through efforts such as:

Expanding Funding for Immigration Legal Services: Today, NYIFUP is limited to individuals who are detained and do not have a prior order of removal. In anticipation of the Trump administration, the program should be expanded to provide representation to other classes of immigrants facing deportation. The City Council and the de Blasio administration have also recently invested in legal representation in complex immigration cases. The demand for this type of representation will likely expand under a Trump presidency, requiring increased funding for these services, as well. We commit to fighting for these increases in funding for immigration legal services in the fiscal year 2018 budget negotiation process.

Right to Immigration Counsel Law: A right to immigration counsel enshrined in law would help ensure that all individuals going through immigration court proceedings are represented by competent lawyers. While this might be expensive, we cannot let that deter us from doing what is right. We commit to working with our colleagues in the Council and the mayor to further assess the feasibility of a Right to Immigration Counsel Law.

Protection from Notario and Immigration Attorney Fraud: One of the clearest ways to protect immigrant families is to ensure they are not victimized by unethical “notarios” (notaries who present themselves as immigration legal service providers) and incompetent or sham attorneys. Notario and attorney fraud harms vulnerable New Yorkers seeking immigration assistance. Our constituents encounter fake lawyers, scams, inflated fees, and predatory providers daily. Often, in addition to bilking families out of thousands of dollars, these bad actors cause serious harm to their legitimate immigration cases. We commit to working with the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and advocates on continuing to protect immigrants from notario and immigration attorney fraud.

Expanding Participatory Budgeting: Each year, through Participatory Budgeting (PB), Council members voluntarily cede capital budget allocation decisions to residents of their districts who collaborate to decide which projects best serve their communities. We have repeatedly seen an overwhelming number of PB ballots in languages other than English, which demonstrates the engagement of immigrants in this process. This also indicates to us that while many immigrants cannot vote in other types of elections due to their immigration status, many are eager to participate in our city’s democratic process. The city all immigrants and other residents love, contribute to, and call home should welcome civic participation. We commit to strengthening PB in our districts and supporting its growth across the city.

We are prepared for a Trump era during which immigrant communities will likely be under attack. New York City will stand as a beacon of welcome, hope, and protection for immigrants.

In the New York City Council, we commit to defending our history of hard-won victories, while also expanding protections for immigrants. We know cities will need to hold the line against Trump administration attacks. As New Yorkers, we embrace that challenge together.

Carlos Menchaca is the City Council Member for District 38 in Brooklyn and Chair of the Committee on Immigration.
Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is the City Council Member for District 21 in Queens and Chair of the Committee on Finance.
Follow them on Twitter: @cmenchaca & @julissaferreras.

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New York: A Sanctuary City with A Plan Thu, 08 Dec 2016 05:00:00 +0000
On Election Day, Federal Policy & Funding Stakes High for New York City clinton de blasio inner circle

Clinton & de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be in New York City on election night, and one of them will be the next President of the United States. Through the results of the presidential election, which comes down to one native New Yorker and one New York transplant, and with the congressional elections on the ballot, there’s a great deal at stake for New York City.

According to the fiscal year 2017 budget summary released by the mayor’s office in April, in 1978 almost 23 percent of New York City’s budget came from the federal government. During the late 1980s, that number was at roughly 11 percent. In 2015, the federal government provided slightly under 9 percent of the city’s total budget. Despite spikes in funding during catastrophic times like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or the Great Recession, decline in federal investment in New York City is nothing new, nor is it purely partisan.

While cuts have been made to federal funding for infrastructure, housing, health care, and other important city programs over the years, New York felt a particular sting when President Barack Obama announced in February a significant cut in anti-terrorism funding in his 2017 budget. Mayor Bill de Blasio, frustrated, traveled to Washington to testify in front of Congress to restore the full amount of federal money granted. In May of this year, Congress passed a Homeland Security bill, which included the original $600 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative, more than the $330 million proposed by the White House.

Federal aid in the form of grants helps fund community development, social service, and education programs -- but who is in the White House and party control in Congress have a great deal of influence over amount of such funding. New York City’s current fiscal year 2017 budget is about $82 billion, less than one-tenth of which comes through federal funds. In 2013, New York City  taxpayers sent $57.3 billion in federal income tax to Washington, according to the Observer, which reported in March on  federal disinvestment in New York.

According to the city’s Independent Budget Office, the top three city agencies that received the most federal aid from 2011-2015 were the Department of Education ($8.4 billion), Human Resources Administration ($7.7 billion) and the Administration for Children’s Services ($6.4 billion).

The fiscal needs of big cities like New York sometimes get short-changed in D.C., explained Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, an independent policy group focused on improving New York City’s economy.

“Because it’s such a big city, because it’s perceived as a liberal city,” Bowles said in an interview. “For whatever reason, it’s struggled to get its fair share of funding.”

Some also point to cities, especially New York, being seen as economic engines not in need of federal support -- saying that leaders in Washington see New York City more as a booster of federal coffers through tax revenue.

Bowles said the next presidential administration has a real opportunity to include urban areas in new budget proposals, after decades of ignoring them.

“Politicians in Washington really didn’t want to talk about urban areas, and they were perceived as the problem,” he said. “But whether it’s public housing, transit funding or so many other things, New York’s needs are clearly not being taken care of by the federal government.”

Over the past year, Mayor de Blasio has campaigned for Hillary Clinton, his fellow Democrat, on numerous occasions and in a variety of states (this, after he delayed his endorsement of Clinton). De Blasio dedicated his time to campaigning for Clinton instead of stumping for Democratic candidates in key New York State Senate races, where control of that chamber will be decided. In 2014, de Blasio and his allies attempted to swing seats to ensure a Democratic takeover of the last Republican stronghold in New York statewide government. The effort failed and “Team de Blasio” is under investigation for some of the fundraising tactics it used.
De Blasio said he is focusing on the federal election this cycle, and in part doing so due to the large stakes at play for New York.

“[This election] will decide the presidency, it will decide the future of the Senate, maybe even the House, but it’s also going to reset the American political dialogue,” de Blasio said at a press conference when Gotham Gazette asked why he was choosing to be involved in the presidential race but not state Senate races. Key pieces of de Blasio’s agenda have been limited or blocked by Senate Republicans in Albany.

“I think it’s some of the time that’s going to be best spent in the next few weeks because if it helps us change the trajectory of the country and the federal government, that’s going to help New York City in a very big and very material way,” de Blasio said of campaigning for Clinton. At other times, de Blasio has acknowledged that he is staying away from the state Senate races because of the “atmosphere” of investigations into his team’s 2014 tactics.

Most federal policies impact New York. According to E.J. McMahon, research director at the Empire Center for Public Policy, the outcome of congressional races may affect New Yorkers more so than who becomes the country’s next president.

“Congress controls the purse strings,” McMahon said by email. “Congress basically wrote the two most important pieces of Obama-era legislation, the [Affordable Care Act] and stimulus. The makeup of Congress will ultimately determine whether there is any significant change in tax or infrastructure policy, both of which have major implications for New York in particular.”

As the city’s economic relationship with Washington continues to decline, city officials seek a presidential administration that would resurrect the stronger partnership it once had. Policy and funding are the two key areas, and they are usually linked. Federal policy on immigration, education, health care, and other key areas greatly affect what New York City does -- and there is a great deal at stake in the presidential race in terms of different policy visions. The same goes for those who might control each house of Congress.

In terms of additional funds from Washington, the city is looking for increased aid for bridges, tunnels, and roads; money toward jobs programs and housing vouchers; and more.

While it is not completely clear how a Clinton or a Trump presidency would differ for New York City -- and control of Congress may come into play significantly -- the two major party candidates have outlined different visions on the overall role of the federal government, as well as on trade, immigration, the minimum wage and a variety of other policies.

Dr. Bruce Berg, a political science professor at Fordham University, said there are three levels on which to assess the candidates’ plans and their potential impact on New York. These include each campaigns’ intended agenda, which party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the candidate’s relationship with the mayor. Berg says the issues most at stake for New Yorkers in this election include infrastructure investment, immigration reform, healthcare, and public housing.

New York City’s Aging Infrastructure
Prioritizing investment in the nation’s infrastructure may be the biggest area of agreement for Clinton and Trump. The aging roads, bridges, and water systems of the United States are deteriorating; government data show in 2014, 32 percent of roads were rated “poor,” up from 16 percent in 2005.

During a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Manhattan, Mayor de Blasio said 160 bridges in New York City were built over 100 or more years ago. The average lifespan for a bridge remains about 40 years. Despite being the tenth largest economy in the world, attracting more and more residents and tourists to the city each year, New York City’s aging infrastructure needs a serious upgrade, according to the mayor, as well as many others. And it’s not just New York, de Blasio explained at the USCM event, but cities nationwide that are losing funding for infrastructure projects.

“In the biggest cities in the country, there are more structurally deficient bridges than there are McDonald’s in the entire country,” de Blasio said. “And if you think about something that unites us all, those golden arches...and then think of a lot of bridges tragically on the verge of falling down.”

Although both Clinton and Trump agree the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling, their plans to pay for related projects differ dramatically. If Hillary Clinton wins the election, her first-100-days plan includes investing $275 billion to rebuild the country’s infrastructure. This includes investing in roads and bridges, but also in water systems, increasing wide-accessibility to internet, and improving the rate of completing these projects.

Former Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, a Clinton surrogate, said Clinton’s investment will be over five years and paid for through business tax reforms, including  a one-time tax for corporations bringing profits held overseas back to the U.S. She hopes to allocate $25 billion over five years to a national infrastructure bank, which would fund projects that become held up due to political inertia in Congress. According to Rendell, Clinton also hopes to reauthorize the Build America Bonds program, which would finance infrastructure projects entirely from the federal government.

“It will bring jobs, growth, improve infrastructure, improve public safety, improve our quality of live and make us more economically competitive,” Governor Rendell said about Clinton’s plan at the Conference of Mayors event.

Calling it “America’s Infrastructure First,” Trump also plans to invest heavily in infrastructure. His plan includes spending $1 trillion over a decade. He says he will pay for this plan not by raising taxes, but instead through private companies by offering a tax credit.  While one-sixth of a project’s cost would be funded privately, government-issued bonds would cover the rest

Trump’s proposal, the details of which were released two weeks before the election, would take advantage of low interest rates and encourage construction companies to spend on road and bridge projects that have revenue attached. These include toll roads, toll bridges and airports. This way, according to Trump and his advisors, the plan will pay for itself.

In June, Trump vowed to create the “greatest infrastructure” in the world with his plan. “When I see the crumbling roads and bridges, or the dilapidated airports or the factories moving overseas to Mexico, or to other countries for that matter, I know these problems can all be fixed, but not by Hillary Clinton,” he said. “Only by me.” 

City of Immigrants
Approximately 37 percent of New York City’s total population is foreign-born. Making up roughly 43 percent of the city’s total workforce, immigrants significantly contribute to the city’s economy. The immigration policies under the next President and Congress will greatly impact the city’s immigrants, half a million of whom are undocumented, as well as prospective immigrants, both documented and undocumented.

Alisa Wellek, the executive director of the Immigration Defense Project, a nonprofit, said New York has long been considered a target for deportation and detention of immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency.

“After 9/11 in New York, the enforcement apparatus really ramped up those efforts in the city and nationally,” Wellek said. “It’s really an unprecedented scale of mass deportations which affects many New Yorkers who are noncitizens and those who are a part of families that are a mix of citizens and noncitizens.”  

Within her first 100 days as President, Clinton plans to create a pathway to full citizenship, defend President Obama’s executive actions of DACA and DAPA, which extended the amount of time immigrant children and their parents can stay in the country, access to healthcare for all immigrants, and end corporation-owned, private immigration detention centers. During the final presidential debate, Clinton discussed how she would enforce immigration laws.

“I don’t want to rip families apart,” Clinton said. “I don’t want to be sending parents away from children. I don’t want to see the deportation force that Donald has talked about in action in our country,” she said.

Clinton also said she wants to bring undocumented immigrants “out from the shadows” and into the economy in order to protect them from “exploitative” employers and wage theft.

Since the beginning of his campaign, Trump’s top issue has been illegal immigration. His plans include building a wall at the country’s southern border, paid for by Mexico, ending sanctuary cities, and creating a “total and complete shut down of Muslims” from entering the country. He has spoken  unclearly about what a “shut down” actually means, referring to “extreme vetting” of potential migrants and refugees, and saying the ban would not be on Muslims, per se, but on people leaving certain areas of the world where ISIS is most active.

In New York City, the Muslim population continues to grow and estimates range from 600,000 to 1 million individuals. Trump’s plan to create a database of Muslims living in the United States and ban them from entering the U.S. could potentially have significant social and economic effects, though the specifics remain unclear. It is also not clear whether these measures would enhance national security.

During a visit to Phoenix, Arizona this summer, Trump discussed his idea of immigration reform: “We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate,” Trump said. “It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here.”

Wellek said she hopes the next administration will overhaul the immigration system by repealing the 1996 immigration laws, ending mandatory deportation and detention and aligning reforms made in the criminal justice system with the immigration system. According to Wellek, New York has recognized the role immigrants play in the city.

“One thing New York City has done, that’s been very progressive, has been narrowing the collaboration between local police and immigration enforcement,” she said. “I think one big act for the next administration would be to end that collaboration fully.” 

What Wellek is referring to is a decision by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to cooperate less with ICE. Indeed, many elected officials from the city, which is dominated by Democrats, have spoken out against Trump’s immigration agenda and said that it would be especially harmful to New York.

New York Health Care
Since it’s inception, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped decrease the number of New Yorkers lacking health insurance by 2.5 percent, from 12.6 to 10.1 percent uninsured. Despite data showing this success, uninsured patients still makeup about 70 percent of stays at public New York City hospitals, Health + Hospitals, which is very costly to the city. Some of these patients are undocumented immigrants who were left out of the ACA, but still use public hospitals. This, along with soaring costs and declining revenue, has New York City’s public hospitals in financial crisis. Health + Hospitals is projected to have an operating deficit of $1.8 billion by 2020. The candidates’ two very different healthcare reform plans have the potential to affect the future of healthcare in New York.

Like most Republicans, Donald Trump disparages the ACA, or Obamacare as it is often known, and Trump plans to eliminate and replace the ACA on day one of office, he says. He called Obamacare “a big fat, horrible lie” and a “catastrophe” -- criticism that has received some boost given recent news about rate hikes under ACA exchanges.

Trump has not explained exactly what he would replace it with, but promises something “far better” and cheaper, and has said the country must eliminate “the lines” that restrict how insurers can sell health insurance state by state.

Trump wants to transform Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor, into state block grants. 

If elected, Hillary Clinton plans to preserve the ACA and attempt to expand coverage for those that do not currently qualify for health insurance under the law. This means expanding Medicaid in every state, lowering health care premiums, and providing citizens a public-option insurance plan, which Clinton hopes to push states to offer their residents. A public option could insure over 400,000 people in New York who were left out of the ACA. If Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives, this expansion of the law has little chance of passing Congress.

Clinton also said she wants to double the funding for primary care services at community health centers over the next ten years, which would increase access to health care for many underserved, low-income, and uninsured New Yorkers. According to her campaign website, she also wants to “expand access to affordable health care to families regardless of immigration status by allowing families to buy health insurance on the health Exchanges regardless of their immigration status” - a move that could have drastic effects in New York City given the financial issues at Health + Hospitals.

Funding for NYCHA
As the largest public housing authority in the country, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) currently serves about 600,000 New Yorkers, including Section 8 voucher holders. Based on the July 2015 Census, 4.7 percent of the city’s population lives in public housing. No new public housing buildings are being constructed and New York is one of few places in the country that has committed to keeping its public housing stock. At the same time, federal funding for NYCHA has shrunk considerably, with the federal government moving more toward housing vouchers, which are used at some NYCHA facilities. 

The de Blasio administration has invested considerable additional funds into NYCHA, but the authority is also in serious financial trouble. The mayor launched a 10-year plan titled NextGeneration NYCHA, which includes a variety of initiatives, one of which is a program that leases underutilized land to developers to build both affordable and market-rate housing.

This plan hopes to combat the decline in federal funds dedicated to public housing, especially after NYCHA’s expected deficit jumped from $25 million to $60 million in 2016. NYCHA has struggled to meet basic maintenance and operation costs, though it has instituted several new reforms to improve the situation. Bowles, of Center for an Urban Future, said that Congress has not increased funding for housing projects in New York and other major cities for decades.

“Public housing has been starved at the federal level for years,” Bowles said. “It’s been decades since we’ve seen a real appetite in Washington to support the public housing infrastructure.”

Public housing is one piece of the overall affordable housing picture. Despite being a major issue for most cities nationwide, tackling affordable housing and the cycle of poverty never became a major focus during this presidential election. In September, Clinton wrote an op-ed in the New York Times addressing housing.

“If we want to get serious about poverty, we also need a national commitment to create more affordable housing,” Clinton wrote. “Too many people are putting off saving for their children or retirement just to keep a roof over their families’ heads.”

Clinton calls for expanding Low Income Housing Tax Credits in areas of high-cost to create more affordable housing in viable neighborhoods.

Trump, a real-estate mogul, has released no specific plan to address affordable housing and nothing on his campaign website mentions it. However, the Republican Party’s platform calls for “responsible homeownership” and giving more control over zoning procedures to local authorities, rather than from the federal government.

Congress, the President and Mayor de Blasio
The relationship between the Mayor of New York City and the next president is important, as is the next president’s commitment to urban issues. Additionally, the makeup of Congress and the major funding decisions regarding aid sent to cities remains of utmost importance. If Democrats are able to retake control of the Senate, New York Senator Charles Schumer is likely to be Majority Leader, which could be a boon for New York.

Despite a long relationship with Clinton, including managing her 2000 campaign for U.S. Senate, de Blasio waited months after Clinton announced her presidential candidacy to endorse her, wanting to push her more to the left on issues. In recently hacked emails, the Clinton campaign expressed annoyance with de Blasio, jokingly calling him a “terrorist.” Donald Trump has called de Blasio “incompetent” and the “single worst mayor in the history of New York City,” but has praised the mayor after he was elected.

In part due to obstruction by congressional Republicans who want to see less government, President Obama has issued over 250 executive actions to get around legislative gridlock. Bruce Berg of Fordham University says if Clinton wins the presidency, she may face similar barriers to getting laws passed in Congress, which would affect federal aid granted to New York City and elsewhere. 

“I think the most likely scenario, looking at the election right now, is a Clinton victory, where she comes in as a rather crippled president and we get very little major initiative in the next four years,” Berg said. “I think what that means is that routine federal aid to New York continues to decline slowly as it has for the last several decades.”

by Devin Gannon for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

On Election Day, Federal Policy & Funding Stakes High for New York City Sun, 06 Nov 2016 04:00:00 +0000
On the Issues: Presidential Candidate Comparison election candidates

Click here to see the full list

Vice President

Vice President
Tim Kaine of Virginia. U.S. Senator, former Governor of Virginia, former Mayor of Richmond.
Vice President
Mike Pence of Indiana. Governor of Indiana, former member of the United States House of Represenatatives, where he was a leader of the Tea Party movement.
Vice President
William Weld of Massachusetts. Former Republican governor of Massachusetts 1991, former U.S. Senate candidate.
Vice President
Ajamu Baraka of Georgia. Human rights activist, founding executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network.



Hillary Clinton, born in 1947, is most notable for serving as First Lady of the United States (1993-2001), a United States Senator from New York (2001-2009), and the United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. She's known for, among other things, her push for national health care reform in 1993-1994 as First Lady.
Donald Trump, born in 1946, is a businessman, real estate mogul, and television personality. He has built further on the buisness empire started by his father and made a national name for his real estate and casino businesses, and as the host of The Apprentice.
Gary Johnson, born in 1953, founded what became one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico. Former governor of New Mexico, winning his longshot 1994 bid, serving two terms. Has long-favored small government. Also ran for President as the Libertarian Party nominee in 2012. He got 0.99% of the national vote that year.
Jill Stein, born in 1950, is a physician and activist whose biggest focus has been environmental and health issues. She was the Green Party Candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and 2010, and the Green Party Candidate for President in 2012. She received 0.36% of the national vote that year.


Campaign Websites



Clinton wants to invest in infrastructure to bolster the economy, including in clean energy. She is also focused on modernizing the economy through manufacturing and technology. She advocates for an increase in the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally, with room for states to go higher, and she wants equal pay for equal work.
Trump believes that lower taxes and less regulation, as a whole, will bolster the economy. He believes the U.S. has agreed to bad trade deals, which he promises to renegotiate, that have led to lost American jobs to countries like Mexico and China. He promised to keep companies in the U.S. and to make American manufacturing great again.
Johnson generally favors less regulation, though any regulation which reigns in harmful actors will stay, he says. He also believes that out-of-control spending has hurt the U.S. economy, and that this spending needs to be reigned in. He believes smaller and less government will allow the economy to flourish.
Stein believes in "living-wage jobs for every American who needs work." Government would be the last resort employer under this plan. She also believes in a $15 minimum wage and the breaking up of banks that are "too big to fail." Key to Stein's, and the Green Party's, platform is a "Green New Deal," which aims to create jobs through the building of clean energy infrastructure, so that America relies on 100% clean energy by 2030.


"Hillary will implement a "fair share surcharge" on multi-millionaires and billionaires." She will also fight for measures like the Buffett Rule, so that wealthier individuals pay their fair share of taxes, she says. She also looks to close up any loopholes which benefit Wall Street, cut taxes for small businesses, and "provide tax relief to working families from the rising costs they face." A Clinton Administration will look to tax high-frequency trading on Wall Street.
Trump believes lower taxes will help the economy. In particular, he believes that business taxes are too high, and that they need to be lowered so that they are competitive with the rest of the world. He believes that a simplified tax system will help. Like many Democrats, Trump believes in closing the carried interest loophole.
Johnson proposes getting rid of tax loopholes, as well as double taxes on small businesses. He favors "the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn."
Stein wants Wall Street corporations to pay their fair share in taxes. Also believes in a tax on companies that pollute. She believes in higher taxes for the wealthy, and lower taxes for the poor and middle class.


National Debt

National Debt
"From the Democratic Party Platform: ""We believe that by making those at the top and the largest corporations pay their fair share we can pay for ambitious progressive investments that create good-paying jobs and offer security to working families without adding to the debt."""
National Debt
"You never have to default because you print the money," Trump said at one time. He has also suggested at times that borrowing is not a problem and that the U.S. could renegotiate its debt.
National Debt
Johnson plans to veto any bill which results in deficit spending. He also touts his record of vetoing many bills as governor of New Mexico, vetos he said helped balance New Mexico's budget.
National Debt
Stein said on her campaign website in 2012 that she would reduce "the budget deficit by restoring full employment, cutting the bloated military budget, and cutting private health insurance waste."



Clinton has moved in her support for trade deals, and has a new rubric for them, saying they must provide jobs for Americans, not sacrifice U.S. security, and be good for American national and international priorities. She supported NAFTA in the past, but admits to troubling outcomes for American jobs, and after supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership as it was in development, she has come out against the version put forward by the Obama Administration. On trade, she says she's held deals to "the same test. Will they create jobs in America? Will they raise incomes in America? And are they good for our national security?"
Trump has campaigned vocally against NAFTA, other past trade deals, and TPP. His vews on trade and the United States is best reflected in what he said at the Republican National Convention--"Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo."
Johnson generally supports NAFTA, TPP, and any other free trade agreements. He believes that any jobs lost to NAFTA while he was Governor of New Mexico were jobs that New Mexico didn't want anyway.
Stein believes that NAFTA and other similar agreements takes away jobs, hurts wages, and overall has negative economic impacts on Americans. She wants to "enact fair trade laws that benefits local workers and communities."



There are two major facets to Clinton's immigration plan: protect families and provide a pathway to citizenship. She says that comprehensive immigration reform is desperately needed.
Trump promises no amnesty to undocumented immigrants and promises mass deportations, though at times he has appeared to soften some of his stances. His major campaign promise is to end illegal immigration and to institute "extreme vetting" of individuals, especially refugees, seeking entrance into the country. He talks about having a secure border and promises to build a wall along the southern border that he promises Mexico will pay for. He has also questioned birthright citizenship.
Johnson desn't believe that immigration is as simple as building a wall. "We should focus on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society," his website says.
"Create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants" is posted on Stein's website. Past policy positions also indicates that she is not in favor of the mass deportation of people which has happened under President Obama and promised to a greater degree by Trump.


Health Care

Health Care
Clinton wants to defend, tweak, and expand, but not repeal, Obamacare. She praises how many more people have become insured, but she wants to get costs down.
Health Care
Trump promises to repeal Obamacare, and replace it with something far better. He says health care companies must be allowed to sell policies across state lines. He also wants transparency with health care costs and providers, and to "allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns under the current tax system." He argues for increased competitive, not government regulation of health care. Trump has also said that everyone deserves health care.
Health Care
Generally speaking, Johnson is in favor of repealing Obamacare. He believes that free market competition will do the best job of covering health care for people.
Health Care
Stein believes in a Medicare for All system.


The Environment

The Environment
Clinton will encourage clean energy: "Launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy, including for low-income families." "Invest in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development to make the U.S. economy more competitive and create good-paying jobs and careers."
The Environment
Trump does not discuss the environment much. He has called climate change a hoax. And, he believes that the Environmental Protection Agency has too many regulations.
The Environment
Johnson places emphasis on protection of National Parks and wants the Environmental Protection Agency to "focus on its true mission." He also believes in regulations to protect from pollutors, but also believes that the government meddles too much in deciding which companies determine the future of clean energy.
The Environment
Stein and the Green Party are, historically, especially focused on the environment. The Green New Deal looks to have the U.S. be on 100% clean energy by 2030. Stein wants to end use of fossil fuels and any support thereof. She places a special emphasis on protecting ecosystems, and strengthening environmental justice laws.


Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy
Clinton believes that the United States should defend its allies, push for diplomacy whenever possible, and be firm but not overaggressive with rivals such as China, Russia, and Iran. She is known as an interventionist, but has also spent time negotiating peace deals as Secretary of State. Her vote in favor of the Iraq War as a U.S. Senator is one that she has long been criticized for and has herself called a mistake.
Foreign Policy
Trump has an "America First" foreign policy, based on protecting the interests of the United States above all else, not meddling in other countries' affairs, protecting American security and jobs, seemingly no matter what it takes to do so. Trump has promised an aggressive approach with Mexico and illegal immigration, China and currency manipulation, and the Middle East and wars in the region. Trump has been criticized and questioned for an apparent coziness with Vladimir Putin of Russia, which he has denied.
Foreign Policy
Johnson believes that the U.S. meddles too much in foreign affairs and wars, and that needs to stop. He believes in fixing the problems that exist at home, while at the same time building relationships with allies abroad. Johnson has struggled with discussing foreign affairs on the campaign trail.
Foreign Policy
Stein wants to focus on diplomacy whenever possible, but also the punishment of abusers of human rights. Those human rights abusers include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, she says.


Combatting ISIS

Clinton looks to support counter-terrorism law enformcement with the tools they need, and an increase of the airstrike campaign against ISIS in the Middle East. She has called for an "intelligence surge" to help the U.S. in its efforts against ISIS and other foreign threats.
Generally speaking, Trump calls for a very aggressive military approach to ISIS, at times using expletives to explain his plan to bomb its forces and strongholds. He has repeatedly called for destroying oil fields that ISIS may have access to. But it is unclear to what extent he will pursue these strategies because he has not released as many plans regarding ISIS. Trump says U.S. leaders are foolish in telegraphing their military plans and that he will not divulge his. He has repeatedly insulted both U.S. political and military leaders.
Johnson believes that the "meddling" of past administrations, Republican and Democrat, have created the monster that is ISIS. He has not shown a particular adeptness at discussing foreign affairs or presenting a plan to help eliminate threats from ISIS.
Stein says little about ISIS, but overall she is calling for the U.S. to not be engaged in war and foreign intervention.


Gun Control

Gun Control
Clinton has made gun control a focus of her campaign; calling for expanding background checks, and keeping "guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill." Clinton has said she believes in the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership, but that she wants to do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
Gun Control
Trump is pro-gun ownership and has promised to defend the Second Amendment. He believes that current gun regulations are a failure, and that background checks need to be fixed because it seems like criminals don't go through background checks.
Gun Control
Johnson does not believe in increasing gun regulations. He is of the mind that if you take guns away only outlaws and criminals will have guns.
Gun Control
Stein believes that the ownership of guns should be regulated for the sake of public safety.


Justice Reform

Justice Reform
Clinton supports legislation to end any form of racial profiling. She wants law enforcement to focus on violent crimes and not petty ones like possession of marijuana. National guidelines should be brought in on use of force, she says, and body cameras should be provided to every police department in the United States. She has regularly spoken about the need to improve community-police relationships and about incidents of police brutality against people of color. And, she believes in ending the use of private prisons.
Justice Reform
Trump calls himself the "Law and Order candidate," though as to what that means in terms of policy is unclear, though he has advocated for a robust stop-and-frisk policy nationwide based on what he sees as its success in New York City. Trump often talks about the need to support and respect police.
Justice Reform
Johnson believes that all unnecessary laws should be taken out so that not as many things are criminalized. He also believes that there should be an end to the "War on Drugs."
Justice Reform
Stein wants to end police brutality and de-militarize the police. She, like Johnson, wants to end the War on Drugs. She also proposes that drug addictions are treated like a health problem, not a criminal one.



Clinton supports the Common Core learning standards. She also believes in universal pre-kindergarten, college education that is debt free, and free tuition at all community colleges. She also looks to end overly punitive policies against students at schools and has discussed doing more for English Language Learners.
Trump rejects Common Core and believes that education decisions, as a whole, should be left up to states. He therefore wants to completely abolish the Department of Education.
Johnson rejects Common Core and believes that education decisions should be left to the states. He also wants to abolish the Department of Education because he believes that the federal government has no right to be involved with education decisions.
Stein is not supportive of Common Core or standardized testing (and thinks curricula should be designed by educators). She prefers evaluation of teachers done by fellow professionals. She supports tuition-free, and debt-free, education through all four years of college.


LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ Rights
Clinton pushes for full rights for LGBTQ people, in the United States and around the world. Clinton has 'evolved' fairly quickly on related issues, like marriage equality.
LGBTQ Rights
Trump vows to protect LGBTQ citizens and has had several particularly significant moments, including at the Republican National Convention, around promoting and protecting LGBTQ rights. He has not stated personal support for same-sex marriage, but says that it is the law of the land and that it should be protected as such.
LGBTQ Rights
Johnson believes that the government should not be in the business of telling people who to marry. He therefore does not look to restrict same-sex marriage, and in fact he cites this non-government interference idea as a major reason why he supported same-sex marriage before many liberals did the same.
LGBTQ Rights
Stein says that she will seek to end all forms of discrimination against the LGBTQ community.



Clinton looks to protect the reproductive rights of all women and protecting a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. She is also proud of her endorsement from Planned Parenthood.
Trump calls himself "pro-life" and at times has called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. However he has at times touted a number of services that Planned Parenthood provides, and earlier in his life he considered himself "pro-choice." He has explained an 'evolution' on the issue. Trump has said that if he appoints several Supreme Court justices it is likely that Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Johnson believes that abortion is a deeply personal choice, and that as such the governnment should not be in the business of deciding who does or does not get abortions.
Stein views reproductive freedom as a key facet of tackling women's rights issues. She also wants to expand access to the "morning after" pill.


Supreme Court Vacancies

Supreme Court Vacancies
The Supreme Court, in Clinton's eyes, should help protect women's rights and LGBTQ rights, and overturn the Citizens United case. She has not committed to renominate President Obama's SCOTUS pick, Merrick Garland, for the currently vacant seat.
Supreme Court Vacancies
Trump has stressed that the Supreme Court must protect the Second Amendment in particular, as it would be under threat, he says, if Clinton is elected President. Trump's SCOTUS nominees would be pro-life and more conservative in nature, he has said, pointing to recently-deceased Justice Antonin Scalia as a model.
Supreme Court Vacancies
Johnson would use potential nominees' positions on cases such as Kelo v. City of New London (a 2005 case on the issue of eminent domain) and others related to key issues for Libertarians to determine who he might nominate to the SCOTUS.
Supreme Court Vacancies
Stein would nominate justices to the SCOTUS who would overturn Citizens United and help restrict the flow of corporate money into politics.


Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign Finance Reform
Clinton supports an overturn of Citizens United to limit the impact of money in politics. She also wants legislation which will "require outside groups to publicly disclose significant political spending." Her other piece of suggested reform is to start a "small-donor matching system for presidential and congressional elections to give small donors greater influence."
Campaign Finance Reform
Trump has described Political Action Committees (PACs) as a "horrible thing" because he feels that PACs lack transparency. Trump has also claimed that politicians do favors for donors, citing his own experience as a donor. He does not promote, though, public financing of campaigns.
Campaign Finance Reform
Johnson believes that spending in campaigns, including from unions and corporations, is perfectly allowable. Any restrictions on campaign finance would be a limit to free speech, in Johnson's opinion.
Campaign Finance Reform
Stein wants an overturn of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case. She believes that corporations should not be allowed to fund political campaigns, but believes that there should instead be public funding of campaigns.
by Brendan Birth and Ben Max
Feedback? Email Ben at
On the Issues: Presidential Candidate Comparison Mon, 31 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000