1,300-Strong, Immigrants Rally in Albany for NY DREAM and other Immigrant Priorities

From African Services Committee

March 14th, 2012 (New York, NY) On an unseasonably mild March day, 1,300 immigrants and their allies representing 94 organizations warmed up Albany even more. Coming from all corners of the state, they converged on Albany for the New York Immigration Coalition’s 15th Annual Immigrants’ Day of Action. The day marked an inspiring and impressive feat in civic engagement and participatory democracy.

With urgency, the diverse gathering—including undocumented students, immigrant parents, teachers, faith leaders, advocates, and service providers–called for passage of NY DREAM legislation as a top priority. With thousands of undocumented students graduating from NY state high schools every year, passing NY DREAM legislation would benefit New York enormously and uphold the state’s heritage as a welcoming beacon that values the contributions of immigrants.

In Albany today, community members held signs and loudly chanted that immigrants are New York, a state that is home to approximately 4.2 million immigrants and accounts for more than one in five New Yorkers.

Participants in this day of action presented a detailed list of priorities to help strengthen communities, rebuild the economy, and position New York as a model of common sense and justice for the nation. Among other priorities, participants recognized the Governor’s establishment of an Office for New Americans and—in rallies and in meetings with policy makers–urged the administration to strengthen the citizenship and other immigrant services it would offer. Other key priorities included ensuring immigrants are included in health reform measures at the state level, preventing state and local law enforcement agencies from engaging in immigration enforcement, facilitating immigrant parent engagement and providing immigrant students the tools they need to succeed and obtain a high school diploma.

Participants began their day with a welcome program at the Hart Theater in The Egg. The group then marched to Lafayette Park, where a press conference and rally was held. In the afternoon, a cultural program was held back in the Hart Theater, while community members and advocates met with dozens of lawmakers and officials to press their concerns and promote the NYIC’s Top Ten Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Look at the crowds here today for our Immigrants’ Day of Action—New York’s immigrant community is growing in number and growing in power!,” said Ms. Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “We have real potential here for New York to promote positive and common sense measures for the state’s four million immigrant community members—to, quite simply, do the right thing and set an example for the rest of the nation. Our top ten list provides the Governor and the Legislature a roadmap for moving New York forward, for strengthening our economy, and remaining a stronghold for justice and opportunity. What do we need? Among other things, a diploma and a DREAM. Let’s do it, New York!”

Bakary Tandia of African Services Committee had this to say: “The Immigrants’ Day of Action in Albany is an unparalleled opportunity to advocate for issues that are critical to our communities, with the direct participation of our members. It is also, an inspiring moment for us to build our collective momentum for greater actions.

Other speakers included NY State legislators, starting from Assemblyman Guillermo Linares who stated, “I can’t think of a better investment to New York State than allowing undocumented youth access to higher education. It is common knowledge that higher education provides a very strong return on investment. The days ahead are critical to make the New York Dream Act a reality as we engage in negotiating this year’s budget. According to the cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Fiscal Policy Institute last week, an increase of a 2 percent to current TAP would allow us to respond to the needs of these students, who are among New York State’s best and brightest. With the support of the New York State Legislature and New Yorkers, I am confident that this year we are going to have a victory and will finally be able to make the NY Dream Act a reality.”

NY State Assembly Member Félix Ortiz said, “Immigrant students face many disadvantages when it comes to their education. Whether it is the fact that English is a second language or the fact that they may not have the financial security needed to attend institutions of higher education, these young individuals should not be barred from a quality education.”

Senator Bill Perkins said, “It is universally accepted that those who pay taxes should benefit from those taxes, whether those benefits be public safety or access to higher education. According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants paid over $662 million in taxes to New York State in 2010. They paid approximately; $104.4 million in personal income taxes, $95 million in property taxes, and over $463 million in sales taxes. It is unjust, unfair and un-American to collect well over a half a billion dollars in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants only to deny them financial support for higher education that is granted to other New Yorkers. The benefits of the Dream Act far outweigh the costs. The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that the cost would be less than 2% of TAP. Furthermore, The Board of Regents estimates that the cost would be less than 1% of TAP. Both estimates amount to about a million dollars, or 1/662 of what undocumented immigrants pay in taxes. Allowing this injustice and these exclusionary tactics to continue violates the very principles on which this nation was founded.”

Senator Gustavo Rivera sharing the sentiments of the demonstrators said, “As a State Senator for the 33rd District in the Bronx, I am proud to represent ALL the residents of my district, regardless of where they were born or their immigration status. It is important for us as legislators to recognize the diverse needs of immigrant communities throughout the state as well as our responsibility as their representatives to make it possible for immigrants to be successful and to be able to access affordable education, health care and state services.”

Other speakers included the Arab American Association of New York, Sr. Kelly Carpenter, Esq., director of Cabrini Immigrant Services, leaders of El Centro del Inmigrante, CUSH, The Haitian-American Association, and the Catholic Church among several others.


Posted by on Apr 19 2012. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply