Lawmakers in Albany agreed to a $175.5 billion budget deal on Sunday. It includes $20 million for census outreach — only half the amount advocates requested.
The 2020 Census has proved contentious as the potential inclusion of a citizenship question has heightened fears of an undercount. Experts say asking census respondents for their citizenship status will deter responses in immigrant-heavy areas. Because of this, and because of New York’s history of being hard to count, community groups including the Fiscal Policy Institute requested $40 million in state funding to raise census awareness in immigrant communities.
The state’s budget was made public Sunday with $20 million allocated for 2020 Census outreach — a week after The Daily News reported lawmakers had agreed to $40 million. The announcement was met with disappointment from the New York Immigration Coalition, which has facilitated the New York Counts 2020 initiative.
“Given that New York could lose up to two congressional seats due to a Census undercount, it is disappointing to see that this year’s State budget failed to meet the $40 million threshold our Coalition agreed was necessary to protect our political power and fair share of federal funding,” NYIC’s Executive Director Steven Choi said. City Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Carlina Rivera also criticized the move in an op-ed in the Gotham Gazette.
This is the first budget from New York’s Democratic-held legislature, which was pressured to deliver long-awaited progressive victories. The budget includes a ban on plastic bags, a series of new taxes — including a congestion tax — to help fund the MTA and an end to cash bail. Still, it failed to deliver on marijuana legalization, and updates to publicly financed campaigns fell short of expectations.
On immigration, the budget addressed a handful of areas:
- Liberty Defense Project: There were concerns late last week that the program, which provides legal counsel and other services for immigrants, would be cut. However, Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, told reporters it would continue. The program received $10 million last year.
- Misdemeanors: Among other criminal justice reforms, the budget will reduce the maximum sentence for Class A (the most serious) misdemeanors down to 364 days, which means they will no longer automatically trigger deportation proceedings.
- NYS DREAM Act: After the DREAM Act passed the legislature earlier this year, it was implemented and fully funded in this budget. It provides undocumented students with access to state financial aid.
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Con Artist Scams $300,000 From Undocumented Families
A man was arrested last month for allegedly defrauding over 40 families for more than $300,000 with false promises to help them acquire legal status. According to investigators, Juan Cedillo, 63, offered immigration services to Hispanic families in Yonkers, allegedly telling them he had connections to various Federal agencies and could get them a U-Visa through his company. Cedillo would allegedly ask families for $5,000 to join his organization and charge $3,000 to complete their application. He then would simply submit an application for a U-Visa, a visa offered to crime victims, with a faulty information, prosecutors say. Cedillo was based in Washington state but would regularly visit New York to see his clients. Patch
Legal Representation Program Receives Boost from City Council
A program that provides legal representation for immigrants in deportation proceedings received an additional $1.6 million from the City Council, in addition to the $10 million it’s already been allocated this fiscal year. The New York Family Unity Project requested the funding after the Department of Justice opened up new Varick Street courtrooms to address the swelling case backlog. After City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Immigration Committee Chair Carlos Menchaca visited the court, they agreed on the new funding and struck a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York Daily News
Read More about the Chaos Caused By the New Immigration Courts atDocumented
Former Trump Family Driver Currently in ICE Detention
Zoltan Tamas, a former senior security guard and chauffeur for President Donald Trump’s family, has been sitting in immigration detention for the past eight months. Tamas has not broken the law since arriving in the U.S. from Romania in 2011, but was detained by ICE after applying for a citizenship when a background check revealed he’d been convicted in absentia of committing insurance fraud in Romania. He was ordered deported by an immigration judge, and his lawyer has since appealed. Tamas has worked for the Trump family since 2006. The New York Times
Hundreds of Migrants Moved out of Camp Under a Bridge
Hundreds of migrants have been cleared out of an area under a bridge that connects Mexico and the U.S. at El Paso, Texas due to decrepit conditions. The immigrants were trapped behind a chain-link fence topped with razor wire and many were sleeping exposed to the elements, including bird feces from roosting pigeons. Customs and Border Protection said people were temporarily housed under the bridge due to an overwhelming influx of migrants waiting to be processed. The New York Times, BuzzFeed News
Young Girl Died of Bacterial Infection in CBP Custody
Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year old girl who died in CBP custody in December, died of a bacterial infection that spread to her bloodstream and caused multiple organ failures, according to an autopsy report released by a medical examiner. The four-month investigation and 18-page report did not answer whether CBP officers were negligent in how they treated Jakelin, including whether she was given enough water or transported to the hospital quickly enough. An 8-year old boy, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, also died in CBP custody two weeks after Jakelin. The Washington Post
Bus Stations and Shelters Overwhelmed in San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas has been overwhelmed by the surge of migrant families crossing the border into the U.S. Local nonprofits have run out of space at shelters and hundreds of people keep being released from large family detention centers nearby. About 51,500 migrants have been released by federal immigration agents along the South Texas border since December. ICE would historically give local nonprofits notice when families were set to be released, but last week, 100 people showed up the local bus station with no notice. San Antonio Express-News
The Washington Post reports ICE is reducing the number of families held at the Karnes detention center outside of San Antonio due to the difficulty of transporting them. The number of family members detained dropped from 528 earlier in March to 63 on Friday. The Washington Post
Immigrants in Louisiana Detention Center Launch Hunger Strike
Immigrants in ICE detention at the River Correction Center in Ferriday, Louisiana are on a hunger strike to protest being locked up. Advocates say around 150 people started the strike last week. ICE now says only 24 people are refusing to eat. The detainees are protesting the lack of attention paid to their cases and being denied bond. About 500 people are held in the privately run facility. This follows a recent hunger strike by detainees in El Paso, Texas where ICE force fed protesters after obtaining a court order. The Associated Press
Washington — Trump to “Close Border” With Mexico, Slashes Aid to Central America
Trump turned his long-running crusade against Central American nations into policy on Friday by cutting foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Trump blames these countries for increases in migration to the U.S., and he also threatened to seal off the border with Mexico.
The U.S. currently spends about $620 million per year in gang prevention programs and civil society support in the three countries. The State Department has already started the process of cutting funds to the Northern Triangle and ending programs from FY17 and FY18. “No money goes there anymore,” Trump told reporters.
Democrats were furious at the decision to cut aid, which several of them found out about while visiting El Salvador on a fact-finding mission. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the move “entirely counterproductive.” Advocates argue that cutting the funding will only accelerate migration to the U.S.
This also happened …
Trump went on to threaten shutting down ports of entry into the U.S. from Mexico if the country failed to stop migrants from Central America. That move could potentially upend the American economy, as more than $611 billion of cross-border trade occurred between the Mexico and the U.S. last year.
Still, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway doubled down on the president’s threat during Sunday television shows. A senior official also told reporters Friday that closure of ports of entry was “on the table” as border patrol officials are relocated to care for people apprehended between ports. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vox, Politico
Domestically, DHS will soon ask Congress for the right to deport unaccompanied migrant children more quickly, to hold families in detention longer and to allow immigrants to apply for asylum from home, according to NBC News. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will send a letter requesting the changes, which she says will address the “root causes of the emergency.” NBC News
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