Our model integrates four core strategies for concrete change that millions of families feel every day:
Legal and Survival Services to tackle discrimination, abuse and poverty;
Transformative Education to develop community members’ abilities to lead our organization, our movement, and society;
Community Organizing to transform the systems and power structures impacting our communities; and
Policy Innovation to rewrite unjust rules and make our democracy truly accountable to all of us.
Staff and members repeat a common refrain: “Make the Road is my second home.” Regardless of immigration status, race, or gender identity, all find safety, support, and solidarity here. Everyone who comes with an individual story of abuse and exploitation finds that they are not alone – that in collectivizing our experiences and voices, we can build the power to change not just one case, but entire systems.
Our members have achieved victories for millions in New York and increasingly at the national level. These are just a few:
Country’s strongest state executive order protecting immigrants’ information
On September 15, 2017, after over a decade of organizing by MRNY and allies, Governor Cuomo signed one of the country’s strongest executive orders prohibiting state agencies from gathering and sharing immigration status information with federal immigration authorities.
This means that in the vast majority of situations, immigrants across New York State can interact with police and other state agencies with a legal guarantee that they will not be asked their immigration status. Law enforcement agencies will be barred from sharing any personal information with ICE for immigration enforcement.
NYC pensions divest from private prisons and immigrant detention companies
On June 8, 2017, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that the NYC Employee Retirement Systems (NYCERS) pension funds will divest from private prison and immigrant detention companies. Leading up to this critical announcement, we have been calling attention to corporations that are profiting off of the incarceration of immigrants and people of color, and demanding financiers like JPMorgan Chase divest from CoreCivic and GEO Group.
The announcement sends a strong message: New York won’t support corporations that are needlessly locking up members of our communities. Congratulations to Comptroller Stringer and Tish James, NYC Public Advocate and NYCERS Trustee, for taking this important step.
City says NO to cooperating with Trump’s deportation agenda
New York City has passed more laws to protect immigrants than any other city. In October 2017, the NYC Council passed a bill prohibiting city agencies from misusing resources to assist with federal immigration enforcement — an extraordinary victory for our immigrant community!
Among other policies we have fought for and won are the creation of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), legislation limiting when the NYPD and Department of Correction will honor a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer, and Department of Education protocols directing public schools to block ICE agents from entering schools without valid warrants.
Victory and millions in back wages for carwash workers
MRNY’s historic work to clean up the notoriously exploitative carwash industry with the Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union and New York Communities for Change has led to groundbreaking improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Led by MRNY members and workers at 11 union carwashes, we won over $3 million in back wages and penalties, an estimated $2.00 per hour raise across the industry, and innovative licensing legislation.
MRNY community school, a model for NYC
We have been at the forefront of the national movement for community schools, which provide wraparound services for students and their families, enabling students to thrive academically. We are implementing this strategy in four Bushwick high schools that together serve 1,200 students.
Our culturally competent bilingual staff connect families to our legal services, health insurance and food stamps, ESOL programs, and mental health services. As a result of our advocacy, MRNY’s community school served as a model for 200 community schools created in NYC last year.
Government ID cards for all NYC residents
After years of advocacy by MRNY members and allies, NYC became the largest municipality in the country to offer its own ID program in 2015. For undocumented immigrants, a government-issued ID allows them to carry out mundane yet fundamental tasks, from picking up their children at school to opening a bank account.
In another victory, New Yorkers can select the correct gender to be listed on their card: transgender and gender non-conforming individuals no longer have to fear confusion when pulling out an ID card that does not accurately represent them.
We enrolled over 14,000 people in IDNYC in the program’s first year.
Protections against biased policing and harsh discipline
We successfully advocated for the 2011 Student Safety Act and the 2013 Community Safety Act to draw attention to inequities in school discipline and end discriminatory police profiling, as well as the 2016 ban on suspensions of students in kindergarten through 2nd grade.
In 2017, youth, including MRNY members, released a policy brief asking for investments to create safe and supportive educational environments. They presented it to a receptive city council and that same day the DOE announced an $8 Million investment in social, emotional, and mental health support for NYC students including $3 million for restorative practices – a major victory for our students.
Access to healthcare for TGNC New Yorkers
In February 2015, after over a decade of organizing by Make the Road New York and our allies, Medicaid in New York began to cover transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) healthcare. Previously, care available to cisgender (non-trans) people, like hormone treatment, had been denied to TGNC Medicaid patients, even when doctors deemed that care necessary.
Now, when doctors prescribe hormone therapy or approve gender-affirming surgeries, TGNC New Yorkers who use Medicaid will be covered. This victory followed the announcement that private insurance companies in New York cannot refuse gender-related coverage to TGNC patients. Together, these reforms improve access to healthcare and benefit thousands.
Student Success Center creates path to college
Make the Road New York’s Student Success Center is the city’s first youth-designed and youth-led college access program, and an integral part of our Bushwick Campus Community School. MRNY staff and trained youth leaders offer college awareness workshops, trips, and activities, and provide one-on-one and group support for the college application and matriculation process.
As a result, 85% of participants are accepted to college. Recognizing the success of our model, New York City has replicated it across the five boroughs. Today, there are 34 schools with Student Success Centers reaching 17,000 students citywide.
Expanded human rights law in Suffolk County
Thanks to the advocacy of MRNY members and allies, Suffolk County amended its human rights law in September 2014 to prevent discrimination by employers, creditors, and landlords. The law expands and adds protections against employment discrimination for domestic workers, transgender people, veterans, domestic violence survivors, pregnant women, and disabled residents. The new law also prohibits discrimination against renters who receive public assistance or other subsidies.
Communities vulnerable to discrimination – like low-income and immigrant New Yorkers – now have new protections against unscrupulous employers, creditors, and landlords.
Paid sick days for 1.5 million NYC workers
For a low-wage worker, taking off even a single day without pay can make the difference between making rent and facing eviction. It can also mean losing a job. Low-wage workers have been fired for taking a sick day — some were even fired for going to the hospital after getting injured on the job.
After tireless advocacy by hundreds of Make the Road New York’s individual and small business members and our allies, on April 1, 2014 New York City became the largest city in the U.S. to enact paid sick days legislation.
Equal language access for all, across New York State
Our work with immigrants revealed that a lack of translation and interpretation services led to unequal access to government services and even healthcare disasters. Our organizers, policy experts and attorneys worked with hundreds of impacted families to gather data and formulate solutions. Together we won— building from the first local victories to system-wide, citywide, and statewide victories.
Translation and interpretation is now mandatory in all welfare centers in NYC (2003); all hospitals in NY State (2006); all NYC government agencies (2008); all chain pharmacies in NYC (2009); all NY State government agencies (2011); all chain pharmacies in NY State (2012); and all Suffolk and Nassau County government offices (2013, 2014).
Protecting workers from wage theft
Make the Road New York led the campaign to win the landmark state-level Wage Theft Prevention Act, which quadrupled penalties for wage theft and created cutting edge protections against retaliations. The measure, which took effect on April 9, 2011, helps to secure the wages of low-income and immigrant workers, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by employers.
This is the strongest anti-wage theft legislation in the country, helping to protect all New Yorkers and making New York the national leader in the fight against wage theft.
From our NYC centers in Brooklyn, Queens & Staten Island, we serve immigrants from throughout the 5 boroughs and organize to win policies that benefit millions.
Our fastest growing membership base is leading a highly impactful civic engagement program that is helping to make Long Island more equitable.
Our newest center in Westchester is expanding critical services for the area’s growing and often isolated immigrant community and uniting families across the state to strengthen our ability to win systemic reforms at the state and national levels.
Antonio joined MRNY in 2010, finding a safe space and the encouragement to raise his voice. After working on multiple issues and becoming a recognized leader in MRNY's youth work, he was offered the opportunity to help open Make the Road Nevada. He rose to the challenge and says his experience "made me realized how crucial MRNV was going to be for those families."
We lead the fight for immigrant rights across the country, working as a powerful bloc with our sister organizations: Make the Road New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, as well as our national partner, the Center for Popular Democracy, and their affiliate organizations. We support communities of color across the nation to build the resistance with us.