New Survey Shows Immigrant Candy Sellers Lack Childcare; City Must Fund and Expand Promise NYC

New York, NY—Today, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Algún Día released the findings of a new survey of new immigrant New Yorkers selling candy and fruit in the subways and parks. These findings were highlighted today in a story from WNYC/Gothamist, following up on their previous story

Algún Día – a grassroots volunteer-based initiative to assess and address the needs of our new immigrant neighbors, comprised of formerly undocumented immigrants, current Dreamers, and first-generation immigrants – enlisted a network of Spanish-speaking volunteer social workers to conduct the three-month outreach that began on March 31. Algún Día has surveyed 75 parents with children selling candy and fruit on the subways, at subway stations, and in parks across all five boroughs. The goal of the outreach effort was to identify gaps in government and immigrant providers’ services for immigrant candy sellers and address community needs. 

Key findings:

  • 42% noted one of the biggest obstacles for them is access to childcare.
    • Many parents expressed the need to sacrifice jobs because of the lack of care for their children. The surveyed group were all unaware of child care opportunities such as Promise NYC, underutilized child care centers, or pre-K programs. 
  • 64% of those surveyed are living outside of the shelter system.
  • 83% have aspirations to pursue other lines of work and have not been able to due to limitations in childcare.
  • 88% stated they began vending out of need.
  • 60% indicate fear of incurring fines and police interaction while vending.
  • 34% are women under the age of 25, and 75% are from Ecuador.

Policy Solutions:

  • Invest and baseline $25M in Promise NYC to provide childcare vouchers for children who are ineligible for other forms of child care vouchers.
  • Restore $4M in the Immigrant Family Communication and Outreach Initiative to help immigrant families with varying levels of literacy and access to digital media get important school-related information in their own language, enroll in school, and connect to services.
  • Prioritize Access to Summer Rising and After School Programs to provide care for children throughout the summer and after the school day ends in order to access full-time work. 
  • Pass Intro 47 to Decriminalize Street Vending to remove all misdemeanor criminal penalties for general vendors and mobile food vendors. 

“These findings illuminate the reality of systemic barriers and neglect that immigrant families face in New York City, forcing both parents and children into unsafe work environments, unstable housing situations, and legal vulnerabilities. Investing in programs like Promise NYC that relieve the financial burden of childcare, as well as providing stable housing solutions and decriminalizing street vending, will help to create a safe and supportive environment for the newest New Yorkers to access the resources they need to succeed,” said Comptroller Brad Lander.

“Access to child care is critical for our children’s development and to support families’ pursuit of opportunities in our city that help them contribute to our economy,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, District 28. “Promise NYC has proven to be an effective investment for the families who need child care, but lack access to other programs due to their immigration status. This new report only further underscores the need for the City to expand funding for this critical program, and the Council will keep fighting to ensure that occurs in the final city budget.”

“We must fully fund Promise NYC for thousands of newly arrived and undocumented families in our city. As a city, we have a moral mandate to provide nurturing, safe, educational spaces for our city’s youngest community members. An investment in Promise NYC represents the bare minimum we need to ensure newly arrived and immigrant families across this City can access the high-quality child care they deserve. My colleagues and I are calling on the Mayor to fully fund Promise NYC so that we can nurture every child's promise to be an important part of our city,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán, District 22.

“New Yorkers have become used to seeing people and their children selling goods on the streets and in the subways, but there is a safer, better option for these children. Promise NYC is a proven solution that addresses the urgent need for child care for undocumented children, and helps parents seek better employment opportunities. The Promise NYC program is currently at full capacity, and demand is continuing to grow, so securing additional funding to expand Promise NYC is essential to comprehensively support our newest New Yorkers. This investment not only supports individual families, but also provides a better path forward for an issue affecting all New Yorkers. It is rare that there is such a clear, fiscally feasible option to immediately address a challenge, and I hope we can rise to the moment to meet it,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez, District 34.

“It is egregious that Mayor Adams has proposed to completely eliminate the Promise NYC program in his Executive Budget, especially given the notable increase in children vending with their families. Since its launch in January 2023, Promise NYC has been a lifeline, providing childcare to immigrant families who were previously excluded from eligibility. However, while many vending families are eager to find childcare, many either don’t know about the program or are unable to secure a program slot. I am proud to stand with Speaker Adams and my colleagues in the Council in fighting for a $25 investment in Promise NYC to strengthen program outreach and increase the number of available slots. A just budget must include a fully funded Promise NYC,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, District 39.

“When families have access to childcare, parents can go to work while their children have a safe place to go. When Algún Día sent social workers throughout our City’s subway system and parks, they found that a lack of childcare was the biggest factor in why immigrant families were selling candy together. With nowhere to turn to access affordable care for their children, families are forced into making difficult decisions to ensure that they can continue to work, while keeping their families safe. It is imperative that the Mayor and City Council fund Promise NYC at $25 million in the upcoming City budget, to ensure that our newest neighbors have the tools necessary to truly thrive and build the next chapters of their lives here,” said Liza Schwartzwald, Director of Economic Justice and Family Empowerment, New York Immigration Coalition.

“Imagine the courage required, at such a tender age, to navigate an underground world—not just of trains but of complex social and legal challenges. The children and their parents carry not just candy, but also the heavy weight of uncertainty—fear of making the wrong decision, fear of displacement, and the terrifying possibility of separation from their families. Our team walked the subways, listened to heartfelt stories, and confronted the stark reality of needs unmet and potentials untapped. What we found was not just a call for help but a deep-seated desire among these children and their families to belong, contribute, and succeed. In this city of unparalleled resources and opportunities, the Mayor and City Council can help us reshape fears into frontiers of opportunity for every child, every family, and every newcomer who dreams of a better tomorrow by fully funding Promise NYC.” said Monica Sibri, Senior Advisor, Includus Fund and Co-founder, Algun Dia. 

“Immigrant students and their families should have the same access to an education as all New Yorkers. Promise NYC has been the first program to give young immigrant children access to the City’s infant and toddler programs and extended day 3-K and Pre-K programs that previously excluded them because they are undocumented. It has been a gamechanger in providing access to high-quality education programs to young children at a critical time in their development and a tremendous benefit to parents who can participate in training programs and look for employment and housing knowing that their children are safe and learning. Without continued funding, hundreds of children will lose their seats at the end of June. The City must invest and baseline $25M so that children can remain in their programs and additional families can apply,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director, Advocates for Children of New York. “To ensure that families can meaningfully participate in the education of their older children, we’re also calling on the City to restore $4M in the Immigrant Family Communication Outreach Initiative so that families can get information from their child’s school in their own language.”

"We at Center for Family Life in Sunset Park strongly support ongoing funding for the City's Promise NYC day care subsidy program for undocumented children. This essential service allows parents to pursue wage paying work and to enroll in English Language classes and other training opportunities that will promote their family's economic stability. When children are in safe and enriching day care settings they have access to food and early childhood education, and parents have the time and focus to attend to the many economic and social needs that they must address to nurture and support their young families," said Julia Jean-Francois, Co-Executive Director, Center for Family Life.

“At La Colmena, as a Staten Island provider of the Promise NYC, we have seen firsthand the vital role this service plays in our community, empowering families to work and thrive. Parents in the program say how their children feel safe, are learning English, and have a sense of community through the program. It would be detrimental to remove Promise NYC as the children are the future of NYC. Children deserve a right to child care regardless of their immigration status. We must stand together and demand that the City keeps its promise to our community,” said Yesenia Mata, Executive Director, La Colmena.

"Access to child care is crucial for all families and especially for many of the newest New Yorkers," said Gregory Brender, Chief Policy and Innovation Officer, Day Care Council of New York. "Children benefit from the interaction with caring adults and other children and the education they receive.  And parents need child care to work.  We are grateful to NYIC and Algun Dia for showing how lack of access to child care affects migrant families.  The City must respond to these findings with a budget that invests in early care and education for all families including investments in Promise NYC, funding for 3-K and salary parity for the early childhood workforce.”

 "NMIC is committed to ensuring that our immigrant communities are provided the necessary support to uplift themselves through educational and employment opportunities. In the past year, NMIC has enrolled 244 undocumented children in safe and affordable daycare services through the PromiseNYC initiative across Manhattan and the Bronx. This crucial support allows immigrant parents to pursue opportunities which allow them to better support their families. It is unacceptable that 83% of immigrant candy sellers aspire to pursue other lines of work but are deprived of this opportunity due to lack of accessible childcare. By expanding critical programs like PromiseNYC, the City will provide crucial support for immigrant families while paving the way to a brighter future for our newest New Yorkers" said Maria Lizardo, Executive Director, NMIC.

"Settlement houses know the importance of childcare and of supporting immigrants as they adjust to their new home,” said Nora Moran, Director of Policy & Advocacy, United Neighborhood Houses. “Promise NYC is rooted in the values of the settlement house movement, and we must ensure this program is funded and expanded at $25 million in the FY25 budget.  If Mayor Adams doesn’t reverse course, 600 families will lose childcare making it even harder for them to adjust and find work in our City. We thank the NYIC and Algún Día for shining a light on the needs of this population, and we urge the Mayor to invest in Promise NYC and ensure all New Yorkers have access to the childcare they need.”