Immigrant advocates protest ‘austerity budget’, exclusion of immigrants and asylum seekers from State of the City

NYIC Executive Director, Murad Awawdeh speaks at a press conference outside City Hall demanding additional investments in New York City's asylum seekers and immigrants. 
NYIC Executive Director, Murad Awawdeh speaks at a press conference outside City Hall demanding additional investments in New York City’s asylum seekers and immigrants. 
Photo by NYIC

Immigration advocates on Friday rallied on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan protesting what they described as the mayor’s “austerity budget” and the exclusion of Caribbean and other immigrants and asylum seekers from the State of the City address.

The rally was organized by New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization that represents more than 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York.

It included elected officials, member organizations, housing and education rights allies, police reform organizations, and immigrant New Yorkers.

In his State of the City address, NYIC said Mayor Adams “barely mentioned immigrants and asylum seekers, and largely excluded them from his vision for NYC.

“The mayor’s preliminary budget delivers the bare minimum to low-income and working families, and does little to ensure immigrant New Yorkers and our newest arrivals are able to fully integrate and thrive in our communities. ,” it said.

“Yet, the Mayor continues to scapegoat asylum seekers for an austerity budget that is sure to hurt all New Yorkers who need deeper investments in education, housing, shelter and social services to build and sustain our communities, economy and our workforce into the future,” NYIC added.

NYIC Executive Director, Murad Awawdeh said: “Yesterday, Mayor Adams spoke on creating jobs, safety and housing in New York City. ‘Everyone needs care, not just in crisis, but throughout our lives,’ said the Mayor, who then excluded immigrants and asylum seekers from his vision for NYC.

“By rendering us invisible he failed to acknowledge a large proportion of New York’s population and the crucial role our communities have played in keeping New York open for business throughout this pandemic,” Awawdeh added. “He also failed to properly address the housing crisis with solutions that will ensure our newest arrivals and longtime New Yorkers have more than just prayers to get back on their feet and thrive.

“We need bold solutions and actions that will move this city and all New Yorkers forward. Scapegoating asylum seekers and immigrants for his administration’s failures is callous and dangerous,” he added. “Mayor Adam’s still has time to course correct by investing in English Language Learner (ELL) Transfer Schools Programs, hiring bilingual social workers in schools, legal services, and expanding eligibility to CityFEPS and other vouchers programs to move people out of shelters and into long-term housing.

“These are common-sense solutions that ensure all New Yorkers have a real shot at supporting their families and contributing to the vitality of this city,” Awawdeh continued. “Mayor Adams, you can bring everyone out of the shadows to build a better and stronger New York. We call on the Mayor to get stuff done for our city so all who call it home can thrive here.”

Council Member Sandy Nurse stands outside of City Hall in support of expanding New York City's investments in immigrant communities. 
Council Member Sandy Nurse stands outside of City Hall in support of expanding New York City’s investments in immigrant communities. Photo by NYIC

NYC Council Member Julie Won, District 26, said: “Our city is facing a migrant crisis, but the Mayor’s ‘Working People’s Agenda’ failed to offer more than the bare minimum for our neighbors seeking a better life.

“As a sanctuary city, we must provide pathways to permanent residency, including long-term housing and wraparound services. Migrant children are getting sick and losing weight from eating the food in our city’s shelters,” she said. “A man tragically took his own life in a shelter in my district because he didn’t have access to the mental health services he pleaded for.

“The city needs to ensure that there is enough funding for legal services, employment programs, language accessibility, culturally competent food, and vouchers to get asylum seekers into long-term housing,” Won added. “We must hold the Administration accountable for the promises of a sanctuary city.”

Caroline Scown, adult literacy instructor, Chinese Planning Council, said: “We urge the mayor to reverse his proposed cuts to adult literacy programs and libraries, but more importantly to further expand funding to this critical service. Only by expanding adult literacy funding can we give immigrant New Yorkers the resources they need to thrive.

“The mayor’s budget greatly underfunds needed adult literacy services in the city,” she added. “These budget cuts would mean cutting classes, teachers, case workers, and resources for immigrant students who need English classes to find better jobs, support their children, and navigate everyday life. Adult literacy classes are critical pathways to a better life for many immigrants. We call on the mayor to expand adult literacy programs and libraries in the upcoming fiscal year. Let’s invest in our immigrants and invest in our communities.”

Masa Executive Director Aracelis Lucero calls for additional investments in education for immigrant New Yorkers. 
Masa Executive Director Aracelis Lucero calls for additional investments in education for immigrant New Yorkers. Photo by NYIC

Aracelis Lucero, executive director, Masa, said: “Yesterday, we heard the mayor propose a vision for the city that does not meet the needs of those who need our support the most – New York’s children, parents, caregivers, teachers and adult service providers.

“We all know that budget priorities reflect what we value the most in our society, and this budget is turning its back on children and caregivers, which is not what most New Yorkers would approve of. We also turn our backs on children and caregivers when we use divisive language to fuel austerity,” she said. “We don’t want a divided New York. We will not stand idly while our leaders use xenophobic strategies to justify austerity. That is a race to the bottom without any brakes. And we refuse to accept that New York.”

David Siffert, legal director, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Legal Director, said: “Mayor Adams claims there isn’t enough budget to provide asylum seekers the right to shelter during the winter in New York City, while at the same time he drains city budgets dry spying on those same immigrant communities.

“NYPD’s expenditures on surveillance are a boondoggle – they are expensive, they don’t make us safer, they don’t lower crime rates, and they are racist.  The information collected often winds up in the hands of ICE, making a mockery of New York’s promise as a sanctuary city,” he said. “Reigning in New York’s ‘big brother’ obsession with surveillance technology, providing necessary services, and passing New York For All are essential to keeping all New Yorkers, including our immigrant and asylum-seeking population, safe.”

Jawanza Williams, director of organizing, VOCAL-NY, said: “Mayor Adams’s surface level one liners stand in stark contrast to the budget cuts he is making to services and care, and underscores his propping up of the NYPDs budget, and calling for even more prosecutors.

“It’s a slap in the face to insinuate that an hour of volunteer work will decrease homelessness, let alone shift the anti-homeless rhetoric the administration was so committed to conveying less than a year ago,” he added. “Empathy, care and compassion looks like housing and healthcare. That is what will end our homelessness crisis.