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Immigrant Groups and City Officials Press New York Immigration Coalition’s City Policy Priorities


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York City  (Tuesday, April 17, 2012)

Immigrant Groups and City Officials Press New York Immigration Coalition’s City Policy Priorities

On an unseasonably warm spring day, two hundred New Yorkers, including advocates, city officials, immigrant community members, and dozens of diverse immigrant groups, gathered at City Hall to promote the NYIC’s Top City Budget and Policy Priorities for the year.

Immigrants account for more than one-third of the city’s residents and 29% of all voters in New York. These numbers demonstrate that New York is an immigrant city, and immigrants have a growing political presence.
Among the priorities for the year are the need to protect funding for programs, including ESL, adult literary and legal services; expanding support for Family Resource Centers, school-community partnerships that promote immigrant parent engagement; and ensuring accountability and oversight of the NYPD.

“This is our 15th annual Immigrants’ Day of Action at City Hall, and we call on the City to work with immigrant communities to address the urgent issues of human services and civil rights,” said Ms. Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “The Mayor and the Council must together, make it a top priority to allocate fair funding for immigrant services and ensure fair treatment of individuals by the NYPD regardless of their religion and ethnic background.”

[Photo] Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition

City officials joined the Coalition in support of the day’s agenda.

"Ensuring that our immigrant communities get their fair share of tax dollars is my top budget priority for this fiscal year," said NYC Council Member and Chair of the Council's Committee on Immigration, Daniel Dromm. "My goal is to minimally maintain current funding levels for programs such as Immigrant Opportunities Initiative funding and adult literacy services that are vital to immigrant communities while at the same time continuing to push for additional funding."

[Photo] Councilmember Daniel Dromm addresses crowd

“In these tough economic times, we cannot forget immigrants and services for immigrants,” said Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Immigrant New Yorkers and their children represent two-thirds of our city and they deserve our help engaging in the political process and working to better their lives and those of their children. About half of all new voters in 2008 were immigrants, demonstrating that they want to be part of the political process. Participatory budgeting allows all New Yorkers in participating districts a say in where their tax dollars go and the results speak for themselves. In my district, 39% of voters in 2009 were Latino but this year’s participatory budgeting vote saw Latinos make up 47% of voters according to survey data. I join the New York Immigration Coalition in encouraging my colleagues to adopt participatory budgeting and supporting the other measures on their platform to integrate immigrants into our communities.”

[Photo] Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito addresses crowd

"There's no question; New York is an immigrant town" said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. "More than a third of New York City residents are immigrants, including myself, and we have to make sure the city's budget addresses their needs. The funding the Immigration Coalition is calling for would provide the foundations for immigrants to achieve success, a goal that all New Yorkers can support."

[Photo] Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez addresses crowd

With the issue of NYPD surveillance getting added attention with today’s announcement of a Pulitzer prize award to the Associated Press for its reporting on the subject, speakers also highlighted the issue.

“As a child of immigrant parentage and as the representative of a predominantly immigrant community, I consider the needs of immigrants in New York City a top priority,” said Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “I hope that will be reflected that in our upcoming budget and policy decisions. I am proud to support many of the New York Immigration Coalition’s priorities, including participatory budgeting and the need for greater NYPD accountability. We must also push for the restoration of funding to the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative, which has supported programs that best serve the legal and financial needs of a population that is otherwise at risk for neglect and fraud.”

[Photo] Councilmember Jumaane Williams addresses crowd

"I am proud to show my support for the immigrant community in New York and to call on Mayor Bloomberg to fund the initiatives and social services that matter most to newcomers to our City and country," said Councilmember Margaret Chin. "In our City today immigrants still face substantial hurdles along the road to getting an education, finding a job, and becoming a citizen. Too often, immigrant communities and the services they depend on are the target of Mayor Bloomberg's budget axe. In a year when New York City will once again struggle to make up the shortfall due to decreases in federal and state funds, we must ensure that the immigrant community is a priority."

[Photo] Councilmember Margaret Chin addresses crowd

Advocates urged that funding for the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative (IOI) be restored to FY 2010 levels of $5 million, to ensure access to legal and ESL services to enable immigrants throughout the city to fully contribute to the economy.

“Immigrant New Yorkers have long been the bedrock of support for our City’s economy. Supporting immigrant services through Immigrant Opportunities Initiative (IOI) will get our City on the short road to economic recovery and provide us with a strong foundation for lasting prosperity for all,” said S.J. Jung, president, MinKwon Center for Community Action.

[Photo] S.J Jung, board president, MinKwon Center for Community Action

Advocates also advocated for investing in educational opportunities and services for immigrants.

“When we invest in services for new immigrants, we get a stronger workforce. We get parents who are more involved in their children’s education. We get neighbors who are more involved in their communities. Many of the initiatives on this list of budget and policy priorities are short term investments, which improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” said KC Williams, director of adult education of Queens Community House in Jackson Heights.

[Photo] Cruz Quito, ESOL student at Queens Community House speaks of the importance of funding for ESOL classes; KC Williams, director of adult education at QCH stands to the left

“We need to ensure that all English language learners can graduate from public school with a meaningful and quality education that will lead to college and careers. Addressing the shortage of bilingual and ESL teachers will be key,” said Mae Lee, executive director of Chinese Progressive Association. “We also must not forget the needs of the most vulnerable students such as those whose formal education has been interrupted. Parent involvement is also a key to student success. Parents must be able to access their child's school. Family resource centers, if adequately funded, can provide the support needed to involve parents in their child's education.

[Photo] Mae Lee, executive director of Chinese Progressive Association

For immigrant health advocates, healthcare remained a top priority item for the year.

"Working with a large number of low income, uninsured immigrants every day, we are aware how crucial the Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) is in their lives as the only affordable and accessible option,” said Sudha Acharya, executive director of South Asian Council for Social Services. “To protect these individuals and families, it is imperative to protect the HHC and the other critical health funding in the budget."

[Photo] Sudha Acharya, executive director, South Asian Council for Social Services

"We are looking to the city's elected officials to take action to address the significant concerns of minority communities regarding police practices. Allegations of overreaching and potential abuses of police power cannot go unchecked,” said Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager at the New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. “It is time for our elected officials to demonstrate the political will to create concrete change, starting with the installation of an oversight mechanism."

[Photo] Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager at the New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations-NY



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