Facing DACA deadline, immigrants push for state-based protections

Photo: Daniel Altschuler via Twitter

In the face of federal attacks on immigrants, activists are ramping up pressure on state and local governments to fight back. On Tuesday, the New York Capitol building was the site of the latest such effort.

On Tuesday, over 500 immigrant activists traveled from New York City to the state capital in Albany to demand a state budget that includes protections for immigrant and working-class New Yorkers.

The day before, March 5, was the deadline the Trump administration had given for ending the the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Though recent court rulings prohibited the White House from ending DACA on Monday, tens of thousands of young immigrants have already lost protection from deportation.

As Trump chips away at the rights of immigrants — both current and former DACA recipients and those who were never eligible for the program’s stringent requirements — activists are pushing left-leaning states like New York to step in.

Rather than simply fighting Trump’s agenda, immigrant rights groups are hoping to push New York’s government to live up to its progressive reputation by instituting a host of proactive measures to defend immigrant communities.

On Tuesday, with the New York Legislature ramping up budget negotiations for the fiscal year beginning April 1, immigrants occupied the Million Dollar Staircase in the Capitol building to advocate for their rights.

“The Trump administration has declared war on immigrants… [and] has demonstrated deep contempt for people of color and the working-class, through policies designed to harm us,” immigrant rights group Make the Road New York said in a statement outlining the policies it’s seeking in the 2018 to 2019 New York budget and the remainder of the 2018 legislative session.

“Now more than ever, New York State must be a beacon of resistance, with our state government standing up for our rights and needs,” the statement continued. “New York made some progress last year, but the attacks from Washington continue to escalate. In this legislative session, immigrants and working-class people of color need bold action.”

Immigrant New Yorkers in the Capitol building spoke out in support of policies to counteract Trump’s anti-immigrant federal push, including a proposal ensuring immigrants who qualified for health care through DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) continue to have access to medical services.

“New York State must take measures to ensure that TPS holders maintain their health coverage regardless of the reckless — and, frankly, racist — policies from Washington,” DACA recipient Lucas Lopes wrote in an op-ed for Gotham Gazette.

In addition, activists supported broader reforms aimed at protecting all working-class New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. One such policy would require employees to be paid the full minimum wage, regardless of whether or not they receive tips.

“The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers allows for easy exploitation of carwash, restaurant and nail salon workers by making workers vulnerable to wage theft and sexual harassment in order to survive on tips,” Make the Road’s statement said.

Other proposals that immigrant activists are fighting for would eliminate financial incentives for landlords to evict tenants, fully fund the MTA, remove police from New York schools, and increase taxes on wealthy New Yorkers and corporations that have received federal tax breaks.