New York Immigration Groups Prepare to Meet Demands of New Policy

NY Times — President Obama’s sweeping executive actions on immigration present daunting logistical challenges across the nation, but especially in New York, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has called “the gateway for immigrants worldwide.”

They come amid growing recognition that the state’s large and diverse population of illegal immigrants cannot be reached with a one-size-fits-all approach. Some government officials and advocates see the executive actions as the biggest test yet for an extensive network of immigrant-focused resources and services that has emerged in recent years and that could serve as a model for other states.

A key part of the new actions will allow many undocumented parents whose children are citizens or legal residents to apply for temporary reprieves from deportation and work permits — though not formal legal immigration status — through a newly created program called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, which is expected to begin in six months. The actions also expand a 2012 program that offers relief to undocumented young people who came to the country as children, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, a policy and advocacy organization, said that the new and expanded programs could draw more than 250,000 applications from New Yorkers in the first few months, posing what he described as “a massive human services challenge.”

“We’re talking about a tidal wave that could potentially swamp organizations if we don’t have the right preparations in place,” Mr. Choi said.

While the federal government sets immigration policy, it is the informal networks of advocacy groups, community organizations, social service agencies and others that play a crucial role in whether new initiatives succeed or falter. They are the ones who go into neighborhoods to reach undocumented families and shepherd them through an often frustrating bureaucratic process.

In New York, where such networks have long thrived, many immigration advocates say that they have been strengthened in recent years through partnerships with state and city agencies. Last year, the Cuomo administration created an Office for New Americans within the New York Department of State that runs 27 “opportunity centers” for immigrants — including 13 in New York City — that help immigrants learn English, become citizens and start businesses.

“People don’t normally trust government, particularly immigrants, and I think we’ve been successful in getting their trust,” said Cesar A. Perales, the New York secretary of state.

In response to the immigration actions, the Office for New Americans, which has an annual budget of $7 million, plans to expand services at the …

[Read More]