Well aware that more than half of Queens residents speak a foreign language at home, Mayor Mike Bloomberg promoted his blueprint for the immigration policies he wants to pursue in his third term. Calling immigrants the City’s "economic engine," Bloomberg stumped on his record and his plans for the future.
The document puts in writing the mayor’s commitment to a rather progressive stance on immigration. It spells out 11 specific priorities for future programs and policies ranging from expanding English as a Second Language programs to creating a fellowship for more immigration lawyers to supporting undocumented students pursing a college education.
The report also spells out Bloomberg’s accomplishments in the last eight years, which include establishing a uniform policy for translation and interpretation in six major languages among City agencies that directly deal with New Yorkers. He has also signed an executive order that forbids City workers from asking immigrants about their legal status unless they are suspected of a crime.
The mayor’s campaign also highlighted his centralization of immigrant services and agencies, the creation of an immigrant heritage week and the work being done to ensure immigrants are fully counted in the 2010 Census.
Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road By Walking, a large immigrant advocacy group that is comprised of roughly 60 percent undocumented immigrants, gave the mayor credit for providing "an opening" to listen to and acknowledge the efforts of advocates suchas herself.
"I think his second term showed an attention to immigrants that we haven’t seen before in many mayors," said Archila. "I think that attention is both a testament to the work of the immigrant communities becoming more vocal and organized than in the past and a willingness and leadership on his side."
When asked about the mayor’s call for greater enforcement against con artists who take advantage of immigrants, Archila acknowledged that issue may not be fully addressed by City agencies, but still lauded publicizing these concerns. "The more attention that is given to this issue, the more difficult it becomes for people to continue exploitative processes. We both need an institution that provides enforcement and an environment that doesn’t tolerate abuse."
Archila said manyof Make the Road’s priorities were addressed by the plan, but some specific demands have not been assuaged. "Our No. 1 priority right now is passing the Sick Day Bill which would make sure that all the workers in New York City have paid sick days," Archila said.
Valeria Treves, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, was more skeptical. "When judging an incumbent, it’s not just about promises, but it’s also about the record," she said, "and Bloomberg has a mixed record."
Treves praised the mayor for laying out his platform, but wanted to hear more about specific executive orders he could implement right away. "A lot of these plans are very complicated and need support from City Council."
For example, Treves wanted the mayor to reign in the rampant stop-and-frisk policy by the police. "He needs to temper down police harassment, put an end to fear of raids, fight increased harassment of [day laborer] workers by police, investigate hate crimes and enforce safety measures for undocumented workers."
Both organizations say a lot remains to be done, but they also acknowledge the mayor has not ignored immigrant issues and has proposed some creative ideas. "Nonetheless, these are just promises," said Treves, "Whatever people think of his record, that’s where they should be placing their vote." The full plan is available online at mikebloomberg.com.