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Immigrant Advocates Respond To Cuomo's 2014 Agenda With Goals Of Their Own

Immigrant advocates in New York have responded to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address by announcing their own agenda for 2014.

Governor Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State address included proposals to lower taxes on businesses and homeowners, build infrastructure, promote tourism, and train new workers. But a lack of emphasis on initiatives to assist the state’s immigrant population upset Jacki Esposito of the New York Immigrant Coalition.

"I think given the contributions that immigrants make to the State of New York...that it's really surprising that a more specific policy platform for immigrant rights was not included in the governor's speech," said Esposito.

The Coalition has released its own "2014 Immigrant Equality Agenda" containing ten policy items that advocates will continue to push for in New York.

At the top of the list is passage of the NY State DREAM Act, to allow the children of illegal immigrants to receive financial assistance in attending college. Neighboring New Jersey recently passed its own DREAM Act.

Number two on the list is improving road safety by allowing undocumented immigrants access to state drivers’ licenses – a policy issue approved in Connecticut last summer.

Esposito said New York needs to lead with more steps for assisting immigrants, while the country waits for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"It's up to New York to be a leader on this and be sure that we are honoring our long-standing tradition of welcoming immigrants to our communities," said Esposito.

Last year, the Cuomo administration established the Office for New Americans, which helps helps immigrants obtain vital services, as well as connect with language programs, and also encourages entrepreneurship.

Betsy Palmieri, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Community Coaltion, said she’d like to see the governor broaden the scope of immigrant services.

Palmieri said organizations assisting immigrant populations in upstate communities already could utilize new funding to expand new and innovative services.

"We have found some models that really work for the rural communities, such as a mobile immigrant clinic - where an immigration attorney travels to different areas that don't have access to immigration attorneys - and we've found that by collaborating, working with different community organizations on the ground, helping to do the outreach and reach people, whether it's for the deferred action program or other forms of immigration relief, we've found it's a model that really works but we need support to keep them going," said Palmieri.

The 2014 Immigrant Equality Agenda also includes raising the minimum wage, promoting college readiness for English language learners and protection from harsh enforcement.

For more information: http://www.thenyic.org/PR/2014budgetpolicyagenda-1-9-13

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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