Only a few days remain before the city approves the budget ‒ estimated at $82 billion ‒ with which Mayor Bill de Blasio will work during the 2017 fiscal year. Ecuadorean Silvia Arias hopes that the mayor will increase resources offered to immigrants in New York City, such as English lessons.
“These classes give us a chance to move forward in this country, adapt to its system and find better jobs,” said the homemaker, who joined the call being made by several leaders and activist groups to have more money assigned to help people arriving from other countries.
Organizations such as Make the Road New York (MRNY), the Asian American Federation and the New York Immigration Coalition have submitted a report entitled “A Budget for the City of Immigrants,” which details the most urgent priorities of the people who come to New York in search of the “American dream.”
The report recognizes the dedication de Blasio has shown regarding immigrant issues through dozens of initiatives, but also asks him to assign more funding to grant New Yorkers greater access to all available programs.
The activists came up with a comprehensive list of the types of funding they are soliciting and the initiatives for which they suggest the money should be invested. These include key programs and issues such as English lessons for adults, legal services for complex immigration cases, affordable housing, solutions to school overcrowding, LGBTQ rights, access to healthcare and expanding community schools.
The report points out that immigrants make up 37 percent of the New York City population, as well as 45 percent of its labor force and 49 percent of all small business owners.
Martha Dávila, spokeswoman for MRNY, said that ‒ under the leadership of Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, among others ‒ New York has demonstrated enormous support for immigrants on issues such as the municipal ID card (IDNYC), universal pre-K and community schools. Still, she said, much remains to be done.
“Our communities have additional necessities that call for city funding. As a working-class mother, I have seen my daughter, who has special needs, require more support from her school,” said the Queens resident, adding: “It has always been hard to find affordable housing.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Jones Austin, executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, asked the city to take into account the points brought up by the document, as they would make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of people.
“This report offers useful recommendations that, if implemented, would ensure that New York’s immigrant workers will have more opportunities to achieve equality and progress,” said Jones Austin.
That is the hope of Colombian restaurant worker Franky Castro, who is convinced that the budget allocations would make his future and that of other immigrants more promising.
“We need to invest more in classes, because most people living in our communities need a second language to improve their quality of life,” said Castro.
Javier H. Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, said that the report includes specific issues that the city is not in a position to ignore.
“This report shows how, in recent years, our city has taken important steps regarding the well-being and protection of our immigrant community, but also how much we need larger investments in key programs for next year. These include $16 million for adult education, $13.5 million for legal defense in complex immigration cases, and $5 million to expand the Access Health NYC health program,” said Valdés.
Regarding the funding requests and recommendations made in the report, Jessica Ramos, spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio’s administration, said that City Hall has been very dedicated to a number of these issues, such as affordable housing.
“We are proud of the investments that we have made to protect tenants and of the affordability that our housing plan is offering New York’s working class, including immigrant families,” said the representative, adding that the city sees the issue as a priority and that any tenant who may be facing harassment or eviction may call 311 to access free legal representation.
Ramos also mentioned that City Hall has made a large investment in services for immigrants and that they will continue to work hard for the people who arrive in the city looking for a better life.
“The administration is committed to offering immigrant communities the crucial services to combat inequality. The city of New York has adopted a number of programs to help residents regardless of their immigration status ‒ such as IDNYC and Action Health NYC ‒ and we will continue to work to eliminate barriers limiting access to services and opportunities,” said Ramos.