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Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Coalition Advocates Discuss Expanded Resources for Immigrants in City Council Budget

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Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Coalition Advocates Discuss Expanded Resources for Immigrants in City Council Budget

 Coalition Applauds Critically-Needed Resources for New York's Communities; Discusses Impact of NYC City Council’s FY15 Budget

At the NYIC today, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca joined advocates to discuss the positive impact that significant increases in funding supporting New York City’s immigrant populations will have for communities. This year's budget marks a major victory for immigrant communities and advocates, with $10.3 million dollars slated for the expansion of programs and services for immigrant communities.

The FY 2015 City budget supports the following:

  • The Immigrant Opportunities Initiative (IOI), critically-needed services that are a lifeline for immigrant communities. $5.3 million dollars has been issued for expanded adult literacy, ESL programs, and legal services.
  • CUNY Citizenship Now! legal services received $1 million dollars to provide on-site immigration services at the offices of City Council members and at events in communities throughout the city helping insure that every qualified New Yorker has the chance to apply for U.S. citizenship and other immigration benefits.
  • The Adult Literacy Council Initiative was enhanced with an additional $750,000 for a total of $2.25 million.
  • The New York Immigrant Family United Project, a groundbreaking initiative to provide free legal representation to New Yorkers detained by immigration authorities and facing deportation, received $4.9 million dollars, making New York the first city in the nation to have such a "public defender" program.
  • The Cultural Immigrant Initiative received $1.5 million dollars, to support cultural organizations providing programming focused on cultural history of immigrant communities in New York City. The initiative would increase access to unique cultural offerings that focus on immigrant heritages.

Moderating the discussion, Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said, “We applaud Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, Immigration Chair Menchaca, and the City Council for their commitment to immigrant New York! These are major victories for New York City's three million immigrants, and we look forward to working with the City to make sure that this wide array of critical programs - adult literacy, ESL, legal services, representation for detained persons - are spread throughout the boroughs and result in real, concrete benefits for our immigrant communities.”

“With this progressive budget, the New York City Council and New York City Government is saying, as a whole, ‘we’ve got your backs’,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Council Committee on Immigration. “The Council's expansion of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project in this budget is an historic event. With $4.9 million dollars of funding, we will take a first of its kind pilot project and bring it to scale. New York City will become the first jurisdiction in the country with a functioning public defender system for detained immigrants facing deportation. The program will mean that hundreds of New York City families will not be torn apart by wrongful deportations simply because they cannot afford a lawyer. The budget also provides a large increase for Adult Literacy programs at a time when attaining a high school equivalency degree is far more challenging. While there remains much work to be done in our city to bring real equality for all—especially our immigrant brothers and sisters—we’ve taken strides forward. I look forward to being in a city better positioned to provide more for all of its residents.”

“Successfully defending against deportation—especially when the client is detained—requires a dedicated and passionate attorney at the helm who can tackle the complexities of immigration law and marshal all of the evidence and support needed in the case,” said Ruben Loyo, trial attorney, Immigration Unit, Brooklyn Defender Services. “By funding New York Immigrant Family United Project, the City Council is ensuring that no New York family is torn apart by deportation simply because they could not afford an attorney to fight their loved one’s case.”

“The budget shows that city government understands the key role immigrants play in the economic, cultural and political future of New York City," said Allan Wernick, director, CUNY Citizenship Now! "The allocation of $1 million to support CUNY Citizenship Now! allows us to provide critical services on-site at the offices of City Council members and at events in communities throughout the city helping insure that every qualified New Yorker has the chance to apply for U.S. citizenship and other immigration benefits. We thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, and City Council for this investment."

United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) is pleased that under the leadership of City Council Immigration Chair Menchaca, Council Member Chin, and Speaker Mark-Viverito, the Adult Literacy Council Initiative was enhanced with an additional $750,000 in the FY2014-15 budget for a total of $2.25 million,” said Kevin Douglas, policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses. “The Adult Literacy Initiative is a critical source of support for community-based English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Adult Basic Education (ABE) and High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE) classes. By investing in the basic literacy and numeracy skills of hard working immigrants, the City improves their ability to integrate into the civic and social life of their communities, while also increasing their earnings potential and strengthening our economy. While this initiative will make a real difference in the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, we know New York can to do more to support the 1.7 million New Yorkers lacking English proficiency and/or a high school diploma. Moving forward UNH is committed to working with the City Council and Administration to further enhance adult literacy programming.”

Sandy Myers, Government Relations Executive at UJA-Federation of New York said, “On behalf of UJA-Federation of New York, I would like to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor Bill deBlasio, and Council Member Menchaca for their advocacy and support of the programs that most directly help New York City’s immigrants and adult learners. The enhancement of the Council’s Adult Literacy Initiative and Immigrant Opportunities Initiative will allow many of UJA-Federation’s network agencies to continue to provide a range of adult education, citizenship, and legal services to New York City’s immigrant communities throughout the five boroughs. These services will make a significant difference in the lives of the 1.7 million New Yorkers who lack English proficiency and/or a high school equivalency diploma who are looking to improve their English literacy skills, become more involved in their local community, and advance in their careers.”

While applauding the enormous investment for immigrant communities this year, advocates stated that they would continue to push for resources to also support outreach and education to New York’s medically underserved communities on options for health care coverage and access.

Louis Cholden-Brown, director of legislative and budget affairs for Councilmember Corey Johnson said, “Councilmember Corey Johnson looks forward to working with the New York Immigration Coalition and the People’s Budget Coalition to make Access Health NYC a reality in the coming year. Access Health NYC will provide community-based organizations (CBOs) with funds to support outreach and education to New York City’s hardest to reach immigrants and other medically underserved communities about options for health care coverage and care, particularly for the uninsured. Through the New York State of Health, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, and federally qualified health care centers, health care services are available to everyone in New York City, but not everyone knows about their options. CBOs trusted by the communities they serve and are best equipped to get this information to them. Better access to information about comprehensive insurance coverage and timely primary and preventive care will lower health care costs and improve health outcomes for all New Yorkers.”

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