This is a post in our blog series highlighting the different programs at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). Check back every week to learn more about the programs that help advocate for New York’s immigrant communities!
The Immigration Advocacy Program focuses on Federal and Statewide Policy and Advocacy to address the injustices in our current immigration system. Immigration Advocacy leads a collaborative roundtable where advocates from member organizations, labor partners, and interfaith leaders come together to educate, update and engage all of our communities toward the movement for immigrant rights both locally and nationally.
I sat down with Carlene Pinto, Immigration Campaign Manager, to learn more about this program.
What is the focus and goal of your program?
To make sure that our members, allies, and partners are working collectively towards Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and other policy priorities that would impact our immigrant communities across our state, and across our country.
A necessary part of our work focuses on the NYIC’s Immigration Advocacy Collaborative. This is collaborative of members that focus their energy, resources, and staff in the advocacy we will engage in each legislative session. The NYIC created this collaborative to provide our members with the opportunity to actively participate in and contribute to the advocacy necessary to further the fight for immigrant rights.
Additionally, we do rapid response work around issues that need immediate attention. Often there are bills that are introduced in the State Legislature that greatly impact our immigrant communities. For example, in June there were several anti-immigrant and anti refugee bills introduced. In a few hours, we organized action alerts and mobilized our members and allies to call their State representatives to rally their elected official to vote no in order to block these bills.
We have also led numerous campaigns for intersectional issues like the rally on July 18th that focused on black immigrants and encouraged people to vote, and our rally on June 23rd which mobilized people around the Texas v. US 4-4 decision that blocked extended DACA and DAPA.
Now that we have a new addition to our staff, Muzna Ansari, the team is drafting policies that are inclusive of all immigrant communities and programs at the NYIC. We want to make sure we have a holistic view of the current political landscape and propose policies that represent our members and the NYIC.
How does this program get immigrant communities and non-immigrant communities to advocate together?
The Immigration Advocacy Collaborative is a space where we allow members to discuss the issues facing their communities and is an opportunity for us to share resources we can offer them. I specifically work with key stakeholders who are not members or who are not a part of the immigrant community to provide them with the education and information they need to help in the fight for immigrant rights. We try to engage these people by going to their coalition meetings, specifically in workers groups and interfaith clergy in the City. In these spaces, we share the issues facing immigrants in the City and encourage these groups to support the immigrant community. We are building these bridges to show the diversity that exists in the immigrant community and to ensure that we are considerate of the issues facing other communites as well. By creating all of these connections, we want to show that it isn’t only immigrants who are fighting for immigrant rights, but that all of our communities are fighting for immigration reform. This encourages both immigrants and non-immigrants alike. We are also building out spaces where advocacy is student-led. We are even building relationships with high school students and undergraduates from different SUNY schools to engage them so that when the next election cycle comes around and we require a rapid response, they can all participate and advocate for their communities.
How do you ensure that all immigrant communities are equally represented?
To make this happen, a lot of trust must be built. This is to ensure that we are able to hold each other accountable. I think making sure that different communities have equal access to places where decisions are being made, and that they also have the support they need to advocate for their communities, is the best way to have equal representation. We try to do this by creating that space and reaching out to people from different movements who want to be part of the immigrant movement. Our recently launched Black Immigrants Engagement Initiative (BIEI) is an example of steps we are taking to include under-represented immigrants. This initiative and others like it make sure that different immigrant communities can talk about their needs and help shape decisions that will affect their communities. Our hope behind all our initiatives is to have access to every community so that we can engage them and support them the best way we can.
After the Texas v. United States, what steps will this program be taking?
Our program is leading a lot of community education events. Immediately after the negative Supreme Court decision on extended DACA and DAPA, we tried to keep pressure on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a petition for a rehearing of the case; they filed the petition but now we have to wait until a ninth Judge is appointed for the case to be heard. Until then, we want to make sure that all communities and groups have equal access to information about the decision and how it affects the communities they are a part of or represent. We collaborate with Special Projects and Legal Initiatives at the NYIC to ensure that we attend events and meetings where we provide information about the options people have besides extended DACA or DAPA, and other forms of administrative relief - for example, Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Another thing that we have done is that upon request, we have hosted community engagement sessions for our members. We hosted one with the Arab American Association because they asked us to help connect their community members to information they needed on the Supreme Court decision and the next steps they needed to take.
We are working closely with Civic Engagement on their Get out the Vote efforts, because the fate of all forms of administrative relief depend on the next president and representatives voted into City and State offices. So we want to make sure to encourage people who can to exercise their right to vote.
What is the Immigration Advocacy program’s vision for immigrant communities?
The vision of the program is shaped by our members. We send out member questionnaires and our members share what their priorities look like, what their capacity is, and what they would be interested in leading. We take that information and present it to our board of directors and the program heads at the NYIC. We then strategically plan out what we should prioritize, by factoring in the political climate, what our members want to see legislatively, what we want to see legislatively. We discuss with our national allies what the movement will look like in five or ten years, how we can support each other, how we can hold each other accountable and how we can learn from each other state by state.
An important piece about advocacy is how we can use our past success on the legislative front to shape and structure future success. Additionally, we have to build connections with political figures and representatives who will listen to our cause and champion laws that will help immigrant communities. Looking forward, our plan is to find ways to strengthen the impact of our advocacy.
I want to highlight the support, dedication and hard work we have received from our Generation Citizen fellows, Joshua Felicien and Zenab Youssef, who are preparing to start college this fall, but still have time to provide support and capacity, and our DREAM Summer fellows, Miriam Adunah and Flor Areli Reyes Silvestre, who have been an intricate part of the programs and events this program has participated in this summer.
We are giving people the opportunity to participate in advocacy. We are currently building the spaces for people to support us either by donating their time, skills, knowledge, insight or finances, so that we can continue our important work. In the end, we want to build bridges between all communities to fight for immigrant justice.