“The reality is the city as a whole is serving immigrant families every day,” said Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. She sat down with us to speak about the work the city is doing to help its immigrant community.
“It is very important for New Yorkers to feel very connected to their city government to know the city is providing arraignments through different services and that we are open and accessible to immigrants,” she said.
In January of 2015 Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the municipal ID program known as IDNYC, an identification card that allows New Yorkers to receive city benefits and perks no matter what their immigration status is. Agarwal said 900,000 people signed up.
In 2014 the city spent $14 million a year on immigrant services, according to a city budget analysis. Today the city is spending $30 million, launching new programs like Action NYC, a free community-based legal service program. We Are New York provides English language classes and other opportunities to improve English. The city works with organizations like Make the Road New York, which helps with community outreach and with providing these services.
As for the critics who say the city shouldn’t be spending tax payer money on these free programs, Agarwal said it is for the greater good of the city. She said that providing these services to immigrants improves the economy, education outcomes, and the health of the city as a whole.
The Office of Immigrant Affairs doesn’t do job placement. However, the services it offers, such as the free English classes, help immigrants find a job, according to officials.