Members of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) have issued a roadmap for immigrant equality in New York State and are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to adopt their top 10 state budget and policy priorities for 2015.
At a press conference on Monday at the CARECEN office in Hempstead, advocates outlined the 2015 Immigrant Equality Agenda, which will provide more educational support, better health care, and improve worker safeguards for members of the state’s immigrant communities. NYIC and its allies will continue to press for the adoption of these priorities throughout the year.
The Hempstead press conference was one of three separate gatherings taking place simultaneously throughout the state by NYIC. Other press conferences were held in Westchester and on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan.
Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, who represents the states 22nd Assembly District, which encompasses Elmont, Franklin Square, Valley Stream, and Floral Park, offered her support of the agenda at the press conference. “There is progress with some of these issues,” she said. “We are having these conversations and we are being sensible about how we are going to attack these issues.”
“As a coalition, we try to put all of these issues together to make sure all of these issues are being worked on throughout the legislative session,” said Francis Madi, Long Island outreach associate for NYIC.
The 10-point agenda calls on the governor to:
1. Pass the NY DREAM Act.
2. Provide funding and services to communities and school districts that have received newly arrived children from Central America.
3. Double the budget for the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA).
4. Support justice for farm workers.
5. Extend affordable health care to undocumented immigrants.
6. Provide legal representation to detained immigrants.
7. Provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
8. Increase support for English Language Learner students.
9. End all cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE.
10. Eliminate legal status barriers to professional licenses and certification.
“Immigrants to this state deserve access to education and they cannot wait another year to be able to afford it,” said Jackie Saavedra, staff attorney at the Empire Justice Center, calling for the passage of the NY DREAM Act. She recounted her own experience as an undocumented student, working 30 hours per week while going to school full time just to afford tuition. The NY DREMA Act would make New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) available to immigrants living in the state, regardless of status.
Gabriel Castillo, immigration attorney at SEPA Mujer, spoke on behalf of the newly arrived children from Central America, saying, “It is said that a society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable. Well, Long Island and New York State is being put to the test.” She called for financial support for schooling and legal services for the children.
Solages added that, “Now is the time to stand by a group of citizens who come here to do better for our community.”