New York’s immigrant advocates are gearing up for their annual ‘Immigrants’ Day of Action’ in the state capital on March 1st. In preparation they released their top 10 legislative priorities for the year on Friday at the New York Immigration Coalition.
The list included the usual concerns in education, health care and preserving affordable housing, but the top two issues are achieving a statewide language access Executive Order, and ending participation in the the federal Secure Communities program.
The language access order exists already in New York City, mandating that all City agencies have a plan to ensure that no matter what language a resident speaks, they can meaningfully access government services. This includes public hospitals, public schools, the police department and so on. The advocates want this to become the norm statewide, and are also lobbying for a confidentiality order that would safeguard the personal information of people seeking services (which also already exists in New York City).
Secure Communities is a fingerprint database-sharing program between local police departments and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which immigrant advocates fear would erode trust between immigrants and law enforcement and lead to racial profiling. Also in the justice system category was continuing and expanding the pardon panel that former-Governor Paterson instituted for immigrants subject to deportation due to old, minor crimes.
The advocates want to increase funding for English Language Learner education programs, and prioritize it in the state budget. One method for doing so would be to funnel some of the federal Race to the Top funds the state won last summer into these programs. Newly elected Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera, who attended the press conference, said there was a “dropout crisis” among the ELL population and he supported focusing the funds in their direction.
On health care, the advocates stressed implementation of the new federal health care law and preserving the state’s safety net for the uninsured, including Child Health Plus. They also proposed creating an “emergency Medicaid card” that could be presented when seeking care at hospitals, to reduce confusion and bureaucracy for those without insurance.
Number 10 on the list was an item that would make life better for immigrants who live upstate: Enactment of the Farmer Labor Fair Practices Act. It would entitle farm workers to a weekly day off, overtime and the right to collectively bargain.