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Coalition Holds Statewide Day of Action; Advocates Meet with Elected Officials across State to Push 2016 Advocacy Priorities

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York  (Thursday, March 10, 2016)

Coalition Holds Statewide Day of Action; Advocates Meet with Elected Officials across State to Push 2016 Advocacy Priorities

 Advocates Call on Elected Officials to Invest in Immigrant New York through Integration Efforts, Health Care Access, Worker Protections, Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants and More 

(New York, NY) Today, New York Immigration Coalition’s members held a statewide advocacy day to call on State elected officials to commit to NYIC’s 2016 “Immigrant Blueprint for New York” – our framework for a comprehensive, long-term plan for the State to improve outcomes for immigrant communities and help New York become a national leader in immigrant integration. NYIC’s members met with 38 legislators across New York State - in Buffalo, Rochester, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island - to emphasize the needs of their communities and present the blueprint. 

The Blueprint outlines five major major ‘pillars’ of policy and budget priorities including strengthening integration efforts through expanding adult education, language access, and workforce development; protecting worker rights, including the rights of thousands of farmworkers; and expanding healthcare access for immigrants and their families.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said, “Today’s Statewide Day of Action connects our members with our legislators to outline where our communities still lack essential supports and services. Our “Immigrant Blueprint” provides a roadmap to continue to improve outcomes for New York State’s immigrant communities – from access to health care, to protecting worker rights, to providing basic needs such as driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants who play critical roles in our economy yet lack tremendous barriers around transportation access – our Coalition urges our legislators to help catapult New York even further as a leader in successful immigrant integration. We look forward to working with our State’s leaders to put in place solid programs and policies to put our State on the map as a leader in immigrant integration and immigrant rights.”

In conjunction with Day of Action today, the NYIC is launching its new statewide campaign to extend access to drivers’ licenses to all New York residents, regardless of immigration status. New York would be following in the footsteps of 11 states nationwide, including our neighbors Connecticut and Vermont, which have already removed immigration status barriers for obtaining licenses. This campaign will focus on communities in Upstate New York, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley, where communities face serious challenges in areas with limited or no public transportation due to the fact that thousands of residents cannot be licensed to drive or register cars. Given that the majority of farmworkers in these regions are immigrants, the burden of providing transportation often falls upon farm owners. Extending licenses to all New Yorkers will bring economic benefits to the economy, as thousands of immigrants will be paying licensing and registration fees, purchasing cars, and able to travel to work.

In Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, NYIC’s members met with State Senators Neil Breslin, Timothy Kennedy, Patrick Gallivand, Joseph Robach, David Valesky, John DeFrancisco, and Assembly Member Patricia Fahy.

"The Worker Justice Center of NY commends this year’s legislative priorities set forth by the New York Immigration Coalition,” said Carly Fox, worker rights advocate for Worker Justice Center in Rochester, NY. “While all of the policies being proposed are important to immigrants, access to driver's licenses regardless of immigration status, is essential. The ability to drive legally helps to reduce the isolation and exploitation of rural, immigrant workers who are dependent upon their employers or unscrupulous transportation services to obtain rides. Access to driver's licenses enhances public safety by decreasing the number of unlicensed, uninsured drivers on NY’s roads while increasing funds to the State to reinvest in infrastructure maintenance.”

Eva Hassett, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo said, “In Upstate New York, we are letting our legislative and executive leadership that must consider the needs of our growing immigrant and refugee populations. By supporting immigrant communities in accessing opportunity, they will be allowing them to make the same economic impacts here that immigrants are making all over the country.”  

"Immigrants in Central New York face many barriers to justice in New York State. Access to affordable legal services is key to protecting the rights of immigrants, but many immigrants in Onondaga County do not have access to legal representation," said Sally Curran, executive director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County. "We are meeting with state elected officials representing Central New York today to educate them about the needs of immigrants in our communities and to urge them to fight in Albany for the necessary funding for legal services to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to justice." 

[Photo above] NYIC member groups meet with Senator DeFrancisco in Syracuse to discuss immigrant issues.

In Long Island, NYIC’s members met with State Assembly Member Michelle Schimel, Kenneth LaValle, John Flanagan, Phil Boyle, and Assembly Member Michaelle Solages.

"As one of the three men in the room in deciding New York State's budget, Senator Flanagan's decisions in key issues impact the entire state of New York,” said Victoria Daza, Immigrant Rights Organizer, Long Island Jobs with Justice. “We would like to remind Senator Flanagan that New York has the 2nd highest immigrant population and as such he has a responsibility to make sure our interests are represented in the New York state budget. The NY DREAM Act is an investment that would improve New York's economic landscape and broaden educational opportunities for all New Yorkers. We urge Senator Flanagan to join Governer Cuomo and House speaker Heastie in making history and passing the New York DREAM Act this year."

In Westchester and the Hudson Valley, NYIC’s members met with State Senators George Latimer, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, David Carlucci, Terrence Murphy, John Bonacic, George Amedore, Sue Serino; and State Assembly Members Steven Otis, Sandy Galef, David Buchwald, Frank Skartados, and Thomas Abinanti.

“Today we stand in solidarity with our statewide coalition allies and call on elected officials in Westchester to continue fighting to expand both opportunities and protections for our burgeoning immigrant population. By taking a strong pro-immigrant stand manifesting in active support for the policies set forth in our blueprint and beyond, our legislators and Governor Cuomo can send a strong message throughout New York and nationally that immigrant lives matter,” said Milan Bhatt, executive director of the Community Resource Center in Mamoroneck, NY.

[Photo above] NYIC members meet with State Senator George Amedore's staff. 

[Photo above] NYIC members meet with State Assembly Member Sandy Galef.

[Photo above] NYIC member group, Community Voices Heard, meets with State Senator John Bonacic. 

In New York City, NYIC’s members met with State Senators Daniel Squadron, Liz Krueger, Toby Ann Stavisky, Jose Serrano, Adriano Espaillat, Bill Perkings, and State Assembly Members Jeffrey Dinowitz, Robert Rodriguez, Keith Wright, Aravella Simotas.

Javier Ramirez-Baron, director of Cabrini Immigrant Services said, “As an organization that provides the legal, educational and social services, we are confronted, on a daily basis, with a lack of resources and supports for immigrants in our district. Hundreds of people in our district who lack English proficiency do not have the ESL support to thrive in New York. Most rely heavily on the services of a translator (usually a family member), and many do not venture outside of their neighborhood. A vital part of our work is advocating for our clients to ensure that their needs are met. Together with other local service providers, we urge our local legislators to commit to prioritizing the issues that affect their immigrant constituents.”

[Photo above] NYIC member groups Cabrini Immigrant Services and Chinese Progressive Association meet with State Senator Daniel Squadron. 

[Photo above] NYIC member groups meet with State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. 

NYIC’s “Immigrant Blueprint” includes five major pillars for how to achieve immigrant prosperity:

  1. Strengthening integration efforts for New Americans by providing adult education programming for immigrants that need them, and ensuring that limited-English-proficient speakers are able to access government services;
  2. Addressing the persistent achievement gap for immigrant students and English Language Learners by ensuring tuition equity on the college level, creating multiple pathways to a high school diploma, reducing the required number of Regents exams, and investing in Career and Technical Education; 
  3. Providing access to health care for immigrants who are excluded from coverage by federal law, and improving access, coverage, and care for immigrants who are eligible to participate in New York’s health exchange.
  4. Advancing immigrant justice and upholding due process through ensuring access to affordable and reliable legal services, as well as limiting intrusive and unlawful collaboration between local and state law enforcement and immigration officials to improve trust between communities and law enforcement;
  5. Protecting worker rights for New York’s most vulnerable workers, including farmworkers and other low wage-workers exploited by unscrupulous employers, and by meeting basic needs such as including access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants who play critical roles in our economy yet lack tremendous barriers around transportation access. 

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The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) 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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