New York, NY—Following the confirmation of the first few positive cases of the novel (new) coronavirus, COVID-19, in New York City, immigration advocates joined New York City and New York State officials in urging calm, while denouncing attempts by President Trump to cynically exploit a public health issue for partisan gain. Already, the White House is calling for a closure of the southern U.S. border and relying on age-old lies about immigrants. The onset of its “public charge” policy comes at the worst possible time as fear and confusion unnecessarily drive families away from needed health services to serve Trump’s racist and classist agenda. In New York City, fear and disinformation have led to reports of discrimination against Asian New Yorkers, in particular, and a drastic decrease in the economic vitality of Chinese establishments.
“The Trump administration is exploiting a public health issue to further demonize immigrants and distract us from the real issue—the Federal government’s lack of preparedness,” said Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “With the first positive case of the virus reported in New York State, we need a calm and measured response that fights back against fear. Instead, the White House’s fear-mongering is creating real consequences for our immigrant communities - including physical attacks and discrimination against Asian-owned businesses and students. Thankfully, New York State and New York City are keeping the public informed and deploying resources to address the coronavirus as the public health issue it is. We encourage New Yorkers to get the health services they need, regardless of immigration status. We urge every New Yorker to follow guidelines set by the NYS Dept. of Health and continue to patronize immigrant-owned businesses throughout the city and state, especially in Asian neighborhoods that have seen their local economies decline out of misplaced anxiety and fear. If you see or experience discrimination, report it to 311 or call the New York State Hate Crimes Task Force hotline at 1-888-364-3065.”
"The coronavirus is creating an undue fear among our communities that is fostering both xenophobia and a steep economic decline for Chinese businesses,” said Mon Yuck Yu, Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Academy of Medical & Public Health Services. “New York City is among many cities in the United States that have already created a robust public health infrastructure to combat any suspected cases. With only three confirmed cases in New York State at this moment, we are not undergoing a coronavirus pandemic, but a pandemic rooted in fear, racism, and discrimination. The virus is a human condition, not a function of a culture; the best way to prevent it is the practice of good hygiene, not isolation. We urge everyone to stand in solidarity with those affected in our communities, to support our businesses, and to report any cases of discrimination to 311 or New York State Hate Crimes Task Force hotline at 1-888-392-3644."
"Our African communities are all too familiar with being targeted and stigmatized during an epidemic," said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together. "It was wrong when African immigrant New Yorkers were being harassed and stigmatized during the Ebola epidemic, and it's wrong when the same thing is happening to Chinese and other Asian communities as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. We stand in solidarity with our Asian immigrant brothers and sisters, we reject xenophobia and fear-mongering, and we demand real public health solutions that protect all our communities from our elected officials."
“As coronavirus spreads in New York, the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) is taking all necessary steps to inform and educate our community about how to stay safe and healthy,” said Marwa Janini, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY). “We have great sympathy for our friends in the Asian American community who have had their businesses and livelihoods impacted by unfounded fear, and we encourage everyone to patronize and support affected businesses as much as possible.”
“The coronavirus seems to have infected some with racism and xenophobia, and Asians are bearing the brunt,” said JoAnn Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation. “Even the media seems to be perpetuating stereotypes, and anti-immigrant sentiment, and we urge major outlets to be sensitive to the effects of their reporting on our communities. Our member agencies and their staff, children, residents and small businesses are experiencing incidents of racism. Sadly, the small business community seems impacted significantly. AAF’s own small business program works closely with merchants in a vibrant Asian immigrant commercial corridor, and are hearing reports of more than 30% loss in business from them, especially in restaurants. To make matters worse, restaurants that have seen their business decline in the recent weeks are cutting their workers' hours which in turn affects their livelihoods and families, as well as their ability to spend on essentials, and this cascade effect is ultimately depressing the local economies of our Chinatowns. We urge the media, and New Yorkers to not to give in to fear, racist stereotypes, and anti-immigrant sentiment. We need you to visit our Chinatowns and Asian enclaves and support these businesses at this difficult time.”
“Americans must recognize that this is a public health issue, not a racial, ethnic, or immigrant issue. Since the news of coronavirus has escalated, Asian Americans have been hit hard by the dangerous ‘perpetual foreigner’ myth that already hurts our community. Instead of spreading rumors and prejudice, the Federal Administration should follow the lead of New York's federal, state, and city elected officials by denouncing hate and supporting the Asian American community,” said Wayne Ho, President & CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC). “We have heard stories of community members having strangers isolate them in public spaces, Chinatown restaurants having dinners canceled because of stereotypes about eating habits, and families fearful of bringing children to daycare in Asian American neighborhoods. We have a responsibility to make sure that our communities are informed and that we are reducing any bias that our staff or community members experience."
“We are dismayed to hear of the stereotypes, anti-Asian backlash, and panic that is being perpetuated about the coronavirus,” said Mae Lee, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association. “The coronavirus is a serious health issue that needs to be addressed. New Yorkers who have family members, friends, or loved ones there are very concerned. However, New Yorkers should not be afraid to go to Chinatown or any of the other Chinese communities, nor should we engage in promoting stereotypes or anti-immigrant sentiment. We urge all New Yorkers to learn the facts about coronavirus, talk to members of the Chinese communities, and learn what is being done.”
Earlier this week, the state legislature passed a bill authorizing a rare mid-budget appropriation providing $40 million in spending and resources while also granting Governor Cuomo extraordinary enhanced authority to respond to this and other public health issues into 2021. On Monday, Mayor de Blasio announced that the New York City Public Health Lab would be able to conduct its own testing allowing New York City health officials to diagnose patients in hours rather than days.
New Yorkers looking for the most updated information can call the New York State Department of Health’s coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065, visit the website 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.