Immigrant NYers Left out of COVID-19 Response Planning, Launch “New York United” Campaign for Immigrant Communities

New York, NY—Today, immigrant advocates, community leaders and elected officials came together to demand the inclusion of immigrant communities in COVID-19 response planning by the city, state and federal governments, and call for the implementation of specific policy and budget proposals as outlined in the "New York United" platform to ensure New York’s immigrants are protected and empowered during this crisis.

“It’s an unprecedented moment in America—a time when our electeds’ actions around COVID-19 will forever define the future of all of our communities, including New York’s 4.5 million immigrants who are on the front lines of this crisis,” said Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Today, our city, state, and federal legislators can take concrete steps to ensure the health and well-being of every single New Yorker by implementing the policy, budget, and practice measures we know will keep our immigrant neighbors safe at a time of tremendous insecurity. New York, like every other state across the country, is grappling with this pandemic. Still, we have the opportunity to lead by example by being united - working together to enact common-sense programs to ensure all New York families can survive and thrive.”

As the novel coronavirus crisis continues to unfold rapidly, amidst the backdrop of a state of emergency across the city, state, and country, one thing is clear—the needs of immigrant New Yorkers have not been taken into account. There is a clear need for a package of policy, budget and practice measures that must be taken if immigrant New Yorkers can help keep New York strong and contribute to its emergency response including free COVID-19 testing and treatment for all New Yorkers, regardless of status; the suspension of ALL immigration enforcement activity; multilingual COVID-19 hotlines and resources; and economic support to include all workers - particularly the immigrant workers who have no choice but to remain active - who are impacted by the response to this global emergency.

“For too long, immigrants in our country have gotten the short end of the stick,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens). “But with our nation now in the middle of a public health crisis, it is more important than ever that our immigrant communities do not get left behind or forgotten about. I thank the New York Immigration Coalition, and the leadership of Steve Choi, for working tirelessly to ensure that hard-working immigrant New Yorkers receive the services and protections they need to stay safe and secure during this difficult time for our city, state and nation. I am always proud to stand united with NYIC in fighting for the rights of immigrants.”

“New York City is a proud city of immigrants, and any response the city, states and federal governments are enacting to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic must address the needs of all of our immigrant communities,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “Ensuring that New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, have access to healthcare and feel comfortable accessing healthcare, including testing for COVID-19, is critical. Additionally, the Trump administration must suspend immigration enforcement and institute plans for those who have immigration court dates and ICE check-ins. As we face one of the worst public health crises of our times, we all must work together and protect our entire population. I commend the NYIC for its tireless advocacy and work to always assist immigrant New Yorkers.”

“Academy of Medical & Public Health Services provides health access to vulnerable, uninsured immigrant populations, many who are undocumented,” said Mon Yuck Yu, Executive Vice President & Chief of Staff of the Academy of Medical & Public Health Services. “At this time, our immigrant communities are being attacked on many different fronts. Not only are they at an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure due to the nature of what is often customer-facing work or factory work in congregate settings, they are faced with increased stress and anxiety due to intersectional pressures. The lack of health insurance coverage for undocumented populations is a deterrent to proactively accessing testing and services until it is too late. Enhanced immigration enforcement and suppression tactics from ICE are further deterring individuals from leaving their homes, creating hazardous living situations as we continue to promote social distancing in our communities. Time and time again, we are receiving inquiries asking about locations for free testing and the safety of simply seeking care. Fear and exclusion will not create safer communities. We are urgently calling for the federal government to suspend all enforcement activities and for the state government to adopt the Coverage For All Act to ensure that all communities feel safe to access services. Healthcare is not a privilege, but a basic human right.”

“During these unprecedented times, it is important that we come together in collective action and full force to support the most vulnerable of our community members,” said Aracelis Lucero, Executive Director of Masa. “Our immigrant community continues to play a critical role and is significantly represented in the workforce responding to this global pandemic. We demand that all resources and relief provided keep them in mind at all times. We know this global crisis will have a negative and long lasting economic and social impact on our global community and we need to be able to uplift all communities now in order to prevent further inequities. Most of all, during this time, our undocumented community should not be living in fear of deportation and family separation, nor should they be fearful of accessing life-saving resources that they need during this difficult time. We call on our local, state, and federal government to implement all the commonsense measures being called for by the New York Immigration Coalition to ensure that we all remain safe and healthy.”

“While much of the city shuts down, and New Yorkers bunker down indoors or escape to the Hamptons, immigrant workers are exposing themselves to the virus as cleaning workers, day laborers, restaurant and delivery workers,” said Manuel Castro, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE). “Many are doing so without the protective equipment they need or any real assurance they’ll be treated if infected. These are New Yorkers who because of their immigration status do not have access to paid sick leave of unemployment insurance and cannot miss work or avoid the subway - they would walk miles to work if needed. Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak is showing how little we’ve learned from past disasters like during 9/11 and Sandy, when these workers put themselves in harms way to courageously participate in the response and recovery efforts. Yet, much like before, these unsung heroes barely register in our disaster preparedness and policymaking. This has to change.”

Recording of Media Briefing:

The recording of the media briefing is available here.

NY United Campaign:

You can access the full NY United Campaign here.


New Yorkers looking for the most updated information can text COVID to 692-692 or call the New York State Department of Health’s coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065, visit the website, download the NYC Notify app, or go to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s coronavirus resource page. Incidents of anti-Asian or anti-immigrant discrimination can be reported to 311 or the New York State Hate Crimes Task Force hotline at 1-888-392-3644.