Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1663 Sat, 06 Jun 2020 08:58:33 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Electeds, Advocates Rally Behind New Bill to Expand Municipal Voting Rights to Some Non-Citizen Residents https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9076-electeds-advocates-rally-expand-municipal-voting-rights-non-citizens-green-cards-work-permits https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9076-electeds-advocates-rally-expand-municipal-voting-rights-non-citizens-green-cards-work-permits electeds yr

Thursday's rally (photo: Samar Khurshid)


About 1 million foreign-born New York City residents who have permanent residency status or are legally authorized to work in the United States could become eligible to vote in municipal elections under a new bill introduced before the New York City Council on Thursday.

Sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, a Manhattan Democrat, the bill (Intro. 1867) would extend the franchise to green card and work permit holders who can show they have lived in the five boroughs for at least 30 days. The bill is the latest attempt to give immigrant New Yorkers a voice in the city’s democracy, after previous proposals failed years ago. It has the support of 26 other Council Members, a majority in the 51-member body, as well as Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who can sponsor but not vote on bills.

“The immigrant voting right will be expanded, [it] will make our democracy stronger because it will connect close to 1 million New Yorkers with the right to vote,” Rodriguez said, pointing to his own past as a green card holder for years before he was naturalized. He appeared at a rally on the steps of City Hall with advocates from more than 40 groups to launch the #OurCityOurVote campaign, just prior to the bill’s introduction at a City Council meeting.

Allowing a largely disenfranchised immigrant population to vote would make the city’s elections more democratic, Rodriguez emphasized, by requiring candidates running for local office to ask for support from the immigrant communities that they seek to represent but that have no say in who represents them. Immigrants pay taxes that fund city services they rely on. “Allowing more people to vote does not weaken our democracy. It makes it stronger. It brings more people to the table and encourages more involvement,” he said.

As several Council members and advocates after him noted, noncitizen voting is not a novel notion. As recently as 2002, noncitizens could vote in elections to community school boards before they were dissolved by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg after he won mayoral control of city schools from Albany.

“This idea that we’re talking about is not a new idea,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the Committee on Immigration. “We are restoring this ability for our residents who are not citizens to vote.” Other jurisdictions across the country also allow some form of noncitizen voting in municipal polls, including in Takoma Park, Maryland and San Francisco.

Council Member Daniel Dromm, a Queens Democrat who unsuccessfully sought to pass similar legislation in his first term in 2010, noted that 68% of the residents of his district are recent immigrants, and about 55% of his district cannot vote. “This is really about empowerment and enfranchisement of our immigrant communities and other communities as well,” he said. “Because if you have rule by the minority, which is what I have in my district, that is not an American principle. The American principle that we all stand by is no taxation without representation.”

Though the bill has more than the requisite votes to pass, it has yet to receive the support of Council Speaker Corey Johnson. When he was running for speaker, Johnson said he would support voting rights in municipal elections for permanent residency holders. Rodriguez’s bill goes beyond that. Asked about the bill at a news conference on Thursday, Johnson said it could raise legal concerns. “I have to look at it, I haven't done that yet,” he said. “I will go through the legislative process. I'll meet with Councilman Rodriguez and the other folks who are involved, and then we'll have a conversation around it. But I haven't had a chance to sit down, understand the details.”

He later added, “Given that it's really important that we do things by the book, and also given that we have a xenophobic, racist president who has weaponized [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] across the country, I want to be really careful about how we do things.”

Council Member Joe Borelli, a Staten Island Republican, said he intends to vote against the bill. He said in a Twitter thread that the measure should go through a ballot referendum as with other changes to the City Charter. “This way, it can’t be used as a ploy to change the electorate for the current election cycle and benefit anyone now running, and so that our current citizen-voters have a say in whether or not their votes get diluted. This seems like a play to change the election map for the next city races, and devalues New York citizens’ vote in the process.”

Council Member Eric Ulrich, a Republican from Queens, was more direct. “Should Non-Citizen New Yorkers Have the Right to Vote? I say no!” he tweeted.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office did not provide comment on the bill by publication time.

To those assembled outside City Hall on Thursday, the bill is particularly poignant at a time when Republican legislative majorities in conservative states are making efforts to limit access to voting either through cumbersome voter identification measures or through bureaucratic election administration rules. “For too long, members of our communities who live here, work here, raise their families here and pay billions of dollars in taxes have been shut out of the process,” said Theresa Thanjan, manager of member engagement for the New York Immigration Coalition. “We would like to open it up now for them to have a voice in the direction of our city.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Electeds, Advocates Rally Behind New Bill to Expand Municipal Voting Rights to Some Non-Citizen Residents Thu, 23 Jan 2020 05:00:00 +0000
Protect New Yorkers from Washington’s Cruel Actions, Oppose ‘Public Charge’ Change https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8030-protect-new-yorkers-from-washington-s-cruel-actions-oppose-public-charge-change https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8030-protect-new-yorkers-from-washington-s-cruel-actions-oppose-public-charge-change jvbramer leads sep

(photo via the New York City Council)


When we look from our community in Brooklyn to the New York Harbor, we see the Statue of Liberty, a tangible symbol of America’s great tradition of welcoming immigrants seeking to make a better life. Every day in Sunset Park, Red Hook, Bay Ridge, and elsewhere in Brooklyn we see the contributions new Americans are making to the economic and cultural vitality of our neighborhoods, just as generations of immigrants before them contributed.

But America’s great tradition of diversity and inclusion is under attack by the Trump Administration. From separating parents and children at the border, to travel bans and demonizing immigrants as “others,” this administration is on a campaign to sow division and disunity. The latest salvo in this war against new Americans is a radical proposal to expand the definition of “public charge” and undermine pathways to U.S. citizenship for new Americans.

If the government determines that a person is likely to depend on the government as their main source of support (in other words, to be a “public charge”), it can deny that person admission to the United States or lawful permanent residence. Under the Trump Administration’s new “public charge” proposal, immigrants’ participation in some of the most fundamental programs essential for families’ and children’s health and well-being would count against their chances to enter or remain in the United States. These basic public benefit programs include, among others, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Medicare Part D, and housing assistance.

The Trump Administration’s “public charge” policy plan represents an unwarranted cost shift from the federal government to state and local governments, to non-profit charities, and to needy families themselves. Denying federal assistance to people when they are in need in no way eliminates hunger, homelessness or deprivation. Our communities will face new burdens in addressing gaps in services.

It is clear that the Trump Administration’s overly broad definition of “public charge” would have far-reaching effects. One in four American children have at least one immigrant parent. In addition to the categories of individuals directly affected by the policy, fear and confusion would cause most immigrants to forgo benefits for all means-tested federal, state, and local programs.  The dis-enrollment from public benefits would cause disruption in the lives of millions of needy people, harm individuals’ well-being, and undermine local economies here in New York and across the United States.

We all need to raise our voices against this proposal. And we have an opportunity to do just that. The Trump Administration cannot implement this radical change until after it has considered comments submitted by members of the public.  In our democracy, this is an important check on unfettered rulemaking by the executive branch. Help make that check a real one by submitting your comments through regulations.gov by December 10.

Get your neighbors, families and friends to comment as well. Our nation is at its best when people join arms and stand together for the values that have built America.

Join the thousands of people in the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition in speaking out to stop this mean-spirited and harmful potential rules change.

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Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz represents parts of Brooklyn. On Twitter @Felixwortiz.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Protect New Yorkers from Washington’s Cruel Actions, Oppose ‘Public Charge’ Change Tue, 30 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Next Step to Helping Immigrant Families Thrive https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6247-the-next-step-to-helping-immigrant-families-thrive https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6247-the-next-step-to-helping-immigrant-families-thrive menchaca idnyc

Council Member Menchaca, a co-author, promotes IDNYC (photo: @IDNYC)


In recent years, New York City has taken tremendous strides forward in supporting immigrants. Many of Mayor de Blasio's signature initiatives—particularly universal pre-kindergarten (UPK), IDNYC, and community schools—have offered vital new services to New Yorkers across the city that have been tremendously beneficial for immigrants seeking to fully integrate themselves into our society and see their families thrive.

Now, there's another critical step that New York City can take to build on these immigrant integration successes: investing in adult education.

New York City has the largest immigrant community of any city in the United States, with three million immigrants from all over the world—that's more than the entire population of Chicago. Immigrants help drive our city—accounting for 45 percent of the workforce and 49 percent of small business owners, and endowing the Big Apple with much of its incredible cultural vibrancy.

New York City has led the way in offering vital services to immigrant communities, in particular to children from immigrant households. But it's critical that we now move forward to ensure that immigrant parents are equally equipped to take advantage of new path-breaking city programs, and that means supporting adult literacy initiatives that help immigrant New Yorkers learn English and ensure basic reading and writing skills.

Adult literacy is crucial for helping parents know how to navigate the city and unlock the power of major policy achievements. To make UPK, IDNYC, and community schools live up to their potential, for example, we need to make sure parents are equipped with the tools they need to access them. English-speaking parents have a much easier time ensuring their children's educational success—for example, by being able to fully engage during parent-teacher meetings—and being able to proactively seek out the indispensable services provided at community schools.

Adult literacy is necessary for our immigrant communities, and more broadly, it's important for the economic well-being of our city. As a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York has found, directing additional resources toward adult literacy will raise immigrant New Yorkers' wages and increase tax revenues.

Take the example of Yanilda, a Dominican immigrant enrolled in English classes at Make the Road New York in Bushwick. Since beginning her classes, Yanilda notes, "I can help my niece with her homework. She's in kindergarten now and when I help her read her books, I learn too." Yanilda is also confident that her steadily improving English will help her get a better job. For her and thousands of others citywide who are lucky enough to have a spot in a free English class, adult literacy programs offer a win-win.

There are 1.7 million and 2.3 million Limited-English proficient residents like Yanilda, in New York City and New York State, respectively, according to the Census, and many others in need of basic literacy courses. Within immigrant communities there is a tremendous unmet need for English classes and adult basic education, with state funding now only sufficient to accommodate one of every 39 New Yorkers who need ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) classes. Simply put, adult literacy funding has not kept pace with the need.

That's why we need New York City to dedicate $16 million in its upcoming budget to new investments to help 13,300 students access adult literacy programs, including ESOL, Basic Education in Native Language (BENL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), and High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE).

We've made so much progress in expanding services to immigrant New Yorkers since Mayor de Blasio took office. It's time for New York City to take the next step in full immigrant integration by investing in adult literacy.

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Carlos Menchaca is a member of the New York City Council. Theo Oshiro is the Deputy Director Make the Road New York. On Twitter: @cmenchaca & @maketheroadny.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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The Next Step to Helping Immigrant Families Thrive Mon, 28 Mar 2016 16:40:48 +0000