We are, and have always been, a city of immigrants. For generations, immigrants from all over the world have come to our city to find work, provide for their families, start new chapters in their lives and pursue the promise that is New York. Foreign-born residents make up nearly 37% of our population—just over 3 million residents. Immigrant New Yorkers are the very backbone of our city’s economy, generating over $230 billion every year to our GDP and making up 45% of our city’s workforce.
Yet during the pandemic, immigrant New Yorkers and communities have been hit especially hard. Communities from Corona, Queens to the South Bronx experienced some of the highest COVID infection rates, and immigrant New Yorkers accounted for more than half of all job losses in our city. In order to build a just, equitable recovery from this pandemic—and live up to the example that our city has set for hundreds of years—Maya knows we must recommit our city to the needs of immigrant New Yorkers, centering their voices and supporting them as we rebuild a stronger, more inclusive city for all.
As a civil rights lawyer, Maya has spent her career fighting alongside communities that have far too often been ignored by government actors. During her time as Counsel to the Mayor, she was instrumental in establishing New York’s first Sanctuary City legislation, fighting through bureaucracy and infighting to secure essential protections for immigrant New Yorkers. Maya is committed to ensuring that marginalized communities, especially our immigrant communities, have access to safe and affordable housing, dignity in the workplace, economic opportunity, and public spaces where they are free from harassment from ICE and other law enforcement officials. Maya’s plan to support our immigrant communities includes:
Transforming Policing and Reimagining Public Safety: Immigrant New Yorkers are New Yorkers first and foremost, and we must put an end to the abuse and targeting of immigrant communities by both the NYPD and federal immigration enforcement. Hailed as a sanctuary city, New York has not always lived up to its reputation. Maya believes that New York City must be a sanctuary for all immigrants, no matter their legal status. It is time to redefine what policing is in New York and how we can put the “public” back in public safety. To Create Safer Communities and Transform Policing, we will:
- End discriminatory policing policies that target Black and brown immigrant New Yorkers and fuel ICE’s deportation machine through the harassment and detention of undocumented immigrants.
- Enforce and create local immigration laws that prevent NYPD from sharing information on unauthorized immigrants with ICE after any arrests.
- Appoint a civilian Police Commissioner who respects the contributions of NYC’s undocumented immigrants and prevents the department from collaborating with ICE, and direct City agencies to do everything legally in their power to avoid cooperating with ICE in any way.
- Invest in our communities by cutting at least $1 billion from the NYPD budget to fund investments in alternatives to policing.
- Rewrite the rules of policing and fundamentally shift policing to a focus on the root causes of crime, investing in community-based solutions that tackle poverty, mental health issues, and homelessness more effectively.
- Create a Commission on Public Safety Oversight and Accountability that will ensure that policing is safe for all New Yorkers, making binding decisions on policies and priorities for policing, such as rewriting the Patrol Guide.
Guaranteeing health insurance and care to every New Yorker, no matter their income or immigration status. Every New Yorker, regardless of status, deserves access to affordable, quality health care. Currently, 600,000 New Yorkers have no health insurance. And—for those that have it— health insurance costs are one of the top three biggest expenses for City residents. Immigrant New Yorkers, especially those who are undocumented, are one of the most uninsured and underinsured groups in our city—at a time when people can least afford to lack health insurance. Half of our uninsured population are undocumented immigrants. Health care is a human right, and no one in NYC should die because they cannot afford health care. Maya’s Health Plan to Cover All New Yorkers will:
- Create a City sponsored, privately managed health plan to offer affordable health insurance, regardless of income or immigration status, for uninsured New Yorkers. Based in 11 public hospitals, the NYC Care program, which enrolled 60,000 previously ineligible New Yorkers, is geographically limited. Maya’s plan will give participants the opportunity to use many more of NYC’s world class health care providers.
- Repurpose City and State spending currently reserved for the uninsured and reduce costs by achieving administrative efficiencies, leveraging our relationships with private hospitals to reduce costs of care and services, and collecting affordable, sliding scale premiums, which would be no more than 10% of a family’s income, and free for anyone making $25,000 or less per year.
- Partner with CBOs and fund programming for culturally relevant organizations to conduct outreach, educate, and support enrollment for the City’s new health plan, and COVID vaccinations.
Expanding and Empowering Civic and Community Engagement: New York City is home to over 3 million immigrants, yet their representation in our government and on our community boards does not match their contributions to our city. Community engagement within immigrant communities is essential to repairing the damage done by the pandemic and addressing the systemic inequality and glaring disparities facing immigrant New Yorkers. Maya’s plan will:
- Continue her model of People’s Assemblies that she began during her campaign so that Maya can maintain an ongoing dialogue with immigrant communities across the City.
- Work with borough presidents in all five boroughs to diversify community boards and local community organizations, ensuring that immigrant communities are being represented and their voices heard.
- Appoint immigrant New Yorkers and immigration advocates who know the needs of their communities to positions of leadership within the administration and ensure the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in particular is someone who advocates strongly for the diverse needs of all immigrant communities.
- Implement a noncitizen voting program that will allow immigrant New Yorkers to vote in Municipal elections of the future. Ensure that a noncitizen voting program is implemented safely and does not put our immigrant neighbors at risk.
Improving and Investing in Social Services for Immigrant New Yorkers: In the most diverse city in the world, we are still far behind when it comes to proper language and translation services, so that non-native English speakers have meaningful access to vital City resources and information. This is more than just an issue of inconvenience or confusion, this is about civil rights and equitable distribution of resources. In addition, Maya knows we must improve access to legal services for all immigrant New Yorkers to break the logjam of over 100,000 immigration cases currently pending in the city court system. Maya’s plan to improve social services will:
- Dramatically increase funding for language services, so that every immigrant community, no matter what language they speak, has access to the City’s services, and Maya will ensure that the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs (MOIA) is delivering in the coordination of those services.
- Significantly increase funding for adult literacy and adult education programs, so that the 2.2 million adults who lack English proficiency can continue to learn English and access economic opportunity.
- Address the entirely inadequate language services currently available across city agencies, partnering with New York City-based translators rather than big firms to provide culturally relevant translating services AND ensure the City’s contracts are staying in the community.
- Amend and expand Local Law 30 to include online resources and websites, so foreign language speakers have better access to important services, like COVID vaccination appointments, safety reopening guidelines for small business owners, and information on rent relief programs for our most vulnerable residents.
- Increase Action NYC’s budget to provide more funding to community-based nonprofits that offer legal services to immigrants, ending the logjam and providing immigrant New Yorkers the support and representation they deserve.
- Make these contracts more robust, so that government resources are reaching hard-to-reach communities through smaller CBOs that have a strong relationship with the community members.
- Create a new partnership with area law schools and pro-bono legal partners to introduce a community lawyering model that directly serves immigrant communities in eviction and housing cases.
- Eliminate the barriers for immigrants to obtain a municipal ID (IDNYC), including the requirement of multiple IDs in the application process, so that immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, can have access to the same benefits and protections that native New Yorkers have, such as the ability to open up a bank account or the avoidance of an arrest for lack of an acceptable ID.
Ensuring a Just, Vibrant, and Inclusive School System for Every Student: Every student, regardless of zip code, economic status, or first language, deserves to go to a great school that supports and prioritizes their needs. Right now, multilingual learners and English language learners are not getting the resources and services they are entitled to, and as a result, they are falling through the cracks, with some of the highest dropout rates of any group in New York City. Maya’s plan to Create a Just, Vibrant School System will:
- Improve and expand language services and opportunities for MLL students and ensure their parents have the opportunity to fully participate in their children’s education through better language services.
- Invest $250 million to hire 2,500 new teachers, reducing class sizes and ensuring attentive, individualized care and support for every student.
- Fully invest in the NYC DOE’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education, ensuring that all schools use curriculum, pedagogy, assessments, and policies that reflect and respect the histories, cultures, religions, languages, identities, and experiences of all students.
- Permanently remove the NYPD from our schools and refocus our education priorities from creating punitive environments to fostering environments of growth, support, and development.
- Ensure all children have access to healthy meals that fit religious dietary needs.
Putting an End to Evictions and Ensuring Affordable Housing For All: We are in an affordability crisis in New York City, one that the pandemic has only exacerbated and accelerated. Lack of affordable housing has led to an eviction crisis, which is now leading to a homelessness crisis. In order to break the cycle, we must put a stop to evictions and invest in affordable housing for all. This crisis has hit no group harder than immigrant New Yorkers—32% of the city’s homeless population is comprised of Latino New Yorkers and homelessness is growing within working-class immigrant communities. To End Evictions and Ensure a Just and Livable NYC, we will:
- Fight for a real eviction moratorium for the duration of the pandemic and economic recovery.
- Create new rules to stop abusive landlords, expanding the Housing Right to Counsel program, and supporting planning that centers and adheres to local knowledge and community input.
- Strengthen protections for all immigrant tenants and provide adequate resources so that every New Yorker knows their rights as a tenant and a homeowner.
- Enforce stronger eviction protections through increased legal representation, expanding the income threshold for low-income tenants.
- Usher in a new era of housing affordability by ensuring that the City only invests public money or land where there is a clear public benefit.
- Guarantee affordable rent for all individuals and families making 50% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI), ensuring they do not pay more than 30% of their income on rent.
- Aggressively expand the City’s Rental Assistance program so it becomes an effective tool to ensure affordability long-term.
- Dramatically expand and preserve the supply of affordable housing in the city by building 100% permanently affordable housing on public land and use public funding as a tool to promote equity, not private benefit.
- Commit $2 billion to invest in NYCHA, in order to ensure it remains public and preserve it as the City’s most reliable source of public housing.
- Invest federal stimulus money in a direct rent relief program that will support tenants and small landlords, many of whom are immigrants and people of color.
Rebuilding a Stronger, More Equitable Economy for All New Yorkers: The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen on all New Yorkers, but the impact on immigrant workers and small businesses has been severe. 1 in 6 jobs lost during the pandemic belonged to an undocumented worker, and immigrants overall accounted for over half of all job losses in the past year. For our city to recover, we must center immigrant workers and businesses. Maya’s economic plan, New Deal New York, will:
- Invest $10 billion in capital spending projects to provide a shot in the arm of our City’s economy–putting residents back to work and investing in the future of our communities.
- New Deal New York will create up to 100,000 new jobs for New Yorkers. 30,000 will be new jobs through projects that will employ artists, construction, technology, and engineer workers, along with approximately 70,000 indirect jobs for childcare workers, librarians, home health care workers, and manufacturers.
- Expedite and target these investments to ensure that recovery happens quickly and equitably, streamlining workforce development spending to ensure these new jobs go to the New Yorkers who need them most.
- Build workforce training sites in impacted neighborhoods and partner with neighborhood-based organizations to run training programs.
- Enact real taxi medallion relief and support for thousands of taxi drivers in New York, the majority of whom are immigrant New Yorkers, and lift drivers out of debt.
- Invest and expand mental health resources within immigrant communities to curb the rise in suicides among immigrant taxi drivers.
Establishing Universal Community Care: The past year has shown how essential our city’s caregivers and care workers truly are. It is time to recognize that care work is REAL work and it deserves the same level of pay, protections, and respect that any other profession demands. Immigrant New Yorkers—especially women—are critical to our care economy and must be centered as we recover from this pandemic. Maya’s Universal Community Care plan will:
- Build Community Care Centers in all five boroughs; community multi-service centers that house conventional community programs, including health care, jobs and training programs, activities for seniors, school children and teens, counseling, social services, and cultural activities.
- Provide $5,000 care grants to 100,000 in-need New York families, providing financial support to those caring for their children or elderly parents and grandparents and lifting thousands of New York City children out of poverty.
- Grant more enforcement authority to the Paid Care Division of the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs to ensure that care workers across the city are getting the pay, benefits, and protections they deserve.
Supporting Immigrant-Owned Small Businesses: Small businesses are the economic engine of our city, accounting for nearly half of our workforce and contributing billions annually to the city’s economy. Small businesses are of particular importance in immigrant communities, not only economically, but as the cultural and social nerve centers of so many immigrant neighborhoods across the city. From Chinatown to Washington Heights, from Corona to Ozone Park, we must protect and support immigrant-owned small businesses as a key to our economic and cultural recovery. Maya’s Save our Small Business plan will:
- Put in place a comprehensive regulatory holiday to provide $100 million in City-level regulatory relief to individual small businesses.
- Launch a new $30 million Small Business Emergency Grant Program, targeting resources to achieve equity goals.
- Strategically allocate Emergency Grant Funds by prioritizing the zip codes hardest hit by the pandemic, most-distressed industries, and those who have not received adequate State, City, or federal pandemic-related aid.
- Secure a $7 million investment in locally-rooted and employee-centered small business ownership.
- Embrace street vendors as New York City’s smallest businesses, so they can grow and thrive by supporting and collaborating with the Street Vendor Project’s recently launched Small Business Consultation Program, which will provide Street Vendors with tools, resources, and skills to grow their businesses.
Immigrants built New York City, and will continue to make essential contributions to our city for generations to come. We must do everything we can to support immigrant New Yorkers, provide resources to and empower immigrant communities and commit ourselves to rebuilding our city to be a more inclusive, more prosperous, more just place than ever before. New York City must always be a city where anyone and everyone feels welcome, feels respected, and feels enabled to follow their dreams and build a home here.