City Budget’s $46M in Aid for Immigrants Not Enough, Activists Say

Rally for solidarity against the deportation of immigrants in front of 26 Federal Plaza. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

In the midst of the federal government’s attacks during the Trump era, the New York City Council stated that it remains committed to protecting the immigrant community and that it included $46 million in the budget for fiscal year 2019 to fund assistance programs.

According to the city’s government, these resources are proof that the local authorities are prioritizing giving local immigrants access to legal aid, health services, education and support programs.

This was City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s statement, to which he added that the body he presides over will “do everything within its reach” to continue supporting immigrants.

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Of the allocated funds, $10 million will be used to fund the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), which provides free lawyers; $2.2 million to English language improvement and high school programs for adults; $12 million for literacy programs ($8 million from City Hall and $4 million from the Council); and $2 million from City Hall will pay for legal services to defend workers’ rights.

The Council also increased funding for the CUNY Citizenship Now! program to $2.5 million and for the Immigrant Health Initiative to $2 million.

Despite the additional monies in the city budget destined to immigrants, not everyone believes that New York is completely committed. Organizations and activists insist that the local government has fallen short, particularly in its plans to make free lawyers available to immigrants.

“In recent years, New York City has taken very significant steps to protect immigrant communities, even after providing immigration services. Still, with the ongoing attacks coming from the Trump administration, it is troubling and absurd to see that the mayor is limiting those services and the access to due process,” said Javier Valdés, co-director of organization Make the Road New York, as he requested more support and resources.

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Betsy Plum, vice president of policy at The New York Immigration Coalition, also pointed out that, in the field of English education, the funds assigned to literacy programs for immigrants will not cover most of the need.

“They gave us money for one year, when the truth is that only 3 percent of the adults in need of English and literacy classes and access to services are benefiting from this, and we are leaving 97 percent of the people behind due to lack of resources,” said Plum in a worried tone.

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