City releases first-ever report on inclusion

By Prem Calvin Prashad

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs released its first ever annual report in March detailing efforts in 2017 to in the report’s words integrate immigrant New Yorkers into the city’s “civic, economic and cultural life.”

Some 3.1 million New Yorkers are immigrants, of whom approximately 560,000 are undocumented, according to the office. Most notably, the office estimates one million immigrant New Yorkers are in “mixed-status” households, where someone in the family is undocumented.

Under the de Blasio administration, the office has identified three priorities – the integration of immigrants, facilitating access to justice and advocating reform to address inequities.

Among the other notable demographic findings, the report said over half of all New Yorkers – regardless of immigration status are “rent-burdened” (spending 30 percent of their income or more on rent). Prevalence of household overcrowding (more than 1.5 persons per room) was significantly higher for green card holders and undocumented persons alike. Immigrants now comprise 45 percent of New York City’s workforce, 25 percent of whom work in Health, Education or Human Services. More than half – 52 percent of businesses in the city – are owned by immigrants.

Efforts at language inclusion are a longstanding policy item at City Hall, spanning administrations. After the implementation of full translation of six key languages under the Bloomberg administration, subsequent efforts at language inclusion have tried to bridge gaps and adapt to changing circumstances. The 2017 Local Law 30 added Arabic, Urdu, Polish and French to the list of required languages. In response to current events, such as the recent cancellation of TPS for Nepali immigrants, has spurred the office to adopt Nepali translation of its materials. The report itself will be translated into 10 languages, mandated by Local Law 30, which covers 86 percent of limited English proficiency residents, according to the office.

Specifically, the office runs the We Are New York English language learning program, which in 2017 organized 182 classes and produced a series of educational videos to cover critical issues such as mental health and worker’s rights, while also building proficiency. The office has coordinated town halls and Know Your Rights forums to engage communities in the city, having provided 740 such forums in 2017.

Of more recent policy moves, the report touted the office’s partnership with Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and law enforcement to support immigrant victims of crime, including securing U and T visas, which provide relief for victims of trafficking and for victims that have suffered substantial mental and physical abuse, respectively. City agencies provided 709 certifications from law enforcement for individuals applying for these protections. Another partnership, Action NYC, which provides legal services for immigration issues, provided 8,004 legal screenings, last year.

Lastly, the report noted that in response to the federal government’s focus on immigration enforcement, the city has enhanced its partnerships with other municipalities where immigrants live. The Cities for Action advocates for federal policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and also files amicus briefs challenging Trump administration actions in court. According to the office, there are approximately 150,000 DACA-eligible persons living in the city.

The report also cites federal efforts to “defund jurisdictions which limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement” as another reason for this inter-city cooperation. Arguably federal immigration policy has repositioned municipalities, especially large cities in an adversarial relationship with the federal government, with cities turned into the key defender against the federal government. This is reflected at the end of the report, which concluded with the office’s priorities for the current year. Aside from continuing civic engagement and utilizing evaluation to study current efforts, the office plans to advocate for the city’s interests at the national level, though its partnerships.

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