New York City’s history as a place where generations of immigrants have sought freedom and opportunity inspires and defines us. But today, decades of broken national policies have put communities we treasure at risk.
More than 700,000 hardworking members of our communities live in the shadows — subject to extortion by abusive employers and scam artists. Their relationship with law enforcement is destabilized by laws that do not work here in New York—fostering a climate of fear and alienation from civic life.
From his service in the City Council and as Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio has been dedicated to creating a city that is safe and open to all who come to visit and live here.
Expanding Language Access. As chair of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee, Bill de Blasio shepherded though the landmark Benefits Translation for Immigrants law, which guaranteed access to translation services for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in need.
Supporting Immigrant Businesses. As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio partnered with ACCION USA to survey 625 immigrant-owned firms across the five boroughs about the outside help they received. Time and again, immigrant business owners reported they were simply unaware of ways they could get help. Based on this report, Bill de Blasio developed a pilot program to demonstrate how immigrant small businesses can access the help they need from existing city programs.
Fighting Detention Center Injustices. Bill de Blasio also stood up against the mistreatment of immigrants in detention centers, especially those operated by private for-profit companies. Many of these facilities, including a center in Queens managed by GEO Group, have been accused of intolerable treatment of detainees—including sexual abuse and guard brutality. Joining the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York, Bill de Blasio demanded a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations of abuse at private immigrant detention facilities contracted by the federal government. He also called for the termination of contracts with any company found to have mistreated immigrant detainees.
Creating DREAM Scholarships. Working through the Fund for Public Advocacy, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Korean American Community Foundation, and by harnessing additional non-profit funding, Bill de Blasio created the DREAM fellowship—a scholarship and leadership development program for undocumented college students. Beyond helping dozens of students, the initiative has highlighted the need for enactment of national and state DREAM Act legislation. A second cohort of students just completed the spring semester with the aid of this program.
Immigrants have always been an essential part of our city’s energy, drive and growth — making New York City what it is today. It is critical that New York continues to welcome immigrants and provide opportunity for those who are so important to our future. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will draw from his long record of helping the vibrant and diverse immigrant communities of New York to ensure City Hall is responsive and effective. These fights form the cornerstone of de Blasio’s commitment to New York’s cherished immigrant communities, and he knows much more must be done to ensure New York City maintains its position as the gateway to opportunity for immigrants.
Offer a Universal City ID Card to Residents
Bill de Blasio believes it’s time for a city-backed ID card that will allow all residents — including undocumented immigrants — to access basic services like opening a bank account or signing an apartment lease. These identification cards will also help foster better relations between the police and undocumented people, who often choose not to report crimes out of fear they may be deported. In New Haven, Connecticut—which offers a municipal ID to undocumented people—crime in the largely-immigrant Fair Haven community declined 20 percent in the two years after the IDs were introduced, even as crime-reporting increased. San Francisco and Los Angeles have also approved or are close to approving city ID cards.
Allow Undocumented New Yorkers Access to Driver’s Licenses
Bill de Blasio will work for legislation that would make New York the fifth state to allow undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. This will improve roadway safety by getting undocumented people who are already driving on our streets into driver’s education classes and covered by auto insurance. It will also help weave undocumented immigrants into the fabric of our shared New York civic life, as Congress debates comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
End Cooperation With Federal ‘Detainer Requests’ For Minor Violations
One of the more egregious problems with our broken immigration system is the “federal detainer” process, which, in its current form, compels local police to hand over legal and undocumented immigrants to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — even for minor crimes committed years ago. Bill de Blasio will end cooperation with abusive federal “detainer requests” for all residents, except those who have been convicted of violent or serious felonies.
Stop Punishment for Sponsors of Low-Income Immigrants
Bill de Blasio will end the policy of the city’s Human Resources Administration, implemented in 2012, that requires sponsors of legal immigrants to repay the city for any assistance the sponsored immigrant seeks out. New York — the city of immigrants — is the only city with this punitive policy. In some cases, it deters elderly and vulnerable people who are here legally from receiving help they’re legally entitled to. In other cases, it places undue financial burdens on sponsors who could be facing economic hardships themselves. Either way, it’s a wrong-headed policy that Bill de Blasio will repeal as mayor.
Cut Red Tape For Immigrant Domestic Violence Victims Seeking Protection
Victims of domestic violence and other crimes are eligible for a special visa if they cooperate with prosecutors. However, the visa hinges on various city agencies properly certifying each case — and many agencies are slow and unresponsive to these requests, putting victims at further risk of violence or deportation. Bill de Blasio will fight to standardize and monitor the certification process in each agency to speed requests.
Improve School Programs For Students Who Don’t Speak English
One hundred and fifty thousand public school students need help learning English, provided through what’s known as the English Language Learner (ELL) programs. Less than half of these students graduate from high school. There has been no school system-wide program to bring their achievement up to the level of other students. There are some effective programs that can serve as a model for a citywide effort, which should also include after-school and summer programs, getting parents involved, and better training for teachers.
Utilize Schools to Provide Immigrant Services
A small pilot program has allowed community groups and schools to work together to provide services to adult immigrants. This program has been very successful, for example, in helping immigrant parents learn about the college application process and obtain needed documents. Schools are an excellent location to connect immigrant parents with other services, such as English language courses and health services, and as well to help them obtain a driver’s license and the city identification card proposed by Bill de Blasio.
Provide Legal Services and Adult Language Training
Legal services and programs that help adults learn English, known as ESL—English as a Second Language— are essential in helping immigrants become citizens and become part of our city, in helping them avoid unjustified deportations, and in aiding those seeking asylum handle necessary documentation of their situation. It is critical to use carefully vetted community organizations in different immigrant groups to ensure these services are provided to all who need them.
Offer Access to Speakers of Other Languages
More than 1.8 million New York City residents over the age of five need interpretation or translation services to communicate effectively, and they should be offered translation services and documents. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will build on his work in the City Council to expand further access to translation services for New Yorkers in need.
Protect HHC’s Ability to Serve Undocumented Immigrants
Federal health care reform excludes undocumented immigrants, who will then come to depend even more on the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation for health care. As health care reform is implemented, Bill de Blasio will designate high-ranking officials at HHC and the city’s health department to protect immigrant families’ access to health care.