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On May 16th, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio unveiled a sweeping legislative and policy agenda aimed at fully integrating immigrants into the city’s economic and civic life.
The “Safe, Open City” plan would make New York City the national leader in expanding opportunity for both legal and undocumented immigrants. Read the plan below or download it here (.pdf)
“Our city can’t be whole while hundreds of thousands of people are living in the shadows. We need compassion and common sense. We’re seeing states and cities around the country take the lead in opening their doors. New York City has to retake the mantel of the nation’s premier open city, that welcomes all immigrants and knits them into our civic life,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Immigrants comprise nearly half of New York City’s workforce, including half of all small business owners. De Blasio’s plan will further knit all immigrants, regardless of status, into the city by allowing undocumented immigrants to secure state driver’s licenses, creating a Municipal ID program that would help immigrants access City services, further limiting cooperation with the federal detention and deportation process, protecting victims of domestic violence, and ending New York City’s arcane practice of punishing the loved ones of legal immigrants who seek out social assistance.
City and State elected officials and community advocates have praised the Public Advocate's plan. Scroll down or click here to read what they said:
“The Public Advocate’s recommendations are, simply put, common sense and, if brought to fruition, will contribute to a welcoming environment for immigrant communities. They will contribute to rebuilding a sense of trust between the NYPD and the communities they serve—NYC should not be in the business of helping deport people. And no, the city should not be kicking a man, woman or child when they’re down—let’s end sponsor deeming at the Human Resources Administration. As for municipal multi-purpose ID cards and driver’s licenses, yes, let’s make sure NYC leads the nation in opening up avenues for civic and economic integration for immigrant communities,” said Karen Kaminsky, deputy executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
“As an immigrant, I applaud Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for always standing up for immigrants, throughout his entire career. There is no more important time than now, as the immigration debate rages in Congress. Communities of immigrants are waiting to see whether the undocumented will be further driven underground, and where NYC, and leaders like Bill de Blasio, will have to stand in and fill in the gap to protect immigrants. I applaud his courage and his position for a safe and open city for immigrants. Bill de Blasio gets it,” said Hon. Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, former Council Member and respected Caribbean-American community leader.
“Without a valid government ID card, too many New Yorkers are confined to the shadows and unable to pursue the American dream,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat. “They are excluded from access to services ranging from libraries, to checking accounts, to the vast majority of employment opportunities. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to allow immigrants to obtain a driver’s license, provide for their families and drive their children to school, regardless of their immigration status. With federal immigration reform uncertain, New York City should lead the way in creating new immigration laws that don’t punish workers and split families apart.”
“Despite being forced to live in the shadows, the undocumented population in the city of New York is thriving. They are our neighbors, our children’s classmates, and an integral part of our economy. We must start creating policy that includes them, rather than continue to pretend they are not here. I think this 5-point plan acknowledges many important issues, including protecting undocumented women, allowing access to driver’s licenses which will help keep our roads safer and limit illegal drivers, and creating a municipal ID that will allow help in numerable ways, including easing parent access to their children’s schools,” said Assembly Member Francisco P. Moya.
“Our city’s legacy is underpinned by a progressive foundation that encourages inclusiveness for all those who aspire to improve their lives through hard work, grit, and determination. I am encouraged to see Mr. De Blasio advocate for such a comprehensive policy initiative. The economic and social dynamism of New York is what fuels its vanguard innovations and gleaming prosperity, not only for those already entrenched in its culture, but also for those seeking to be woven into the tapestry that comprises our diverse and bustling metropolis,” said Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.
“I am happy to support any efforts that enfranchise immigrants in our community and feel strongly that undocumented immigrants are entitled to obtain driver’s licenses or identification cards,” said Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa. “I’ve proposed similar legislation in the state Assembly and will do everything in my power to see that it passes during this current session.”
“The comprehensive plan laid out today by our Public Advocate addresses many of the most crucial needs that immigrants have in our city,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “From the fear to report domestic violence to the inability to access needed services, our immigrant communities have been left out of the civic process for too long, all while contributing billions in tax revenue. It is past time for New York City to take the lead on fully incorporating immigrants into our society in all aspects of life, as they remain a vital part of our city’s infrastructure.”
“Allowing undocumented New Yorkers the opportunity to be a part of the citizenry is more important than the politics that are played every day in Washington D.C.,” said Council Member Andy King. “I applaud the Public Advocate for putting forward concrete plans that can put New York City where it belongs: at the forefront of helping immigrants.”
“Granting our immigrant communities these basic rights is both a matter of human dignity and pragmatism. People from every corner of the world come to our city in search of opportunity—and we must remain a beacon of hope. New York City cannot truly prosper until we recognize every member of our society by offering immigrants these fundamental securities. The time for reform is now. I commend the Public Advocate for steering the ship in this direction,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.
“Immigrants are the backbone of New York City. They always have been, and they always will be. It is foolish for government to pursue policies that frighten immigrants rather than foster relationships that will make them law-abiding and economically-productive members of our communities. There is much we can do on the municipal level to positively change our approach to immigration, including continuing to reform ICE’s relationship with local law enforcement, which I have been proud to fight for in the City Council. When we support our immigrants, we support common decency and the future of our city,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams.
"The time for New York State to offer drivers licenses to undocumented New Yorkers is now," said Council Member Mark-Viverito. "And while we are awaiting action in the State Legislature, we should move to create a local municipal ID card that will help more immigrant New Yorkers gain access to basic services. Although I remain very optimistic about the passage of federal immigration reform this year, we must still continue to look at policies that will reaffirm our efforts to welcome and support our immigrant communities here in New York. Offering drivers licenses to undocumented New Yorkers is one of those important steps, and I thank Public Advocate de Blasio for bringing attention to this issue."
“We thank Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for laying out sound solutions for improving the lives of our city’s immigrant residents,” said José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation. “Victims of domestic violence or other violent crimes should not have to wait months for some city agencies to process U-Visa requests. This is a matter of life and death and, overall, these proposed reforms will make New York a safer and more economically prosperous place to live for all residents.”
“La Fuente is pleased that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has taken bold steps to outline an agenda for commonsense immigrant integration in NYC. This agenda goes hand in hand with the national discourse to fully embrace and integrate every resident to all aspects of our society. It is an amazing time in history. We look forward to truly helping push forward and seeing these policies implemented, and changes to our laws made to reflect the need of our city and state,” said Lucia Gomez, Executive Director of La Fuente.