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1,300-Strong, Immigrants Rally in Albany for NY DREAM and other Immigrant Priorities

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
Albany, NY  (Wednesday, March 14, 2012)

1,300-Strong, Immigrants Rally in Albany for NY DREAM and other Immigrant Priorities

 On an unseasonably mild March day, 1,300 immigrants and their allies representing 94 organizations warmed up Albany even more. Coming from all corners of the state, they converged on Albany for the New York Immigration Coalition’s 15th Annual Immigrants’ Day of Action. The day marked an inspiring and impressive feat in civic engagement and participatory democracy.

With urgency, the diverse gathering—including undocumented students, immigrant parents, teachers, faith leaders, advocates, and service providers--called for passage of NY DREAM legislation as a top priority. With thousands of undocumented students graduating from NY state high schools every year, passing NY DREAM legislation would benefit New York enormously and uphold the state’s heritage as a welcoming beacon that values the contributions of immigrants.

In Albany today, community members held signs and loudly chanted that immigrants are New York, a state that is home to approximately 4.2 million immigrants and accounts for more than one in five New Yorkers.

Participants in this day of action presented a detailed list of priorities to help strengthen communities, rebuild the economy, and position New York as a model of common sense and justice for the nation. Among other priorities, participants recognized the Governor’s establishment of an Office for New Americans and—in rallies and in meetings with policy makers--urged the administration to strengthen the citizenship and other immigrant services it would offer. Other key priorities included ensuring immigrants are included in health reform measures at the state level, preventing state and local law enforcement agencies from engaging in immigration enforcement, facilitating immigrant parent engagement and providing immigrant students the tools they need to succeed and obtain a high school diploma.

[Photo Above] Arriving in Albany, crowds gather in the Hart Theatre in The Egg

Participants began their day with a welcome program at the Hart Theater in The Egg. Then group then marched to Lafayette Park, where a press conference and rally was held. In the afternoon, a cultural program was held back in the Hart Theater, while community members and advocates met with dozens of lawmakers and officials to press their concerns and promote the NYIC’s Top Ten Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Look at the crowds here today for our Immigrants’ Day of Action—New York’s immigrant community is growing in number and growing in power!,” said Ms. Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “We have real potential here for New York to promote positive and common sense measures for the state’s 4 million immigrant community members—to, quite simply, do the right thing and set an example for the rest of the nation. Our top ten list provides the Governor and the Legislature a roadmap for moving New York forward, for strengthening our economy, and remaining a stronghold for justice and opportunity. What do we need? Among other things, a diploma and a DREAM. Let’s do it, New York!”

[Photo Above] Students rally for NY DREAM legislation and other priorities for immigrant communities in Lafayette Park, Albany


[Photo Above] Yelky Ramos, Baruch College student and DREAMer (right) and Nataly Lopez, Baruch College student and DREAMer address crowd

Statements from NYIC’s 15th Annual Immigrant Day of Action Co-Chairs:

“The Immigrants’ Day of Action in Albany is an unparalleled opportunity to advocate for issues that are critical to our communities, with the direct participation of our members. It is also, an inspiring moment for us to build our collective momentum for greater actions,” said Bakary Tandia of African Services Committee.

"Arab American Association of New York is honored to join immigrant communities across New York State to add our voices in support of the NYS Dream Act,” says Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of NY. “Our bus will be filled with high school students from Brooklyn who are informed, equipped and ready to lead."

"Making sure that all students in New York have access to sources of financial aid is part of a broader set of reforms to maintain a diverse, educated and highly-skilled workforce to drive economic growth,” said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “As a nation of immigrants, we should embrace the diversity that has always been a unique and irreplaceable source of our strength as a country and state.”

Sr. Kelly Carpenter, Esq., director of Cabrini Immigrant Services said, “Now is the time for our representatives here in New York State to bring justice to the immigrant community. Immigrant workers spend long hours, often seven days per week, to make low wages on which they can barely support themselves. Our DREAMers do not give up even though their future is uncertain. They have not lost their will to contribute to the progress of their families and their state. Despite high numbers of deportations in our community, we have not lost faith. This is why Cabrini Immigrant Services is going to Albany together with St. Mary Parish, St. Theresa Paris , and residents of the Lower East Side. We are all immigrants and we all contribute and it is time to make a change for the better. What we seek is simple: we are asking Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to pass New York State DREAM legislation, and open up the opportunity of higher education. The immigrant community wants to see families kept together, a dignified salary paid to our workers, and increased availability of quality social and legal services. We are calling on all our state representatives to pass laws that acknowledge the importance of our contributions and create more opportunity for all.”

“CUSH is delighted to join the NYIC and all the other groups that have come to Albany from all across the state to let the legislative body know, it's time to pass the state dream act,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter of Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH). “Thousands of innocent young people will benefit as a result of this legislation and we are committed to do everything within our power to ensure that before the end of the legislation session, the bills are on the governor's desk.”

"New York's greatness is so much a result of it being a welcoming first home for newcomers,” said Msgr. Sullivan, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “We need to continue to draw on the vitality and values of immigrants to build an even better future for all people of the State. Education and other services are critical to building a strong New York for all."

“El Centro del Inmigrante is proud to join over one thousand other immigrants across the state on this Annual Immigrants’ Day in Albany to express the issues and concerns of our communities,” said Gonzalo Mercado, executive director of El Centro del Inmigrante. “From health care to public safety and from NYS DREAM legislation to strengthening workers rights, we come together in a unified voice."

“CUSH is delighted to join the NYIC and all the other groups that have come to Albany from all across the state to let the legislative body know, it's time to pass the state dream act,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter of Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH). “Thousands of innocent young people will benefit as a result of this legislation and we are committed to do everything within our power ensure that before the end of the legislation session, the act is on the governor's desk.”

I have worked in a NYC high school for ten years and every year we graduate students - fine, talented students - who have no future,” said Tom Hepworth, parent coordinator of Curtis High School, Staten Island, NY. “They were brought here as small children. They were brought up as Americans. See themselves as Americans. Would feel like a foreigner if they were returned to their country of origin. Yet they have no real access to higher education. No access to a career. No access to their dreams. NY DREAM legislation is not an immigration bill - it is an education bill.”

“The EIIC is proud to support the Albany Day event. The staff who work at our center know first hand the difference English Language classes can make and we join with all the front line staffers and students to ensure that we seek funding to continue this important aspect of our immigration service provision,” said Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of Emerald Isle Immigration Center.

“Haitian-Americans United for Progress has come to Albany to represent Haitian immigrants and stand united with other immigrant communities to keep the pressure on our legislators and make ourselves heard,” said Elsie Accilien, executive director of HAUP-NY. “The concerns of immigrant communities, including safeguarding immigrant services including adult literacy education, strengthening health care, ensuring that students can get high school diplomas, and stopping local police involvement in immigration enforcement, are critical to all our communities. We also stand with all immigrant communities in urging congress to pass New York State DREAM legislation, which will make New York stronger.”

“We are going to Albany so that our legislators hear us loud and clear,” said Zoe Colon, executive director of the Hispanic Resource Center in Mamaroneck, NY. “The rapidly growing population of Hispanic youth is a significant contributor in the future of this State. New York State needs to set an example and support our young people’s higher education. For many immigrant families, Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grant assistance, is the only way they can afford to send their children to college. How can we expect our youth to live out the American dream if we fail to support them at one of the most critical junctures in their lives? New York is better than that! Support the NYS DREAM Act.”

Betsy Palmieri, executive director of Hudson Valley Community Coalition said, “We are excited to be mobilizing as a coalition from the towns and cities in the Hudson Valley, to be able to tell our representatives what OUR priorities are for the year ahead. We are students, parents, workers and employers, and this Day of Action gives us a chance for our voices to be heard. We are meeting hundreds of other New Yorkers who are here for the same reason.”

“Faith leaders and communities throughout New York State are very glad to join Immigrants’ Day of Action to close out the 40-hour fast for a fair budget and a minimum wage that began Monday March 12th at 8 pm,” said Sara Niccoli, executive director of the Labor-Religion Coalition. “This year the Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Bread and Roses Strike, when 20,000 predominantly immigrant millworkers fought for better wages and working conditions. Men, women and child laborers went on strike because they worked 60 hours a week and still went hungry. Sadly -and shamefully- minimum wage earners face many of the same conditions today, even as their employers post record profits. Collectively, we also call on state legislators to enact a fair budget. New York's legislators cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve both god and money. God is in the people. The Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS and its network of faith, labor and community allies demand a budget that uplifts the dignity of all the people of New York State.”

Leticia Alanis, director of La Union in Brooklyn, NY, said, “La Union is proud to be a part of the NYIC’s 15th Annual Immigrants’ Day of Action in Albany. We want to have an equal voice and participate in the democratic process in order to make New York a place of justice and opportunity for all. La Union members, mostly families and youth from Brooklyn, will specifically go to Albany to convey the urgency of passing legislation that would make possible for all students to attend college, regardless of immigration status, and to advocate for other educational policies needed to support disadvantaged students. We call on State decision-makers to work with our communities in developing solutions that work for all of us."

"NY needs to pass fair legislation that will integrate our immigrant community and will boost our state economy," said Osman Canales of Long Island Immigrants Students Association.

"At a time when Korean American and immigrant communities are still struggling, it is more important than ever that our New York State elected officials show leadership," said Steven Choi, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. "Our communities demand that New York's elected officials pass DREAM legislation, and protect our future by providing proper resources for our immigrant students, parents, patients, English Language Learners, and workers."

“Immigrants are a large and growing part of the population all over New York State, and we are contributing to the culture, economy, and civic affairs of our communities,” said May Chen of the New York State Immigrant Action Fund. “I am proud to be here on behalf of the New York State Immigrant Action Fund adding our presence and voice to support immigrants. We are here to advocate and lobby for our issues, which include community services, health care, increasing the minimum wage, public safety and education, and especially NYS DREAM legislation, which will give promising immigrant students access to public and private financial assistance for their college education.”

“We are proud to be a part of the 2012 Immigrants Day of Action. The history of our union is steeped in the struggle of immigrant healthcare workers, fighting for better lives,” said Ana Vazquez, Vice President, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “In the 1930s, in the 1960s and today, we continue to work to pursue every opportunity for a good education for our members and their children. For too many years now, the federal government has failed our communities by refusing to pass the DREAM Act. This has left undocumented youth in NY without any form of relief. As a state with one of the largest immigrant populations, we must, together, be at the forefront of progressive immigration policies, pushing back on the tide of national and local anti-immigrant policies.”

"Russian-speaking Immigrants are proud to be an active part of the indivisible immigrant community of New York,” said Vladimir Epshteyn, Russian American Voters Educational League (RAVEL). “In Albany our voice, multiplied by voices of hundreds of representatives of different immigrant communities, will help to achieve our dreams and common goals."

“We are going to Albany with the NY Immigration Coalition to educate public officials about our communities' shared vision of justice, which includes equitable access to funding for all students regardless of their immigration status, as proposed in the New York State DREAM Act,” said Dmitri Daniel Glinski, president of the Russian-Speaking Community Council of Manhattan & the Bronx and executive director of the American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights. “We are also going to raise awareness about new Russian-speaking Americans’ leadership in public affairs along with their struggle against prejudices and inequities in employment and the workplace and in the competition for support for our community projects.“

“We are proud to be a part of the 2012 Immigrants Day of Action. The history of our union is steeped in the struggle of immigrant healthcare workers, fighting for better lives,” said Ana Vazquez, Vice President, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “In the 1930s, in the 1960s and today, we continue to work to pursue every opportunity for a good education for our members and their children. For too many years now, the federal government has failed our communities by refusing to pass the DREAM Act. This has left undocumented youth in NY without any form of relief. As a state with one of the largest immigrant populations, we must, together, be at the forefront of progressive immigration policies, pushing back on the tide of national and local anti-immigrant policies.”

Statements from NY DREAMers:

"For too long we have been silent about the struggles of the Black immigrant youth," said Mihkel Crichlow, DREAMer with The Black Institute. "We are here today to urge the political leadership of New York State to support NY DREAM legislation and acknowledge that many within the immigrant community will benefit.”

Naflan Doole, student and president of the Curtis High School DREAMers club in Staten Island, NY said, “What really defines an American is a person who is hard working, a person who contributes to society. When I learned that I was undocumented, I was faced with a question: Why should I try anymore? But I have tenacity. I have heart. I have passion. Why should being undocumented stop me. It has never stopped me from studying for tests, completing projects: whatever was thrown in front of me. I want to help all the kids that are too afraid to ask for help. My dream one day is to become a senator and help everyone in New York. This is what I aspire to be and I won't let papers stop me.”

“The passage of NY Dream Legislation will mean the immediate financial relief for many immigrant students, but more importantly, will give us hope that we will one day have the opportunities to give back to this country,” said Jeffrey Louie, currently attending the City College of New York. “Students who are constantly striving to learn, succeed and contribute back to their communities despite such adversity deserve all the help they can get, and NY Dream Legislation will give many students the chance to do so.”

Nataly Lopez, a Baruch College student, said, “Students like myself are hardworking and all we want is a chance to fulfill our educational ambitions and this is a noble effort. Because of the limitations on financial aid to students without immigration status, I have had to slowly put myself through school one or two classes per semester at a time. I have dreams to help my community here in New York, and by passing NY DREAM legislation, this will set me on the path to fulfilling my dreams”

“New York DREAM legislation will allow students like me to continue our education beyond a high school diploma”, said Yelky Ramos, a Baruch College student. “It will help me become a public interest lawyer, and it will help my peers become future doctors, nurses, engineers, accountants, and non-profit leaders, just to name a few. We cannot deny students who want to pursue a higher education the opportunity to do so. We need New York DREAM legislation, and we need it now.”

Statements from NY legislators:

Assemblyman Guillermo Linares stated, "I can't think of a better investment to New York State than allowing undocumented youth access to higher education. It is common knowledge that higher education provides a very strong return on investment. The days ahead are critical to make the New York Dream Act a reality as we engage in negotiating this year's budget. According to the cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Fiscal Policy Institute last week, a increase of a 2 percent to current TAP would allow us to respond to the needs of these students, who are among New York State's best and brightest. With the support of the New York State Legislature and New Yorkers, I am confident that this year we are going to have a victory and will finally be able to make the NY Dream Act a reality."

NY State Assembly Member Félix Ortiz said, “Immigrant students face many disadvantages when it comes to their education. Whether it is the fact that English is a second language or the fact that they may not have the financial security needed to attend institutions of higher education, these young individuals should not be barred from a quality education.”

Senator Bill Perkins said, "It is universally accepted that those who pay taxes should benefit from those taxes, whether those benefits be public safety or access to higher education. According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants paid over $662 million in taxes to New York State in 2010. They paid approximately; $104.4 million in personal income taxes, $95 million in property taxes, and over $463 million in sales taxes. It is unjust , unfair and un-American to collect well over a half a billion dollars in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants only to deny them financial support for higher education that is granted to other New Yorkers. The benefits of the Dream Act far outweigh the costs. The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that the cost would be less than 2% of TAP. Furthermore, The Board of Regents estimates that the cost would be less than 1% of TAP. Both estimates amount to about a million dollars, or 1/662 of what undocumented immigrants pay in taxes. Allowing this injustice and these exclusionary tactics to continue violates the very principles on which this nation was founded."

Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "As a State Senator for the 33rd District in the Bronx, I am proud to represent ALL the residents of my district, regardless of where they were born or their immigration status. It is important for us as legislators to recognize the diverse needs of immigrant communities throughout the state as well as our responsibility as their representatives to make it possible for immigrants to be successful and to be able to access affordable education, health care and state services."

Click HERE for additional statements of support for New York State DREAM.

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