Mayor de Blasio: Don’t Fail Our Immigrant Communities!

June 1st, 2018

Advocates call on the Mayor to fully fund vital programs, ensure due process for all immigrants

NEW YORK, NY - Today, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), immigrant rights partners, and affected individuals called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fully invest and protect immigrant communities in the final budget.

The Mayor’s proposed city budget underfunds adult education programs, eliminates due process from immigration legal services, and fails to allocate resources to underserved Black immigrant communities. New York City has 3.3 million immigrants, who contribute $8 billion in taxes and make up the city’s unique cultural and social fabric.

“The time is now for Mayor de Blasio to protect and invest in the fight for immigrant rights. While the City's immigrants are under attack from President Trump, he must ensure full due process for all immigrants receiving legal services, fully restore funding for community-based adult literacy programs, improve health care access for uninsured New Yorkers, and uplift the city’s vulnerable and often ignored communities, particularly Black immigrants. In our New York, we believe in justice and opportunity for all,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“We are deeply disappointed that Mayor de Blasio’s Executive Budget does not contain $12m in funding for adult literacy programs. From helping the newest New Yorkers develop the English skills they need to succeed in our City, to providing young adults a second chance to earn their high school diploma, adult literacy classes are the onramp to opportunity for thousands of New Yorkers every year. Yet through this proposed budget cut, over 7,400 individuals would lose the chance to access free adult literacy classes in their community. For New York City to truly be a place of sanctuary and opportunity, it must make a sustained investment in adult literacy programs outside of the annual budget dance. UNH calls on the Mayor and City Council to fully commit to these programs and include at least $12m in baselined funding for community based adult literacy in the FY2019 budget,” said Kevin Douglas, Co-Director of Policy & Advocacy, United Neighborhood Houses.

“Depriving certain immigrants of legal assistance inevitably amounts to denying them the right to equal protection before the law. If one immigrant is denied justice, we all are denied justice. Consequently, we cannot allow that to happen in New York City, symbol of immigrants’ rights,” said Bakary Tandia, Policy Advocate at African Services Committee.

“Today, we are calling on Mayor de Blasio to ensure that immigrant communities are not forgotten by prioritizing the city’s investment in vital services,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation. “Asian New Yorkers are over 15 percent of the city’s population and growing, yet only 1.4 percent of the city’s social services contract dollars go to organizations that are Asian-led and Asian-serving. An increase in funding must reflect this growing population, especially investment in adult literacy programs and immigration legal services for Asian immigrants.”

"Black immigrants are under intense attack," said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together. "Whether it's the Muslim ban, ending TPS, gutting asylum and refugee resettlement, or calling our homelands 'shithole countries', the Trump Administration has made it a priority to target Africans, Haitians, and other black immigrants. Now we need the De Blasio Administration to make it a priority to defend black immigrant New Yorkers."


Legal Services

In February 2018, the NYIC and legal service providers released No Safe Harbor: Challenges in Obtaining Immigration Legal Services in New York. One of the most troubling findings was that New York City’s investment in legal services imposes arbitrary conditions on those who can receive city-funded legal services. Excluding individuals from accessing lawyers due to past criminal convictions poses a dire risk to due process for some of New York’s most vulnerable immigrants, who already face systemic racism and disproportionate law enforcement.

This exclusion exacerbates inequities and racial tensions within our criminal justice system and immigration legal system. It is also contrary to New York City’s long standing tradition as a welcoming city, and undermines its elected leaders’ attempts to position the city as a protector of those values against the current administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.

Black Immigrant Communities

One out of every three immigrant New York City residents is a Black immigrant, with the community representing 1.1 million New York City residents. Despite these staggering statistics, New York City does not currently provide enough dedicated funding toward Black immigrant led community programs and initiatives. Among the city’s top immigration focused funding streams during the last fiscal year, only one black immigrant led and serving organization received funding, which was included under the New York City Council’s Immigrant Opportunities Initiative.

Since 2016, the NYIC has convened the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative (BIEI). BIEI is the first initiative in New York – and one of the first in the country – to focus on supporting Black immigrant-led, community-based organizations and legal service providers. BIEI members engage African, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latinx community members through outreach, direct legal services, advocacy, and mobilization efforts that integrate the Black immigrant experience into the greater immigrant rights movement.

Adult Literacy Programs

Currently, New York City serves less than 3% (61,000) of the 2.2 million adults who lack English proficiency and/or a high school diploma. Last year, the city dedicated $12 million for community-based adult literacy programming. If the City does not renew this funding, which was not included in the proposed budget, 7,400 adult learners will lose their classroom seats.

Additionally, the city should commit to a new procurement process that adequately reflects the true costs of providing high quality, comprehensive adult literacy classes. New procurement would allow for full-time instruction, case management, and a full range of necessary student retention and success supports. Current rates bankrupt programs and make addressing the acute need for adult literacy exceptionally difficult.

Uninsured Health Care Access Program

New York City Health + Hospitals (H+H) is the country's largest public health care system; anyone in New York City can access health care services regardless of immigration status or insurance coverage. However, immigrant communities frequently report delays in service, breakdowns in language access, concerns about cost, and unfriendly customer service.

ActionHealthNYC was a primary care access and coordination program for uninsured New Yorkers that gave people access to a regular primary care provider at an H+H or community health center site where they could get consistent, prompt, and well-coordinated care. Because of the pilot program, enrollees were more likely to receive preventive services and diagnoses of chronic conditions. Patients could more easily access friendly, accessible, and less chaotic health care. However the pilot was terminated in 2017. New York City should create a coordinated uninsured care program to ensure efficient, high-quality primary care to all New Yorkers.