This is the fourth article in our series outlining the results of and intended follow up steps to each of the breakout sessions from Long Island Wins’ highly successful summit on immigration, Long Island at a Turning Point—It’s Everyone’s Opportunity.
Our summit, which took place on Feb. 26 at Hofstra University, included a breakout session on the economics of immigration, which was co-facilitated by David Kallick, senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute, and Martin Melkonian, economics professor at Hofstra University.
The economics session was one of seven tasked with developing action steps to make the most of the opportunities that President Obama’s administrative relief program would bring to Long Island and to help shape the future of immigrant integration and inclusion in our region.
The conversation started with the challenges of providing the needed ESL (English as a second language) classes to young immigrants, particularly the newly arrived children from Central America. This would ensure that young immigrants get the most out of their education and would maximize their ability to contribute to the U.S. economy. But too many schools lack funding for new teachers, attendees noted, and busing children from multiple districts to a centralized learning facility carries its own challenges.
Attendees also examined the importance of raising the labor standards to benefit immigrants, including an increase in minimum wage and combating wage theft.
In general, educating people about the relationship between immigrants and the economy is a challenge. A concentrated effort on influencing politicians was discussed.
The actions steps for the session were as follows:
Obtain more funding for schools, including ESL. Schools with large immigrant populations, especially those that received the largest number of newly arrived children, will need additional funding. One such bill was drafted by Reps. Steve Israel and Peter King last year, though it was never voted on.
Focus on positive economic contributions. The group pushed for the creation of one- and two-page fact sheets examining the economic benefits of immigration, including the benefits of administrative relief, the New York State DREAM Act, raising the minimum wage, and more.
Pass the NY DREAM Act. A strong push for the DREAM Act is needed based on its considerable benefits to the New York State economy. Unfortunately, the DREAM Act was not included in the 2015 state budget. Still, a concerted effort to educate people on the economic benefits of the bill should be undertaken.