Our state budget is the opportunity to improve the lives of immigrant New Yorkers by investing in immigrant integration. While Governor Cuomo continues to stress that New York is a welcoming state for immigrants, unfortunately he failed to include any funding in his executive budget for critical programs to help protect immigrants from federal attacks, cut funding for some programs, and eliminated it for others. There is still time for these issues to be addressed as the governor, the assembly, and the senate negotiate a final budget.
For refugees, New York has been a real leader: $2 million that has been included in the state budget since 2017 for the New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program that helps resettlement agencies at a time of federal cutbacks. The governor’s executive budget, however, includes zero for this program. With the federal administration decreasing the refugee cap to an all-time low of 18,000 this fiscal year, FPI recommends that the funding should not be eliminated but expanded to $5 million. New York was the first in the nation to step up and provide state funding for refugee resettlement agencies to counter the federal attack on immigrants, and this is the perfect way to show how welcoming New York truly is.
Sadly, Governor Cuomo has also cut funding for the main source of support for teaching newcomers English. The governor decreased funding for adult literacy education from $7.79 million to $6.29 million – another cut to an already inadequate funding level. FPI recommends that adult literacy education should be funded at $25 million to reduce the shortage of adult literacy classes and to provide the opportunity to learn English to all who want to improve their language abilities.
Governor Cuomo also decreased funding for the Liberty Defense Project from $10 million last fiscal year to zero this fiscal year. Given the federal attack on immigrants’ rights and the attempts to separate families across the state, funding for the Liberty Defense Project is needed more now than ever. New York should step up and ensure that all immigrants have fair representation.
Now is the time for the governor and legislature to work together in crafting a state budget that funds the essential programs that our immigrant communities, and our whole state, need to thrive.