Immigration

As the child of an immigrant who lived here undocumented for two decades, I’ve seen first hand the challenges and hurdles that immigrants are forced to overcome to even begin creating a life in this country. In the face of repeated attacks on immigrants by the federal government, alongside the criminalization of immigrants by police and prosecutors, historically failed efforts to pass national comprehensive immigration reform, and the intentional exclusion of immigrants from programs that protect New York’s families, we have a responsibility to defend and expand the civil rights of all New Yorkers, regardless of country of origin or citizenship status.

These past two years, we were able to achieve some hard-fought victories to protect our fellow New Yorkers. Through direct action and advocacy, thousands of phone calls, powerful rallies, and a 23-day hunger strike by activists, New York included in its budget a historic $2.1 billion “Excluded Workers Fund” to protect workers in New York who had been excluded from federal pandemic assistance programs. This was the largest such program in the nation, and the first of its kind, which proved to be a lifeline for many of the state’s most vulnerable workers during the pandemic. Likewise, the legislature passed a bill that I co-sponsor (S6777A), which would expand accessibility in census reporting by offering increased language translation services to ensure an accurate census count of New Yorkers with limited or no English proficiency.

Nonetheless, there is so much more we can and must do in order to make New York State a more just, inclusive place. As the Chair of the Children & Families Committee, I am deeply upset and offended by New York State’s continued toleration of discrimination in the provision of child care (something that is illegal with respect to public education), and I introduced S8962 to correct for this injustice. Likewise, I have introduced S9183 to protect against discrimination in renters insurance, and S9180 to allow standardized forms for undocumented students seeking higher education.

As State Senator, I will continue to fight for:

 

  • Unemployment benefits regardless of immigration status. The “Excluded Workers Fund,” which helped so many, was a temporary lifeline, and we can do more to create permanent structures of assistance. Our current unemployment system leaves behind many workers who contribute to our economy and society, with many prohibited from accessing benefits simply due to immigration status. I believe in a permanent solution in the form of S8165A, which would allow undocumented New Yorkers to access the same benefits as the rest of the working class.
  • Right to counsel in immigration court proceedings. Immigrants face potentially severe consequences in immigration proceedings, including removal and family. A right to counsel is absolutely necessary in order to protect the rights of immigrants here in New York. This past year I fought for S81A to help ensure a right to counsel in immigration proceedings.
  • Healthcare regardless of immigration status. Today, more than 400,000 immigrant New Yorkers lack coverage because of their immigration status. Numerous studies have found that people without coverage are more likely to delay seeking preventive care for serious and chronic health conditions, avoid seeking care for fear of costs, are at higher risk of incurring medical debt or bankruptcy, and have increased mortality rates. The only true solution to the problem of discrimination in the marketplace for healthcare is to have a truly free and universal healthcare system. However, as we continue to fight for such a system, I support S1572A, which would extend coverage to eligible adult immigrants, and S6820, which would allow undocumented immigrants to participate in the New York State health benefit exchange.
  • Dignity Not Detention. Immigration detention in the United States is inhumane and deadly; it undermines public safety, and harms not only the individuals detained but their loved ones and communities. The New York Dignity Not Detention Act (S7373) will end all current and future contracts between ICE and immigration detention centers in New York State. This important legislation will also end the practice of jailing New York’s immigrants who are facing potential deportation, allowing them instead to be reunited with their families and communities, and enabling them to more capably fight deportation.
  • Pass New York For All. It is not the job of New York’s police, courts, jails, prisons, or other state or local agencies to assist ICE and the federal government in immigration enforcement. The New York for All legislation (S3076B) adds to existing restrictions on state and local law enforcement officers’ authority regarding information sharing with immigration authorities, and prohibits formal agreements to enforce immigration law. Doing so will ensure that all of our neighbors are safe and won’t have ICE called on them by local or state officials.

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