who we are
who we are
The New York Immigration Coalition aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all. The NYIC promotes immigrants’ full civic participation, fosters their leadership, and provides a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.
The New York Immigration Coalition was established in 1987 to address the impact on New York of a 1986 law allowing undocumented immigrants to legalize their status. More than 25 years later, the nation is still debating immigration in a dialogue that has at times been particularly contentious. While the fight for immigration reform takes on new momentum at the present time, the NYIC has, over the years, built a strong statewide infrastructure and expanded its focus to address, in addition to immigration issues, the cross-cutting issues affecting immigrants and native-born alike, such as access to health care and quality public education. Our work on these issues specifically addresses the needs of New York's low-income immigrant communities--including those most newly arrived and with limited English proficiency. The NYIC boasts nearly 200 member organizations, helps foster immigrant community leadership and civic engagement, and puts immigrants at the table in the major public policy debates of the day.
Some milestones in our twenty-plus-year history:
Birth of the Coalition (1987-89)
With a federal law passed in 1986 providing for the legalization of some three million immigrants nationwide, key immigrant service providers in New York come together as the New York Immigration Coalition to coordinate planning, services, and advocacy to ensure that eligible New Yorkers are able to obtain legal status.
Early Milestones (1990-95)
By 1990, the NYIC is operating out of free office space provided by Catholic Charities and hires its first full-time executive director, Margie McHugh, who over the next three years expands the focus of the NYIC considerably. The NYIC organizes its first federal advocacy day, begins to develop its Albany policy agenda, and starts working closely with city officials to make sure government is responsive and accessible to all New York communities. This includes launching the City Access Project, which brings immigrant community leaders and city officials together to collaboratively address barriers that prevent city agencies from being accessible and responsive to immigrant communities.
Haitian Refugee Crisis (1992-93)
The NYIC’s work with city agencies proves helpful during the Haitian refugee crisis, when we work closely with the office of Mayor David N. Dinkins to connect the refugees to housing assistance, health and mental health care, and other resettlement services.
Protecting the Safety Net for Immigrants (1995-98)
In the face of federal welfare reform, the NYIC plays a leadership role in highlighting the devastating impact of unfair immigrant exclusions, successfully presses the state to set up a safety net for legal immigrants who lost federal eligibility, and ultimately helps roll back the most extreme federal provisions to help low-income seniors and children.
Building Immigrant Political Power (1998)
The 1996 immigration and welfare reform laws put a spotlight on the need for immigrants to build political strength to shape the policies that affect their lives. The NYIC launches a new-citizen voter registration project, which has evolved into the largest, most successful multi-ethnic non-partisan voter-registration initiative in the nation; by 2007, we register more than a quarter-million new citizens to vote! In 2000, we launch our first major get-out-the-vote campaign; in 2006, our GOTV efforts expand to working with partners in upstate and Long Island, and our New Americans Exit Poll documents that immigrants are key to the expansion of the electorate.
Leveraging Government Support for Critical Integration Services (2001)
Beginning with our 2001 study documenting the dearth of English-language classes for adult immigrants who want to learn English, we succeed in leveraging enhanced city and state government support for English, citizenship, and immigration legal services.
Standing Up for Immigrants after 9/11 (2001-03)
Following 9/11, the NYIC coordinates a legal-services collaborative to help immigrants in need of disaster relief and related services get the help they need. When the federal government targets Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians for a special registration program and other enforcement measures, the NYIC brings community groups, legal groups, advocates and funders together to provide legal and support services to thousands of affected community members and to advocate to protect immigrants’ civil rights and liberties. The NYIC’s is the most comprehensive response in the nation to these selective enforcement measures.
Developing Leadership and Capacity in Immigrant Communities (2004-08)
The NYIC develops a comprehensive capacity-building strategy that includes leadership development through the Immigrant Advocacy Fellowship Program, Beyond Service Project, regranting funds to members, coordinating collaborative projects, and maintaining the Immigrant Concerns Training Institute, which handles thousands of technical-assistance requests and trains thousands of non-profit staff and immigrant community members on immigrant-related legal and policy issues.
Leadership Transition (2005)
After 15 years of incredible commitment, achievement, and leadership, Margie McHugh steps down as executive director and is succeeded by Chung-Wha Hong.
Call for Immigration Reform Sweeps New York and the Nation (2006-07)
The NYIC plays a central role in the historic immigration rallies of 2006, when more than 400,000 New Yorkers take to the streets to protest the passage in the House of a punitive immigration bill that, among other mean-spirited provisions, would have made criminal felons of social workers, doctors, and clergy who help undocumented immigrants. The NYIC continues to be an effective voice in highlighting the need for workable, humane, and just reforms in the ensuing immigration reform debate.
Making Major Strides Toward Equal Access (2003-08)
Recognizing that lack of English skills and fear of deportation are leading factors that prevent equal access to services, the NYIC sets out to institute major policies—in some cases, nationally precedent-setting policies—to address those barriers. From New York City Executive Order 41 to state hospital language access regulations, the NYIC achieves policy changes that help open up access to immigrants in health care, education, housing, and workplace settings.
Landmark Victory in Education (2006-07)
The NYIC joins advocates for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in winning major education funding reforms that include an unprecedented amount of new funding for newcomer students who need to learn English. As a result, more than $700 million annually will go to schools and programs aimed at stemming the skyrocketing dropout rate among immigrant students.
Building Bridges With African-American Communities (2006-08)
The NYIC brings together African-American and immigrant leaders in a series of roundtables aimed at addressing tensions that exist between the communities and identifying the shared goals of social and economic justice that can bring these communities together. A conference co-sponsored by the NYIC and various immigrant and African-American organizations draws more than 300 people and a continued commitment is made to working together to address such concerns as safe housing, racial and ethnic profiling, workforce development, and the need for quality public schools.
WHERE WE ARE NOW
As we move forward, we are confronting the challenge of a heated debate in which, too often, a vocal minority exploits legitimate public concerns about immigration, the economy, security, and related issues to divide our nation and scapegoat immigrants. We know that our immigration system is broken and that there are real issues that must be addressed. But we won’t arrive at solutions that benefit all Americans if the debate is driven by anger and fear and a focus on punishment and exclusion. Instead, we need to be motivated to reach a solution by a visionary sense of who we are as a nation, and how we can uphold our highest national ideals—which include faith in the inherent dignity and worth of all individuals, a vision of shared prosperity, and a recognition that integrating newcomers into the American fabric strengthens us as a nation.