City Council Promotes New Laws to Protect Dreamers

Council members Carlos Menchaca and Ydanis Rodríguez vote on two bills that seek to expand protections for “Dreamers” in light of the withdrawal of DACA. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

After the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate DACA, affecting 42,000 youths in New York State alone, the Big Apple’s elected officials are doubling their efforts to protect the immigrant population. On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committee on Immigration voted on two pieces of legislation to significantly expand the services and protections offered by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA).

Intro 1566, sponsored by Council members Ydanis Rodríguez and Daniel Dromm, would extend MOIA’s legal services and other protections available to “Dreamers” and their families and monitor the impact of the federal policy at a local level.

Rodríguez explained that the bill expands the definition of MOIA’s role with the purpose of reinforcing the coordination of essential services for Dreamers and undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation.

“With that, we want to make sure that there will be a better plan in place regarding the services and actions of the diverse agencies in the city,” said the council member. “We want to make sure that everyone – from children to the elderly – will receive the protections they need in a moment of uncertainty.”

The second bill, Intro 1578, presented by Council member Carlos Menchaca and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would create an inter-institutional workforce led by MOIA to look after the needs of the most vulnerable immigrant communities.

Vulnerable immigrants are the priority

Menchaca, chair of the Committee on Immigration, said that the bill focuses primarily on victims of violent crimes, human trafficking, and domestic violence and on members of the LGBT community, among other immigrants at risk.

“The City Council does not expect the protection for immigrants to be just a promise, which is why it is acting in the legislative field. We are focusing on safeguarding information and resources for these families,” said Menchaca after the public hearing in which the voting took place. “We are considering all types of cases, as we have families composed of undocumented parents and children who are citizens. It is a complicated situation, and that is why we need to coordinate all city agencies.”

Menchaca added that the piece of legislation is based on the results of a number of public hearings in which members of the immigrant community revealed the condition of invisibility endured by victims of violent crimes.

“We have safeguarded historic protections regarding health, public safety, education and other services, but it means nothing if the immigrant communities who need it most cannot have access to them,” he said, adding that “this is part of the New York’s sanctuary city status.”

Some of the actions proposed in the bills involve strengthening collaborations with base organizations, shelter churches and immigrant rights groups.

Immediate efforts focus on providing legal services to Dreamers who can still renew their DACA permits. Those whose permits expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, may apply for a two-year renewal, which should be submitted before Oct. 5.

MOIA spokesman Matt Dhaiti said via email that “Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration will continue to defend DACA and will use every tool to protect Dreamers.”

The bills’ key points

MOIA would:

  • Lead the city’s efforts to promote the welfare of immigrants, regardless of status.
  • Work with the Civil Justice Coordinator to assess the legal service needs of immigrants.
  • Establish a state and federal affairs unit to follow changing federal laws and policies.
  • Consult with city agencies on the implementation of laws and policies designed to protect immigrants.
  • Consult with agencies on best practices for serving victims of crime and human trafficking.
  • Report annually to the council on its activities and the unique needs of the immigrant community.

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Hotline for dreamers

In a separate story, El Diario announced that it set up a hotline offering legal counsel for Dreamers along with Univision 41, WADO, New York Immigration Coalition, Catholic Charities, and the Office for New Americans, to operate from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at  1-800-566-7636.

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