Gotham Gazette Sat, 06 Jun 2020 15:18:28 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Lessons for the New York Primary from Sanders’ Nevada Blowout opedbernie

Bernie Sanders & Make the Road Action in Nevada (photo: Make The Road)

People across the country were stunned by Bernie Sanders’ 28-point victory in the Nevada caucuses. Not our members. Why? From Make the Road Action’s on-the-ground work mobilizing Latino voters and other voters of color in East Las Vegas, it was clear that the Sanders campaign had overwhelming support in our communities. The Latino vote was his secret weapon.

And looking forward, Sanders’ performance in Nevada, where 30% of the population is Latino, and people of color are the majority of the population, has important implications for future primaries closer to home -- like in New York, where 18% of the state’s population is Latino and people of color make up more than 40% of the population.

Over the past two months, our members in Las Vegas had a front-row seat to observe the Sanders campaign’s dominant ground game in Latino communities and other communities of color. The campaign prioritized hiring a diverse staff with deep community connections, and investing real resources—dollars and staff time, not lip service—into organizing these communities. While other campaigns relied primarily on the airwaves, the Sanders campaign, through a robust precinct-by-precinct outreach strategy and culturally-relevant event series like “Tamales con Tio Bernie,” showed a clear focus on in-person organizing.

The campaign also showed a deep commitment to grassroots partnerships and the synergies they bring. Since early last year, the Sanders campaign engaged community organizations like Make the Road Action and our members, asking for input on policy platforms and organizing strategy.

When our members ultimately chose to endorse Sanders, the campaign also worked to make us an integral part of the campaign. When Senator Sanders held a rally in Las Vegas on the first day of early voting, four of our members spoke first—sharing their experiences of fighting for affordable housing and against unjust immigration policies in Las Vegas. When we marched to an early caucus site right after, Sanders marched with us.

The campaign’s commitment to community partnership yielded concrete results. Our Nevada members were so energized that our team ultimately knocked on 10,000 doors and made more than 30,000 phone calls to engage Latino voters and other voters of color across East Las Vegas. We also reached millions of people nationwide via social media with original, bilingual content highlighting our support for Sanders.

On caucus day, we saw the fruits of that labor. Statewide, entrance polls showed Sanders winning a clear majority of Latino votes—a remarkable feat given that there were 11 names on the ballot. At the dozens of precincts across East Las Vegas that we covered, Sanders won overwhelmingly, with community members reporting to us that they had received visits at their doors from the campaign and from Make the Road Action. When one of our poll-site interpreters asked an older Latina voter for whom she was voting, she went into her purse, pulled out a Make the Road Action flyer, pointed to Sanders' face, and said: "I'm voting for him."

The Nevada results have clear implications for states like New York, with large Latino populations and many voters of color. Here, too, we can already see the strength of the Sanders ground game, with an all-volunteer statewide infrastructure collecting 65,000 petition signatures to get him on the New York ballot.

And, as in Nevada, our black and Latino members in New York, alongside progressive elected officials—like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jumaane Williams, Jessica Ramos, Julia Salazar, Ron Kim, Mike Gianaris, and others—and partner organizations like Democratic Socialists of America and New York Progressive Action are already energized and organizing for the April primary.

Those efforts have begun to bear fruit, with a new Siena poll this week showing Sanders in the lead in the Empire State for the first time in this contest, and with a solid lead among Latino voters.

With the strongest organizing infrastructure in the primary field and robust community partnerships, the Sanders campaign can count on trusted messengers to deliver votes across diverse communities. As we look to Super Tuesday and then on to New York’s primary in late April, expect that infrastructure to pay off.

Lalo Montoya and Deborah Axt are, respectively, the Nevada Political Director and the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road Action. On Twitter: @LaLoMontoya5, @DebAxt & @MaketheRoadAct.

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Lessons for the New York Primary from Sanders’ Nevada Blowout Fri, 28 Feb 2020 05:00:00 +0000
Immigrant Advocacy Group Releases 2020 New York Policy Agenda immigratrion adv

(photo: Make the Road New York)

With the January session of the Legislature around the corner, the state’s largest immigrant services and advocacy organization is launching a broad platform of progressive legislative proposals and is preparing a major push for its passage.

On Tuesday, Make the Road New York, a statewide organization that boasts 24,000 members, is releasing its Respect and Dignity Platform for 2020, which proposes removing ICE from courthouses across the state, instituting a good cause eviction law, and ending discrimination in school disciplinary practices. The platform also includes decriminalizing sex work, strengthening worker protections across the board, and taxing the wealthy to help fund social services like housing, healthcare, and education programs, among other goals.

“Our communities’ well-being is at risk when ICE is present at courthouses, when millions of tenants across the state lack basic protections, when harsh, punitive school discipline practices afflict our young people, and when trans immigrant sex workers are criminalized at every turn,” said Make the Road co-executive director Javier Valdés in a statement.

Make the Road New York is a progressive, immigrant-led grassroots organization with members in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester, which provides community services and pushes for policy change at the local and state levels. During the last state legislative session, which saw for the first time in nearly a decade Democrats controlling both chambers of the Legislature, Make the Road was especially active in support of several successful legislative pushes.

Those victories were highlighted by the New York State Dream Act, which extends state scholarships to undocumented students, and the so-called “Green Light” law giving access to drivers licenses to people who are undocumented. Make the Road New York was also a strong supporter of expansive rent law reform aimed at protecting tenants in rent-stabilized apartments.

The 2020 platform announced Tuesday initiates the organization’s next wave of advocacy efforts, many of which capture the goals of other progressive groups representing diverse constituencies and expand on those legislative achievements. The platform launch will be followed by a series of four town halls in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester throughout December leading up to the beginning of the 2020 legislative session in Albany, a representative for the organization explained.

“It’s time to reclaim our economy and democracy from the billionaire class, by strengthening worker protections and increasing taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers and large corporations to fund vital services like education for youth and adults, health care, and housing,” Valdes said, urging Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to prioritize the issues in the upcoming legislative session beginning in January.

Two planks of the platform are geared toward addressing federal policy, particularly under the Trump administration, that adversely target immigrants, especially those who are undocumented.

As part of the platform, the advocates are pushing state lawmakers to pass the Protect Our Courts Act, sponsored by Assembly Member Michaelle Solages, a Long Island Democrat, and Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat. The bill would prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from making civil arrests and detentions inside or in the vicinity of New York State courthouses.

A second piece of legislation, billed as a response to recent federal immigration policy, is intended to improve healthcare access to New Yorkers regardless of immigration status. The bill would create a $532 million state funded insurance plan for New Yorkers with income up to twice the federal poverty level, irrespective of immigration documentation.

The platform also includes a bill to protect renters’ rights in small buildings, helping close a gap in recently passed tenant protections. Good cause eviction legislation sponsored by Assembly Pamela Hunter, a Syracuse Democrat, and Senator Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat, would prevent landlords in small buildings from evicting or removing tenants without a legitimate justification based in the law like the failure to pay rent. Recent recent stabilization reforms apply only to buildings with six or more units, according to Make the Road New York, and the new legislation would bring those protections to tenants living in smaller buildings.

“In the apartment where we’ve lived for eight years, there’s been a lot of mold on the walls, and I’ve had to cover it with plastic because the landlord won’t fix it. We have nowhere else to go, but we don’t have the protections to ensure we can remain in the apartment,” said Norberta, a Make the Road New York member from Yonkers, in a press release from organization.

“I’m worried because I know that, if the landlord gets bothered by our complaints, he might try to raise the rent a lot or just try to kick me out,” she added.

Several pieces of the group’s new agenda fall under the heading “Reclaim our Democracy and Economy from Billionaires” in documents describing the platform. Among them is public campaign financing reform that includes a high 6-to-1 match on qualifying political donations, lower contribution limits, and enforcement other than by the State Board of Elections. The state’s Public Campaign Financing Commission is set to outline by December 1 a new state-level public matching program, along with related regulations, which will take effect unless state lawmakers act to modify or reject it. The commission has been mired in controversy since its outset earlier this year, with many critics concerned that it may set contribution limits too high and squander its potential impact on big money in politics. (Perhaps more controversial has been efforts by some commissioners to eliminate fusion voting and raise the vote threshold for third parties to receive ballot lines.)

Make the Road New York is also pushing automatic voter registration and the full re-enfranchisement of people on parole. The group is also proposing new taxes on billionaires and multi-millionaires to raise up to $30 billion in state monies, as well as the EMPIRE Worker Protection Act intended to help enforce wage theft and equal pay laws, especially for immigrants who may be targeted by their employers.

“Workers in our community face wage theft and abuse every day,” said Luis Wyler, member of Make the Road New York from Queens in the press release. “We need a fully resourced Department of Labor and the ability to take our employer to court despite forced arbitration. Millions of workers in our state will be empowered to end wage theft when we win the EMPIRE Act.”

A number of points on the Respect and Dignity Platform deal with policing reforms intended to protect groups disproportionately impacted by the criminal legal system and other disciplinary regimes, like black and Latino residents, transgender people, and certain student communities. One bill, the “Solutions Not Suspensions Act,” would limit out-of-school suspensions for minor offenses, and promote alternatives to suspensions that embrace elements of restorative justice.

Another bill would repeal a state statute known as Civil Rights Law, Section 50-a, which shields police disciplinary records from being made public. And another would create a special prosecutor within the state attorney general’s office to investigate police killings of civilians.

Make the Road New York supports a bill that would remove vague language from state law that it says has enabled police to harrass and arrest transgender people, especially black and Latino trans women, under the guise of enforcing laws around sex work. Another piece of legislation in the group’s platform would decriminalize sex work for consenting adults, while keeping in place anti-trafficking statutes.

“In our neighborhood we face harassment and abuse from police, yet there is no accountability for officers who abuse their power,” said Keith Fuller, a member of Make the Road New York from Brooklyn. “For justice for all young people in New York we have to pass the Solutions Not Suspensions Act to end the school-to-prison pipeline and Repeal 50-A and pass the Special Prosecutor bill to make the police accountable for abuse.”

The sex work and other policing-related bills, among other aspects of the platform, may test how far Democrats in Albany will be willing to go in the 2020 session, which is also an election year for the entire Legislature. On a few of the more progressive pieces of legislation passed earlier this year, some of the senators from more moderate but Democratic suburban districts, like on Long Island, voted in opposition. Activists from and aligned with Make the Road New York were helpful in winning some of those same seats in 2018 and hailed the historic progressive session, but are clearly looking for more in the year ahead.

by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

Immigrant Advocacy Group Releases 2020 New York Policy Agenda Mon, 18 Nov 2019 05:00:00 +0000
'Data for Progress' Poll Shows Support for 'Driver's Licenses for All' cm carlos press

(photo: John McCarten/City Council)

A new statewide poll by the progressive think tank Data for Progress finds plurality support for a proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, and majority support for legislation requiring “good cause” eviction of tenants and for legislation requiring schools to limit the use of student suspensions. The findings are likely to buoy Democrats in the Legislature as well as advocates attempting to pass those pieces of legislation, among other progressive priorities, before the end of the state legislative session in June.

The poll, conducted with 1,189 registered New York voters April 8-10, found that 42.4% of respondents indicated support for the “driver’s licenses for all” measure, compared to 37.6% opposed, with 16.1% not taking a position, and 4% unsure.

The percentage of respondents in support jumped slightly when the question was modified to include certain caveats: when told that driver’s licenses for all would improve road safety and bring in $50 million in annual revenue, the margin jumps to 47.4% support to 31% opposed; and when told that the measure would reduce the risk of deportation for immigrants, the margin increases to 46.9% support to 32.9% opposed.

The support numbers are a slight jump from those of a March Quinnipiac poll, which saw 37% support for the driver’s license measure, but the opposition is much lower than in that poll, which saw 57% opposition.

Among respondents, 40.3% are registered Democrats, 17.9% registered Republicans, 13.8% registered with a different party, and 22.7% not affiliated with any party; 71.1% of respondents self-identified as white, 12.9% as black, and 16% identified as a different race.

The poll was conducted using “online web panels in English,” according to Data for Progress. “Responses were weighted by gender, age, race, party registration, geography and education to targets derived from the most recent voter file available, ensuring that the poll reflects the current New York State electorate, without taking into consideration an individual’s probability of voting in any given election. A subset of responses were matched to the voter file to validate the findings of the poll."

Since the passage earlier this year of the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students to qualify for state higher education aid programs, immigrants’ rights activists have shifted their focus to the driver’s licenses proposal as their foremost legislative priority.

“These data show what we’re seeing in communities across the state, including the suburbs and rural areas: there is broad support for restoring access to driver’s licenses to all qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status,” said Javier Valdes, co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, in a statement. “A surging chorus of New Yorkers want legislators to take action to make our roads safer by enabling all drivers to be able to go through the same licensing process—which would also boost the state’s economy and keep families together.”

In January, the New York Immigration Coalition launched a $1 million campaign to promote the driver’s license measure, spending on TV, radio, social media, and billboard ads as well as on lobbying.

A 2017 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, found that the measure would bring in about $26 million in one-time revenues, such as license application fees and license plate fees, and $57 million in annual recurring revenues such as car registration fees and gas taxes. These revenues would come from an estimated 265,000 new drivers who would obtain licenses in the state if the measure were to pass.

Like other proposals, the driver’s license measure is a longstanding policy goal for activists that has been given new life by the shift in Albany to full Democratic control. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie tweeted in March that he would look to advance the measure post-budget, and Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly supports it, but Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has been noncommittal.

Good Cause Eviction
As for the good cause eviction measure, which would prohibit evictions for failure to pay an “unconscionable” rent increase, the polling margin is overwhelming, at 68.1% support compared to 17.4% opposed, with 11.3% not taking a position and 3.2% unsure.

Sponsored by State Senator Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Assemblymember Pamela Hunter, a Syracuse Democrat, the legislation would prohibit landlords from evicting market-rate tenants for failure to pay an “unconscionable” rent increase, defined in the legislation as a percentage increase beyond 150% of the annual percentage change in the regional Consumer Price Index.

The measure would be a significant step toward “universal rent control,” which has become a rallying cry of the left and a source of serious concern for real estate interests.

The state’s rent regulations will expire on June 15 if legislators do not renew them beforehand. Housing affordability advocates have identified this session as an opportunity to get various long-sought reforms to the state’s regulations passed by the now-Democratic state government, such as repealing vacancy decontrol and vacancy bonuses, and scrapping or significantly modifying rent hikes associated with “major capital improvements.”

“New Yorkers across this state know that there’s an affordable housing crisis, and part of the way to address it is to ensure that all tenants have basic protections,” said Delsenia Glover, Executive Director of Tenants and Neighbors, in a statement responding to the poll. “This good cause eviction bill is wildly popular because it would address the gaping hole in our rent laws that currently leaves five million renters statewide out in the cold.”

Limiting School Suspensions
Meanwhile, 55.6% of respondents to the poll supported the idea of legislation to limit the use of student suspensions in school compared to 21.9% opposed, with 19% not taking a position and 3.6% unsure. Poll-takers were asked, “In New York State, students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended and disciplined for minor school infractions. There is currently a bill in the legislature that would ensure that school districts implement codes of conduct limiting the use of suspension as a disciplinary response to minor infractions, and encouraging the use of alternatives to suspension. Do you support or oppose this proposal?”

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act limiting school suspensions, sponsored by Brooklyn Democratic Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Queens Democratic Assemblymember Cathy Nolan, has also seen renewed interest this session, though it’s been a lower profile issue than driver’s licenses or rent reform. The measure would prohibit suspensions of longer than 20 days (currently suspensions can last an entire academic year), would ban suspensions of students in kindergarten through third grade, and would prohibit suspensions for minor offenses such as dress code violations or tardiness.

The bill would also require schools to establish a code of conduct to govern conduct and disciplinary responses tied to offenses, replacing more ad hoc dispersal of punishment. Data has shown that black students and students with disabilities are disproportionately likely to receive harsher punishments for the same infractions. John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Data Collaborative for Justice released a report in March showing black students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended for the same offenses, while students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended as their non-disabled peers.

Similar changes as included the state bill have been advanced in New York City, leading to a sharp drop in the use of suspensions during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, though suspensions rose for this first time in his mayoralty last year.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

'Data for Progress' Poll Shows Support for 'Driver's Licenses for All' Thu, 25 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
New York Needs to Restore Access to Driver’s Licenses for All in 2019 access drivers op

a rally for driver's licenses for all (photo: Make The Road New York)

For many New Yorkers who cannot access public transportation and need to drive, a routine traffic stop can lead to something much worse than a ticket; it can lead to deportation. That’s why restoring equal access to driver’s licenses for all New Yorkers is not controversial, it is a necessity.

All over the state, immigrants need to go to work, school, and attend doctor’s appointments, but in places like upstate New York, Long Island, and parts of New York City, a lack of public transportation means driving is the only option.

Jorge Cotraro, a father and husband on Long Island, has been forced to drive without a license because he needs to get to work, and on time, and because missing his children’s doctor’s appointments is also not something he can afford. Every time that Jorge is forced to drive, he leaves his home with fear and uncertainty if he will be able to come home to his family because a routine traffic stop can lead him down the path to deportation. That’s because interactions with local law enforcement can trigger immigration consequences, as they’re often used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to justify detention and deportation. And it’s why Jorge, a member of community organization Make the Road New York, has joined his neighbors to fight for driver’s licenses for all across the state.

New Yorkers should not fear that they will be separated from their family. For the first time in a decade, in January the New York State Legislature will be under complete Democratic control, with leading legislators in all chambers of state government who have stated publicly that they support restoring driver’s licenses for all. Legislation we strongly support will achieve this vital goal, and it’s time for us to move ahead and pass it in 2019.

The legislation would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a Standard License to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Immigrant New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, would then be able to be properly licensed as well as operate a registered, inspected, and insured vehicle -- helping make everyone safer.

Besides being the right thing to do, this would lead to an economic boost to New York State. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, passing this legislation would yield an estimated $57 million in combined annual government revenues, plus $26 million in one-time revenues projected as a result of people getting licenses and purchasing vehicles. It’s no wonder that 12 states throughout the country, and Washington D.C and Puerto Rico, already allow all people of a certain age, regardless of immigration status, to drive. It’s also why our neighbors in New Jersey are moving towards passing a similar measure.

Equal access to driver’s licenses for all will not only boost our economy and protect people like Jorge and his family, but it makes sense for the public safety of all New Yorkers. One of us is the ranking member of the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction committee, and it is imperative that New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, are able to come forward to report a crime. Undocumented New Yorkers should not fear prosecution for not having proper identification when coming in contact with local law enforcement.

Support from elected officials for this effort is strong across the state. Governor Cuomo has said he supports this plan. In upstate New York, Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra and his police department have spoken in favor of the “Driver’s License Access And Privacy Act.” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has expressed the urgency and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer supports it. Many new State Senators-elect from across the state have expressed their support, making for strong momentum as the new Democratic majority takes the Senate reins in January.

It is time we take the necessary steps to protect our communities, make our roads safer, and boost our economy. It’s time to restore access to driver’s licenses to all.

Luis Sepulveda is the New York State Senator for the 32nd District and sponsor of the driver’s license legislation. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: @LuisSepulvedaNY @JavierHValdes @MaketheRoadNY.

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New York Needs to Restore Access to Driver’s Licenses for All in 2019 Sun, 09 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Leading Immigrant-Advocacy Group Backs Ramos in Bid to Unseat Peralta jessica ramos cm

Jessica Ramos (photo: @JessicaRamos)

When state Senator Jose Peralta joined the Independent Democratic Conference at the beginning of last year, he became the latest Democrat to sever ties with his own party and become part of a coalition with Republicans, a move that further consolidated GOP control over the upper chamber of the state Legislature and enraged many Democrats. Fast forward a year and a half, and after considerable criticism and facing primary challengers in this year’s elections, the IDC dissolved its breakaway faction and rejoined the mainline Democrats in a deal brokered in part by Governor Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat facing a primary challenge from his left after being accused of propping up the IDC and Senate Republicans.

But the “unity” deal did not dissuade the primary challengers, nor did it stem the tide of grassroots organizations backing them.

On Tuesday, Make the Road Action, an advocacy group representing the interests of Latino, immigrant, and working-class communities, is endorsing Jessica Ramos’ bid to unseat Peralta in the Democratic primary for Queens’ District 13, which will be voted on September 13. In explaining its endorsement of Ramos, the group notes her track record as a community organizer as well as her progressive platform, which promises to fight for issues like immigrant rights, affordable housing, and public school funding.

In the time leading up to the election, Make the Road Action plans to canvas for Ramos by activating thousands of members to engage voters in the district by going door-to-door and phone-banking. On Tuesday, the group will participate in a walking tour of the district’s public schools with Ramos, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, both of whom have also backed Ramos.

“Jessica Ramos has made it clear that she’s ready to fight for our community,” said Ruth López, a member of Make the Road Action, in a statement.

The Senate district -- one of 63 across the state and one of eight represented by former members of the IDC -- encompasses parts of northern Queens. Peralta is in his fourth two-year term as a senator.

Make the Road Action’s endorsement is the latest in a series for Ramos, who is seen as having among the best chances of the challengers taking on former members of the IDC. The challengers and their backers call the previously rogue senators things like “Trump Democrats” for their partnership with Republicans in Albany. Ramos has also been endorsed by advocacy groups including the Working Families Party and Our Revolution, by Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in the primary, and by Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, as well as Queens City Council Members Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides.

“They deserve a partner in the State Senate who is a real Democrat and will lead on measures to help workers and immigrants thrive,” Ramos said in a statement, referring to Make the Road Action, its members, and the Latinos, immigrants, and workers it represents. “I will be that partner.”

Ramos formerly served as the Director of Latino Media for Mayor Bill de Blasio and as the Democratic District Leader in the 39th Assembly District from 2010 to 2014.

A key pillar of her campaign against Peralta is that the IDC empowered Republicans, helping to keep Democrats from the majority and blocking progressive legislation. IDC members, on the other hand, have argued that they’ve been able to push the Senate Republicans to adopt some progressive policies and that they have been able to deliver more resources to their individual districts.

In particular, Peralta’s move to the IDC last year garnered backlash because of his sponsorship of the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow undocumented students access to college financial aid. Republicans have opposed the bill, raising questions about Peralta’s rationale for working with the IDC and its GOP partners.

In an April interview with City & State, Peralta defended his break with mainline Democrats by citing how the DREAM Act failed to pass by a count of two votes in 2014 because of the internal opposition of two Democrats. “I need to exhaust every opportunity and every avenue to make sure that we can pass these pieces of legislation that are landmark legislation,” he told City & State. The former members of the IDC have pledged that the breakaway conference is over for good, even if Democrats don’t swing enough seats this November to take majority control of the Senate, and thus both houses of the Legislature (the Assembly is controlled by Democrats by a wide margin).

Make the Road Action’s endorsement of Ramos points to immigrant-advocates’ dissatisfaction with Peralta, of particular interest in the immigrant and Latino-heavy district the two candidates are vying to represent. The winner of the primary is virtually assured of winning the general election in the Democrat-dominated district.

“We are proud to endorse her today,” López said of Ramos, “and we’ll do everything we can to get her elected.”

[Listen: Max & Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson & Jessica Ramos]

by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

Leading Immigrant-Advocacy Group Backs Ramos in Bid to Unseat Peralta Mon, 23 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Driver’s Licenses for All Would Better Many Lives, Including Mine make the road drivers licenses

Make the Road New York members rally in Albany for driver’s licenses for all

Every morning, I drive with my wife to work. My commute is the scariest part of my day - and not because of the traffic. It’s because I know that a routine traffic stop could lead to me being separated from my family forever.

I’m an undocumented immigrant, and New York will not currently allow me to get a driver’s license. For New Yorkers like me, it’s way past time for our state to step up and do what other states have done: ensure that all qualified drivers, regardless of immigration status, can have access to a license.

The attacks by the Trump Administration continue to get worse. Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are using every excuse to detain and deport immigrants alike and tear us from our families, as they did in detaining 225 immigrant New Yorkers one recent week. They’re especially using minor traffic violations.

That’s why I recently joined fellow immigrants and advocates from across New York State to call on the State Legislature -- starting with the Assembly -- to restore access to driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers.

This bill would change my life, and my family’s too. I have lived in the United States for nearly 20 years and I wish I could be eligible to adjust my immigration status, but at the moment due to our current broken immigration system, that is not possible. There is no clear path for me to be able to adjust my immigration status, but other measures can be helpful to me and others like me.

I live in Long Island with my wife and two children. Every day, I leave my house to drive to work, with uncertainty and fear. Where I live, there is a lack of public transportation. It can take hours to get anywhere by bus or train, and taking a taxi is too expensive. I have to drive because I cannot afford to be late to my job and I need to be able to go to the store, take my children to their doctor appointments, and pick them up from school.

I was once stopped at a traffic stop by police. I was given a ticket for driving without a license and needed to go to court. I couldn’t sleep due to the fear I felt of going to court and possibly being separated from my family. I went to court and, with the legal fees of my attorney, I ended up paying almost $700. Thankfully it wasn’t worse than that -- and it now easily could be.

In my home country in Latin America, I had my driver’s license, but right now, due to my immigration status, I am not able to get a driver’s license in New York State.

Expanding access to driver’s licenses to all New Yorkers makes sense. If it passes, immigrants will be able to register, and insure their vehicles in New York, creating an economic boost. A 2017 analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute determined that New York would receive an estimated $57 million in combined annual revenue​.

Allowing driver’s licenses for all will improve public safety by making sure that all drivers on the road are licensed. States like California have already been experiencing the positive effects of granting undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses since 2015. A Stanford report released last year found there had been a significant decrease in hit-and-run accidents.

At a time when the Trump Administration’s attacks on our communities continue, passing this legislation would demonstrate that New York stands up for everyone, regardless of their immigration status. New York has delayed too long; we need to do more to stand against the White House anti-immigrant rhetoric now.

Obtaining a driver’s license will change my life, my family’s life, and that of thousands of New Yorkers. It would mean being able to pick up my children from school or take them to the doctor without fear. And it would help me to potentially get a promotion at my current job, or be able to look for better one.

There are 12 states, including Connecticut and Maryland, that currently allow undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. The new governor of our neighboring state, New Jersey, has committed to follow those states and expand access to driver’s licenses. But we haven't heard a commitment from Governor Cuomo yet. New York should be next.

Jorge Cotraro is a Long Island resident and a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: @MakeTheRoadNY.

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Driver’s Licenses for All Would Better Many Lives, Including Mine Sun, 29 Apr 2018 04:00:00 +0000
New York Justice Delayed Is New York Justice Denied govandrewcuomo cjustice

Gov. Cuomo at church (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

It has been nearly three years since Kalief Browder tragically ended his own life after being caged, abused, and tortured on Rikers Island. Elected officials promised us that his story would be a turning point and that New York would fundamentally transform a criminal justice system designed to criminalize low-income black and brown New Yorkers and then place a bounty, through the money bail system, on our freedom. With another new state budget now passed in Albany, it is clear state leaders are not going to make good on those promises and New York will continue to keep people locked in cages because they are too poor to pay bail.

I cannot imagine what Kalief must have felt while trapped in a cage, spending much of his time in solitary confinement, facing abuse from the guards and other incarcerated youth -- only there because he could not afford bail. As a young black person, growing up in Brooklyn, I can relate to how Kalief must have felt that night; his future was permanently disrupted. I have been out in my neighborhood, just enjoying myself, or hanging out with friends, only to have the NYPD initiate an interaction that reminds black youth we cannot afford to be care-free when the criminal justice system surveils, restricts, and criminalizes our very existence.

That is why I organize with youth across Brooklyn and New York City to end racist and biased policies and practices throughout the criminal justice system. It is why last week, I traveled three hours to Albany to join civil rights organizations, public defenders, community organizations, and NFL player DeMario Davis (formerly of the New York Jets), to demand New York legislators pass bail reform that will completely eliminate wealth-based detention, significantly reduce the number of New Yorkers caged before their trial, reduce racial disparities, end profiteering in pre-trial services, and does not increase the likelihood that people will be detected, detained or deported by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In Governor Cuomo’s State of the State speech he made promises to reshape New York’s bail and pre-trial detention that will “will transform our criminal justice system by removing critical barriers, reaffirming our beliefs in fairness, opportunity and dignity, and continue our historic progress toward a more equal society for all." He did not follow through by passing reforms that would have made positive change.

And, unfortunately, when I studied his proposals, it became clear some parts could actually bring reform in the wrong direction. If passed, the governor’s proposal would increase the number of New Yorkers who are detained before trial without the possibility of release, give prosecutors the power to hold New Yorkers before trial, expand the use of electronic monitoring and house arrests, and pass the costs of pre-trial services on to people awaiting their trial. It isn’t progress if we extend mass incarceration into our homes and communities through ankle bracelets and house arrests and then charge poor people for the cost of their release before trial.

A recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union found that black New Yorkers are twice as likely as white New Yorkers to spend at least one night in custody on bail, and more than 90,000 New Yorkers spent a day or longer in custody on bail between 2010 and 2014. Kalief Browder was arrested in 2010. Eight years after his arrest and three years after his death, the turning point we were all promised seems farther and farther away.

With Governor Cuomo now celebrating the new budget and the state Legislature on vacation; and as we hit the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should all remind our elected officials that justice delayed is justice denied.

Nicshel Samedi is Youth Leader, Make The Road New York. On Twitter @MaketheRoadNY.

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New York Justice Delayed Is New York Justice Denied Tue, 03 Apr 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Progressive Groups Endorse Democrat in Key Westchester Senate Race mayer naral pro choice

Shelley Mayor, center (photo: @Shelley4Senate)

A coalition of progressive community organizations representing thousands of members across New York State will support Shelley Mayer, the Democratic Assemblymember who is running for an open state Senate seat in Westchester that could decide which party leads the legislative chamber.

Mayer is running against Republican Julie Killian for the 37th Senate District seat, in a special election scheduled for April 24. The seat has been vacant since January after its previous occupant, George Latimer, was elected Westchester county executive.

A Mayer victory in the district would likely give Democrats the numerical majority in the state Senate, paving the way for a unity deal between mainline Senate Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight senators who prop up Republican control of the chamber along with renegade Democrat Simcha Felder. A deal is on the table that parties other than Felder have agreed to pending the results of two special Senate elections, the highly competitive Mayer-Killian race and one in the Bronx, where Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda is all but guaranteed to win.

The state Democratic Party has begun to put its weight behind Mayer’s candidacy, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has also endorsed her. Earlier this week in Larchmont, Cuomo rallied with fellow Democratic elected officials in support of Mayer. “This is a crucial race and Shelley’s victory will help bring the Democratic Majority in the Senate we need to continue our proud legacy of fighting and advancing progressive change for New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday. (The Westchester County Independence Party has also backed Mayer.)

Now adding its voice to the growing support for Mayer is the “Progressive Power Coalition” of five community advocacy groups -- Make the Road Action, NY Communities for Change, Citizen Action of New York, Community Voices Heard Power, and VOCAL-NY Action Fund -- which will announce its endorsement of Mayer on Friday.

The groups cite, as reasons for their support, Mayer’s impressive record of fighting for working New Yorkers and immigrants, her support of campaign finance reforms that prioritize small donors over wealthy interests, her advocacy for expanding childcare, affordable housing and combating homelessness, and her leadership on protections against wage theft by bad-actor employers. Democratic control of the state Senate, currently Republicans’ only stronghold at the state level, is seen as key to ushering through a wave of progressive policies.

"Shelley Mayer is a powerful leader for New York State,” said Sojourner Salinas, a member-leader of Community Voices Heard Power from White Plains, in a statement. “She stands tall and firm on what we believe in: fighting for communities of color and low-income families of New York State on all the tough issues that we are being attacked on by the Trump administration."    

Members of the coalition intend to bolster Mayer’s campaign by mobilizing their base of activists to knock on doors, call constituents and get out the vote in the lead up to, and on, Election Day. Several of the groups are known for their abilities to have boots on the ground for such activities. Mayer is considered a favorite given the district’s Democratic enrollment advantage and recent election trends, including Latimer’s runaway victory over two-term incumbent Rob Astorino.

Mayer said in a statement that she was “proud” to receive the coalition’s endorsement. “Donald Trump's constant attacks on our values and the failures of his Republican allies in the State Senate have made this special election critical for our future,” she said. “I’m proud of my track record fighting for families and creating better opportunities for Westchester’s hard working families, and I will continue that work in the State Senate.”

Killian, Mayer’s opponent, is a former Rye City Council member and deputy mayor taking her second shot at the 37th Senate District, after failing to unseat then-Senator Latimer in 2016. Her campaign has focused on portraying Mayer as an Albany insider and on decrying the culture of corruption that has flourished in the state Capitol. Earlier this week, after Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Cuomo, was found guilty on federal corruption charges, Killian’s campaign tweeted, “One would hope that today’s conviction of Gov. Cuomo’s top aide in a bribery scheme would help slow down Albany’s rampant corruption, but history sadly shows us that it will continue unimpeded. Only way to change Albany is to change who we send there.”

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Progressive Groups Endorse Democrat in Key Westchester Senate Race Thu, 15 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Right to Know Act: Progress and Disappointment right to know rally crop

On Tuesday, the New York City Council passed two police reform bills. One marks a vital step toward police reform and accountability. The other takes our city in the wrong direction.

First the good news: a consent to search bill, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, passed with support from over 200 community organizations, including the families of New Yorkers killed by police, and organizations led by homeless, LGBTQ, undocumented, and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers, and black and Latino youth. The bill will require the NYPD to create a policy directive that mandates that police officers notify New Yorkers of their right to refuse a search if the officer does not have probable cause to search them.

The NYPD will also have to document proof of consent, and ensure translation if necessary, so all New Yorkers comprehend it is their constitutional right to refuse searches without probable cause. It is a common sense and long overdue reform that will enhance accountability measures and increase protections for New Yorkers during interactions with officers.

The second bill, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, was opposed by over 200 community organizations, all five public defender offices, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, the National Latino Officers Association, and the Grand Council of Guardians. This legislation, known as the police identification bill, will in some situations require police officers to provide New Yorkers with a business card identifying the officer and an explanation for the stop.

As with consent to search, community members had pushed for such legislation for years. But inexplicably, because of last-minute changes, the final bill intentionally excludes traffic stops as well as the majority of non-arrest street encounters with police officers. It also includes a broad exception that significantly limits the NYPD’s responsibility to provide New Yorkers with an explanation for why they are being stopped.

Here’s what the holes in the final police identification bill mean in practice. If a young person is coming home from school and an officer asks him, “what are you doing?” or “where are you going?” or has his hand on his gun when he commands, “show me your ID,” that officer will not be required to provide a card identifying him- or her-self after the encounter.

If multiple officers corner a young person in front of her building and begin asking similar questions, they will not be required to provide identification after the interaction. If an officer stops a transgender woman and wants to know “why are you on this block,” or “what are you doing tonight,” this law will not ensure they know who is stopping them and why they are being stopped.

These everyday encounters for many young black, Latino, and transgender New Yorkers, which are just as likely as any other police interaction to lead to misconduct, harassment, or even abuse by officers, have been carved out of the bill without sufficient explanation.

President Obama’s 21st Century Task Force On Policing recommended law enforcement agencies require officers to identify themselves by their full name, rank, and command in writing to individuals they have stopped and provide an explanation for the stop. This past summer, the city of Albany, New York passed a bill requiring just that from their police officers.

New York City is not setting a baseline for future police reform. The baseline has already been set. By passing a bill that creates exceptions for thousands of stops and interactions with police officers, New York is merely confirming the NYPD sets police legislation and setting a weak precedent for other localities.

The Right to Know Act originated from the experiences of New Yorkers most impacted by police misconduct and abuse, including the families of those killed by police officers, and black and Latino youth from Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and East New York who have led our organizing efforts. No one—not Council Member Torres, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor Bill de Blasio, or NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill—has offered these young people any explanation for excluding common stops and interactions they are forced to navigate on a daily basis. If New York City is committed to “neighborhood policing,” someone should explain why those neighborhood cops shouldn’t simply hand over a business card and offer an explanation after stopping a New Yorker.

It has been over three years since the world watched an NYPD officer choke the last breath out of Eric Garner’s body on a Staten Island sidewalk. Now, this City Council has passed the only bills since that fateful day that address transparency, accountability, and protections for New Yorkers during interactions with the NYPD. It’s good news for all city residents that the Council passed a strong consent to search bill. But it’s deeply unfortunate that the Council allowed the NYPD to squeeze through a gutted version of police identification legislation that comes up short of the necessary reform that so many New Yorkers have spent the last five years demanding.

Kesi Foster is a lead organizer with Make the Road New York, which a member of the Steering Committee of Communities United for Police Reform. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadNY.

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Right to Know Act: Progress and Disappointment Tue, 19 Dec 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Now More Than Ever, the City Must Invest in Adult Literacy dromm 2

Council Member Dromm, one of the authors (photo: Make The Road NY)

Three million immigrant New Yorkers currently call our city home, adding to its vibrancy and vitality. Since Donald Trump’s election, immigrant communities have been fearful: hate crimes have gone up, immigrant workers face more exploitation, and families are scared of separation and deportation. For those of us working as community advocates and elected officials, we are now driven more than ever to find the policy solutions that will help our immigrant communities thrive and remain resilient, rather than live in fear.

Mayor de Blasio and City Council leaders have taken policy positions that do just that: committing to non-cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), pioneering an IDNYC program, maintaining strong worker protections, and increasing funding for universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) and the Community Schools initiative. Now, to more effectively protect and support our communities, we also need to deepen our investment in adult education and baseline in into the city budget.

Just a year ago the Mayor and Council invested $12 million for adult literacy, an increase that advocates called historic at the time. City leaders invested because the need is great, and for the thousands who study every year, the English classes offered by adult literacy providers give immigrants a pathway to economic mobility, social integration, parental support of children’s academic success, improved health outcomes, and greater civic engagement.

As immigrant communities live in fear and anxiety over federal immigration policy, it is essential that they are able to read and understand English—even as our city government is defending their rights and providing some protective services. Without English proficiency, many immigrants are left isolated and at risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous “notarios” who promise immigration relief for a fee, but never deliver. They are even more fearful than ever of accessing health and social services, challenged when applying for or improving work, and less able to support their children’s learning, or to report or stand up against employer, landlord, or police abuses.

Under the Trump administration, New York City’s largest source of federal adult literacy dollars (WIOA) is at risk of significant cuts. Even if the funding is maintained at a reduced level, current policy will likely make it more difficult to serve undocumented and low-level learners over time. For all of these reasons, this is the moment for the Mayor and Council to build on the momentum from last year’s investment and use their leadership to make New York City a model of adult literacy service provision. It is not too late, despite the fact that the Mayor’s most recent Executive Budget did not renew last year’s $12 million investment in adult literacy. A budget deal must be reached by July 1. The time is now.

Without the $12 million again this year, spots will be lost in literacy classes for over 5,500 adult students throughout the city, and an opportunity to deeply support immigrant New Yorkers will be lost. Last fiscal year's investment was critical to providers and students, and should be transformed into a baselined, multi-year investment in the field of adult education, allowing the city to update reimbursement rates for community based providers offering cost effective and critical services. In order to make our city a true 'sanctuary' city, we need to make it a city of opportunity for immigrants by ensuring that they have access to the literacy classes they need to thrive now.

Daniel Dromm is a member of the New York City Council. Theo Oshiro is the Deputy Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: @Dromm25 & @TheoOshiro.

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Now More Than Ever, the City Must Invest in Adult Literacy Wed, 24 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000