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Advocates Launch “Engaging Immigrant New York City” Campaign, Will Mobilize Immigrant New Yorkers in Preparation for 2016 Presidential Elections


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 2126272227,  E-mail: tyaku@nyic.org
New York  (Thursday, June 11, 2015)

Advocates Launch “Engaging Immigrant New York City” Campaign, Will Mobilize Immigrant New Yorkers in Preparation for 2016 Presidential Elections

 New Campaign Will Focus On Education and Empowerment to Engage All Communities

On the steps of City Hall today, dozens of advocates as part of the New York Civic Engagement Collaborative facilitated by the New York Immigration Coalition gathered for the launch of the “Engaging Immigrant New York City” campaign (#EngageNYC). The campaign will build civic and electoral engagement of immigrant and all New Yorkers, with the aim to educate, engage, and mobilize immigrant New Yorkers and increase the accessibility of elections ahead of the 2016 Presidential elections. Joined by City Council Members Carlos Menchaca, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Helen Rosenthal, the Collaborative released a set of policy recommendations with the goal of increasing civic engagement of all New Yorkers and a toolkit for community based organizations and civic leaders to conduct outreach and education in their community.

The Campaign aims to work closely with New York City Council, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the New York City Board of Elections to ensure that the following policy recommendations are implemented by the end of 2015. Those recommendations include:

1) Improving and Expanding Language Access in Elections
2) Expansion of Student Voter Registration Day
3) Engaging with Local Communities through Participatory Budgeting

A full list of recommendations are available at bit.ly/EngagingImmigrantNY.

“Through a two-pronged approach of educating and empowering communities through civic and electoral education, this Campaign aims to ensure that all New Yorkers are engaged on the local level and that those who can vote are prepared ahead of the November 2016 Presidential election,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “The Collaborative’s policy recommendations to expand language access in all elections, engage high school students through a student voter registration day, and engage local communities through participatory budgeting is a means of ensuring that all New Yorkers are able to participate in civic processes on the city, state, and national level. We look forward to working with New York City Council, the Campaign Finance Board, and the Board of Elections to implement these changes for a truly engaged New York.”

Expressing his support for the initiative, Chair of the New York City Council Immigration Committee, Council Member Carlos Menchaca said, “It is important that we continue to dialogue about the issues that face our immigrant communities, and about the tools we can offer them to be organized and engaged. New York City is leading on this front. IDNYC and the Participatory Budgeting Project are two ways that our city is expressing its commitment to empowering people of all experiences—including immigrants. I am grateful that the Civic Engagement Collaborative is continuing to elevate this conversation.”

His support was echoed by other members of City Council.

“I am excited to be a part of the Engaging Immigrant New York City Campaign and to have the Civic Engagement Collaborative’s support of Student Voter Registration Day,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “The first Student Voter Registration held in March was a resounding success, increasing student registration by 500%. Our coalition of 15 City Council Members, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, three government agencies, the primary unions representing our City’s teachers and administrators, nearly a dozen civic education and voter registration groups, partnered with 25 schools in all five boroughs to register over 2,000 young people to vote! The overarching message of the day is that all people can and should be involved in selecting the people who make decisions in government and the programs that impact their communities. I am already looking forward to the 2016 Student Voter Registration Day.”

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca expresses support for the #EngageNYC campaign.

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal speaks about her support for student voter registration.

"Engaging all New Yorkers from all backgrounds is necessary to improve civic action and voter participation in our city. Every New Yorker deserves a seat at the table, and the Civic Engagement Collaborative is working hard to make that happen. I look forward to our city reaching its full potential for participation," said Council Member Ben Kallos.

“With today’s launch of the Engaging Immigrant New York City campaign, we can ensure that communities that have long been part of the cultural fabric of New York, become an empowered and organized component of the city’s electoral fabric as well,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “By educating, engaging and mobilizing immigrant New Yorkers, while simultaneously working to improve the accessibility of elections, we can ensure that all communities of New Yorkers have a strong voice when it comes to electing their representation.”

Dozens of members of the New York Civic Engagement Collaborative, which is made up of community organizing, democracy, and social service groups, gathered enthusiastically for the launch of the campaign:

“As a committed partner to the NYIC Civic Engagement Collaborative, the Arab American Association of New York welcomes the new Engaging Immigrant New York campaign,” said Zeinab Khalil, lead organizer & advocacy trainer at the Arab American Association of New York. “We must rethink civic engagement beyond the ballot box and encourage community members to participate in all facets of civic life, including community boards, community education councils, parent-teacher associations, school leadership teams, and participatory budgeting. We believe immigrant communities in NYC can create a politically robust electorate if provided with appropriate resources and relevant outreach materials to educate and mobilize."

Zeinab Khalil, lead organizer and advocacy trainer, at Arab American Association of New York speaks about the #EngageNYC train-the-trainer toolkit and how AAANY plans to do civic engagement outreach in their communities.

“New York City is the most popular immigrant gateway in the world. We must, as a City, do more to ensure that we are dedicating resources to engaging Immigrant New York,” said Kenneth Chiu, director general of BRACE. “It is imperative that we educate and engage our immigrant population so they can better adjust, integrate, and succeed in a place they will be calling home. The Civic Engagement Collaborative Engaging Immigrant New York City campaign not only provides resources to help build civic engagement but lays out policy recommendation that increase accessibility in the election process.”

"BridgeRoot's organizational mission is to expand and empower Communities that have traditionally been disenfranchised from the political and Civic process. The Civic Engagement Collaborative's Engaging Immigrant New York City is just the sort of effort that strengthens our democracy, our city, and our communities by increasing the tools and resources needed for communities to become more self-determinate via the ballot box,” said Sam Massol, executive director of BridgeRoots.

Sam Massol, executive director of BridgeRoots speaks about the importance of engaging all New York's communities.

Tenzin Chadotsand, deputy director of Chhaya CDC speaks about their engaging New York's South Asian communities through the campaign.

"Chhaya looks forward to immersing ourselves into the South Asian and immigrant populations to conduct year round civic engagement beyond the electoral process,” said Tenzing Chadotsand, deputy director of Chhaya CDC. “It is our sincere hope that the collaborative paves pathways for our communities to join the larger civic engagement discussions taking place in our city and nation and create opportunities for these communities to find a voice and representation in all walks of society.”

“Citizen Action believe in a true and fair democracy for all. In a city that is made up of 70% people of color, there is no way to truly have a fair democracy if its residents can’t participate in the voting process due to small issues that can easily be fixed,” Darius Gordon, lead organizer for Citizen Action. “It is important to expand the languages on voting days so that more can participate and truly get representation that they see fit. The Civic Engagement Collaborative policy recommendations provide the needed changes and improvements to enable all New Yorker’s, especially are newest, to be part of the electoral process.”

“Citizens Union is excited to take part in the critical effort to assist in the strengthening of our city’s civic fabric with the Civic Engagement Collaborative Engaging Immigrant New York City campaign,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “There is much to be done to improve electoral and civic access for the immigrant community, and our support for this effort provides us the opportunity to continue to fulfill our mission of making democracy work for all New Yorkers."

Darius Gordon, lead organizer of Citizen Action speaks.

Rachael Fauss, director of public policy at Citizens Union/Citizens Union Foundation speaks.

"As the NY chapter of a national Asian Pacific American civil rights organization, OCA- Asian Pacific American Advocates (OCA-NY) is proud to have participated along with a coalition of APA not-for-profit organizations in the creation of the new tool kit,” said June Jee, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans. “We fully endorse these broad-based efforts to better educate both the new and the more established immigrants in NYC as to their rights and responsibilities, as well as the importance of being active and informed about issues that impact all our lives. OCA-NY has been actively promoting immigrant rights and nonpartisan voter education in New York City and looks forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners in educating our communities about the importance of voting and speaking out on issues they care about."

“Common Cause NY is excited to work with the City Council and NYC Board of Elections on electoral system reforms that will expand access to democracy for all New Yorkers. Our experience with Student Voter Registration Day and Participatory Budgeting shows that administrative efforts can make a huge impact, while improving the way poll workers serve speakers of other languages will greatly advance electoral participation,” said Lauren George, associate director, Common Cause NY.

June Jee, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans speaks about engaging the Chinese community through the campaign.

Josh Mumm, associate director at Common Cause-NY speaks about the potential of #EngageNYC.

"We are excited to join with so many immigrant groups in the Civic Engagement Collaborative.  For the Chinese community, civic engagement isn't just about going to the polls on Election Day, but also about having a say at the local level such as in the participatory budgeting process, community boards, and community education councils, said Mae Lee, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association.

"The precipitous decline in voter participation in New York City and New York State is one of the greatest threats to the vitality of our democracy,” said Morgan Pehme, executive director, EffectiveNY. “With foreign-born New Yorkers comprising such a large and important part of our electorate, it is absolutely essential that we improve and expand language access in elections and engage with our local communities through sensible, empowering initiatives like participatory budgeting and Student Voter Registration Day.”

“La Fuente is excited to be an intricate part of this city-wide civic engagement campaign," said Lucia Gómez, executive director of La Fuente. "As part of our core mission, La Fuente engages and develops immigrant civic leaders all-year-'round while further activating eligible immigrant voters to become civically engaged. Supporting the launch of the Civic Engagement Collaborative Engaging Immigrant New York City campaign’s agenda will help further expand La Fuente's mission through strategic collaborations with new partners, while addressing some of the barriers to immigrant civic engagement collectively."

Luis Feliz, leader organizer at La Fuente speaks about how they will be engaged in the campaign.

Maria Escalera, network advocacy coordinator at NYU Lutheran Family Health Center makes remarks.

“We are excited to take part in helping craft community engagement best practices,” said Larry McReynolds, president of NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers. “NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers has historically engaged immigrants across the city to provide an array of high-quality services. The Civic Engagement Collaborative 2015 Engaging Immigrant New York City campaign seeks to improve electoral participation among immigrants and ensure fair and equitable representation in all New York communities."

Grace Shim, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, stated, "We are excited to be a part of this launch of the Engaging Immigrant New York City campaign. There is much work to do before the Asian American community of New York is fully engaged in civic life. In the last election, NYC's Asian voters turned out at 14.9%, lagging far behind NYC's 23.9%. MinKwon continues to educate and engage our community through initiatives such our GOTV and participatory budgeting outreach. We look forward to our continuing partnerships in the NYIC to promote greater civic participation among all immigrant New Yorkers.

James Jong, director of civic engagement, MinKwon Center for Community Action speaks about engaging the Korean community of New York City.

Murad Awawdeh, civic engagemetn coordinator for New York Immigration Coalition facilitates the press conference.

# # #

The Civic Engagement Collaborative (CEC) is a collective of community organizing, democracy, and social service groups that work to increase civic engagement, modernize NY’s election system for the 21st century and build voter excitement. The Civic Engagement Collaborative seeks to build a diverse, empowered grassroots base of immigrants and all New Yorkers to expand the electorate and build political power.

CEC members include: Arab American Association of New York, La Fuente, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Citizen Action, MinKwon Center for Community Action, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), Haitian Americans United for Progress (HAUP), Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), Jacob Riis Settlement House, Chhaya CDC, Latin Women in Action, Citizens Union, Common Cause NY, NALEO Educational Fund, Organization of Chinese Americans- NY, Generation Citizen, BRACE, BridgeRoots, United Neighborhood Houses (UNH-NY), EffectiveNY, NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers

The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.


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