Activists Press for More City Funding for Immigrants in 2020 Budget

Lovely Tejada during the demonstration to demand more funds for immigrant programs. (Photo by Edwin Martinez via El Diario)

Only weeks before the city will announce how its $92 billion budget for fiscal year 2020 will be allocated, pro-immigrant groups are clamoring for more resources for vital programs that support vulnerable communities.

Holding signs and shouting “immigrants are welcome in New York” and “immigrants should not be afraid,” dozens of protesters gathered on the steps of City Hall to demand that the city government reach into its pockets to show its commitment to defending immigrants.

“Immigrants make up over a third of New York’s population, and during these politically hostile times, it’s up to Mayor de Blasio to make sure our immigrant communities are supported and protected against Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda,” said Steve Choi, director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “NYC needs to fully fund programs to expand language access, improve adult literacy programs, ensure access to legal counsel and healthcare, and conduct an accurate Census 2020 with the support of community-based organizations.”

Anthony Feliciano, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, (…) said: “It’s simple: If there are cuts in many programs, our immigrant communities will have more sick people, fewer options, and even more deaths. Now that we’ve seen that the governor has made substantial cuts, the life and health of our people is in the hands of our mayor.” He added that in the face of hostility from the federal government, the city must not retreat from the initiatives that have worked.

“The Access Health NYC initiative is a City Council-funded project that has successfully proven that in-person assistance and ‘touches’ for community-based contacts are vital to knowing about options for coverage, navigation, and understanding our rights to health care, particularly among hard-to-reach populations. But that can all be undone for community-based organizations in the initiative and many other city public health efforts. All because of a budget cut in state aid known as Article 6 stemming from a failure in mayor-governor negotiations,” said Feliciano.

(…) Hasan Shafiqullah, attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit, stressed the need to increase resources for free attorneys, to prevent more family separation.

“In this sanctuary city, immigrants are under attack. With increasing restrictions on asylum, outrageous policies by the immigration courts, looming changes in the public charge ground of inadmissibility, restrictions on non-citizens’ access to federally-subsidized housing, and the continuing challenges of immigration detention, New Yorkers are in dire need of legal assistance,” he said. “We urge the City Council and the mayor to protect our communities by continuing to invest in vital, life-saving legal services and expanding programs like NYIFUP.”

Lovely Tejada, who grew up in Harlem and currently lives in Flatbush, said that if the city cuts things such as literacy programs for adults, translation services in hospitals, English classes and legal help, immigrants will face a crisis not only when it comes to immigration matters but also on issues such as housing and wage theft.

(…) “We must educate our communities to understand that the Census 2020 may put at risk school resources and the political representation that immigrants could achieve,” added the Mexican-Dominican youth.

Demonstrators asked the city to include $2.5 million in funds to educate communities about the Access Health NYC program and to cover 600,000 New Yorkers without health insurance, 50 percent of whom are undocumented.

(…) They also asked for an increase in $750,000 in funds allocated to the NY Council’s Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, which would help grassroots immigrant organizations develop cooperatives owned by workers.

(…)

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