For Immediate Release: September 30, 2020
ActionNYC RFP awards more than $16 million over the next 2.5 years to 21 community-based organizations and legal service providers across the five boroughs. Selected organizations will provide free high-quality immigration legal services to the City’s most historically under-represented communities in over 40 languages and indigenous dialects.
New ActionNYC Capacity-Building Fellowship supports the development of immigration legal services programs in community-based organizations serving hard-to-reach African, Asian, and Caribbean immigrant communities.
NEW YORK—Today, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration celebrate five years since the launch of ActionNYC by awarding 21 community-based organizations (CBOs) and legal service providers with more than $16 million in funding over the course of the next 2.5 years to provide immigration legal services to New York City’s immigrant communities. ActionNYC provides immigrant New Yorkers with free, comprehensive immigration legal screenings, legal representation, accurate and timely immigration-related information, and referrals to City-funded and community-based resources and support services.
Concluding a Request for Proposals (RFP) process initiated in November 2019, this investment further institutionalizes ActionNYC—the City’s premiere, free, community-based immigration legal services program—into the fabric of City-funded service offerings. Through the RFP awards, services will be provided at trusted community sites and at public schools, hospitals, and libraries citywide; anchored with a continued citywide hotline and appointment making system; and supported by continued legal training and assistance for ActionNYC attorneys and navigators.
The selected CBOs are uniquely positioned to meet community-specific needs due to their immigration legal expertise, strong local ties, and cultural and linguistic competence, and will serve immigrant communities that are historically under-represented and hard to reach. Through these awards, ActionNYC increases service provision to African, Asian, and Caribbean communities and furthers the City’s commitment to greater racial equity.
In addition to these awards, the City will provide more than $400,000 in funding to the ActionNYC Capacity-Building Fellowship program, which supports the development of legal expertise, infrastructure, and capacity of community-based organizations with small, limited, or growing immigration legal service programs. In Fiscal Year 2021, Fellows will serve immigrants from South Asia, Asia, Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, as well as immigrant members of the LGBTQ community.
“During this administration, we have made the largest local investment in immigration legal services in the nation because we know keeping families together and helping immigrant New Yorkers thrive makes us stronger as a city,” said Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Bitta Mostofi. “At a time when immigrant families continue to face cruel, xenophobic threats by the Trump Administration, New York City continues to stand with our immigrant communities. Furthering our commitment to diversity and inclusion by working with community organizations deeply rooted in our city’s hardest-to-reach immigrant communities, ActionNYC will reach even more New Yorkers in need at the trusted places they commonly turn to for help.”
“Penalizing families and children seeking food assistance and other essential services to make ends meet is unconscionable and un-American,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “Amid a pandemic and an unprecedented economic crisis, the Trump Administration is actively sowing distrust in government among our immigrant communities, which will only make our recovery harder. Our City remains committed to doing everything we can to protect and support our immigrant neighbors—and ActionNYC embodies this mission and commitment, which is why we’re proud to celebrate its progress and expand it to take that progress even further. We urge any New Yorker with questions or concerns about benefits, services, livelihood, or legal matters to get free legal help via the ActionNYC initiative.”
“We are grateful for the partnerships MOIA is further enhancing to ensure all New Yorkers understand their rights regardless of their immigration status and are able to seek critical services throughout the City,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “Our public hospital system has historically come to the aid of undocumented populations to provide important healthcare services. We’re proud to continue to advocate for these populations alongside other City agencies, CBOs, and allies.”
“ActionNYC is a critical resource for thousands of immigrant New Yorkers, and these partnerships will help expand access to free and safe immigration legal services for communities in need,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We are proud to help connect New Yorkers to these services through our schools and know this initiative will strengthen legal assistance for immigrant residents across the five boroughs.”
“Over the past nearly five years, ActionNYC has provided thousands of non-citizens living in New York City with a range of vital—and free—legal services, with the goal of ensuring that all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, can access the assistance to which they are entitled,” said HRA Administrator Gary Jenkins. “As our City continues to recover from the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on building back fairer and more equitably than before, this Administration understands that all communities must be able to share in the growth and prosperity. Our expansion of ActionNYC continues to make sure New York City remains a place where anyone can strive towards a better future and thrive.”
“For 125 years, The New York Public Library has welcomed New Yorkers from all walks of life, providing greater access to opportunities and a deeper sense of community,” said Adriana Blancarte-Hayward, Manager of Outreach Services at The New York Public Library. “We are proud to be a trusted space for newcomers to our City, offering vital programs for immigrants. Opening our doors to legal service organizations that provide valuable programs that complement our offerings furthers our mission to ensure everyone who visits the Library receives the support they need to succeed.”
“The library is very often the first stop for immigrants upon their arrival in New York City and is as essential to the modern immigrant experience as Ellis Island was to those who arrived here a century ago,” said Nick Higgins, Chief Librarian at The Brooklyn Public Library. “We have long provided language classes, citizenship prep groups, legal services, civics workshops and a safe space for New York's diverse immigrant community to grow and thrive. We are delighted to be a part of Action NYC to continue this important, even urgent work in hard-to-reach-communities across the borough.”
New York City is home to 3.1 million immigrants who comprise about 37 percent of the city’s population and 45 percent of its workforce. Recognizing that when immigrants thrive, our City thrives, the de Blasio administration launched ActionNYC in December 2015 to provide immigrant New Yorkers with access to free, high-quality immigration legal services in their language, at safe locations in their community. The initial investment was more than $7.9 million—then the largest local investment in immigration legal services in the nation.
Over the ensuing years, the current federal administration’s anti-immigrant policies, practices, and rhetoric heightened concerns among immigrant New Yorkers and increased the need for free and trusted immigration legal services. In this high-pressure environment, with the stakes for New York City’s immigrants higher than ever, ActionNYC fulfilled its mandate and provided immigrant New Yorkers with high-quality and timely immigration-related information and legal services, at trusted community locations, by professionals with relevant cultural and linguistic competencies. ActionNYC also provided referrals to other City-funded programs and organizations providing services contributing to the broader health and well-being of immigrant communities. Since its launch, ActionNYC has served over 35,000 immigrant New Yorkers and filed over 12,000 cases.
The ActionNYC model enables community-based organizations to optimize their capacity to provide immigrant families with high quality, free legal services by pairing attorneys with trained navigators. Community navigators are community members who receive specialized training to assist in the provision of quality immigration services in their communities. Selected organizations receive legal technical assistance, including legal trainings and assistance in gaining or maintaining recognition and accreditation from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP). This model was designed with input from a range of City agencies, legal service providers, community partners, and philanthropic partners.
The ActionNYC RFP awarded contracts will further ensure CBOs and legal service providers with linguistically competent staff can serve community members with free, safe, and high-quality immigration legal services in their language at trusted community sites. Through these new partners, ActionNYC will provide services to community members from hard-to-reach immigrant populations in neighborhoods throughout all five boroughs.
ActionNYC provides free comprehensive legal screenings to all of its clients and provides application assistance for a wide range of cases, including green card renewals, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applications, and citizenship applications. Individuals also receive other ancillary benefits, including referrals for non-immigration-legal needs including food assistance, education assistance and opportunities, housing support, non-immigration legal services, mental health services, and health care. ActionNYC also connects community members with key City programs including NYC Care, a key component of Mayor de Blasio’s Guaranteed Health Care commitment to New Yorkers, and IDNYC, the largest municipal identification program in the nation. With this support, New Yorkers will continue to receive comprehensive immigration legal screenings and, where needed, legal representation over the course of the coming years.
The organizations receiving funding, either directly or via sub-agreement, are:
“Our organization has been providing multilingual, culturally competent immigration legal services to underserved African immigrant communities across New York City for seven years. But until now we have been dependent on lawyers from other agencies to handle our cases,” said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together (ACT). “This award from ActionNYC will enable ACT to serve our communities directly and meet the increasing needs of New York's fast-growing African immigrant communities.”
“For nearly four decades, African Services Committee has been dedicated to providing broad-spectrum solutions to immigrants, refugees, and asylees and we look forward to providing additional legal immigration services as a proud ActionNYC partner to lift up newcomers during this time of great fear, uncertainty, and loss,” said Franco Torres, Supervising Attorney at African Services Committee (ASC). “ActionNYC is an important program that allows organizations like ours to better serve and protect immigrant New Yorkers. We are thrilled to be a part of the expansion of this program and the vital support it offers to immigrant New Yorkers.”
“Since 2015, ActionNYC has changed and saved lives for thousands of immigrants across New York,” said Marwa Janini, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY). “As our city deals with the impacts of COVID-19, ActionNYC has been more essential than ever, providing lifelines to tens of thousands of families struggling due to the pandemic. We're incredibly proud to be a part of ActionNYC's work to protect and support immigrants who are the backbone of our city, and we look forward to working with ActionNYC to support New Yorkers through this crisis and beyond.”
“BronxWorks is proud to accept the ActionNYC grant awarded by the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs. The ActionNYC program plays a critically important role in strengthening our community by providing free, safe, and reliable services to individuals and families that make up New York,” stated BronxWorks, Inc. “This program, in combination with the myriad of other services provided by BronxWorks, allows the agency to assist community members in a holistic manner that ensures the complex needs of the community can be addressed as a whole.”
“After 5 years of successful implementation, CAMBA looks forward to continuing to work with the City and our provider partners to make sure that all immigrants in New York City have access to accurate, reliable information and legal assistance in immigration matters, particularly at this critical time,” said Joanne M. Oplustil, President and CEO of CAMBA, Inc. “With skilled navigators handling tasks – such as completing immigration applications and helping clients gather documents and apply for additional services – our staff attorneys are able to focus on more complicated legal matters maximizing the reach and impact of our services, and allowing us to better support our immigrant clients and communities.”
“Caribbean Women’s Health Association (CWHA) is extremely grateful and excited for the opportunity to be a part of this ActionNYC initiative. Now, at this crucial juncture in our nation’s history, our immigrant community is depending on us for legal assistance and timely, accurate legal information," said Cheryl Hall, Executive Director of the Caribbean Women’s Health Association (CWHA). “CWHA looks forward to implementing the effective and sustainable ActionNYC community navigator model to help address this ever-increasing demand for high-quality, culturally and linguistically competent immigration legal services, as well as impactful outreach and education.”
“Catholic Charities Community Services is pleased to continue its partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Human Resource Administration in New York City’s ActionNYC programming. In this time of uncertainty and anxiety for immigrants—with the onslaught of the Covid pandemic and with four years of harsh policies and rhetoric issuing from the federal administration—this initiative is more critical than ever,” said Mario Russell, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS). “As we have been called to protect and invest in New York’s newcomers, who ensure this City’s stability and future, we look forward to continuing to serve tens of thousands with information and legal referrals through the ActionNYC Hotline as well as protecting children and families through the ActionNYC in Schools legal program. The ActionNYC in Schools initiative, which we will now join in partnership with The Door and Little Sisters of the Assumption, has provided legal services to over 4,400 immigrant youth and their families within the safe spaces of public schools, breaking down barriers to justice for this vulnerable community since 2016. Equally important in strengthening the network of support for immigrants, Catholic Charities’ ActionNYC Hotline has answered an average of 21,000 calls each year since 2016, providing legal appointments and information to immigrants in New York City. We are pleased to continue these important partnerships with New York City and the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs.”
“Chhaya is proud to be selected to be part of ActionNYC. As a pillar of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities, Chhaya understands the vital need for these immigration services in New York City,” said Annetta Seecharran, Executive Director of Chhaya Community Development Corporation (Chhaya CDC). “While the climate around immigrants continues to grow more hostile by the day, participating in ActionNYC provides us the tools to help our communities navigate it.”
“The Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) is excited to continue this work in partnership with NYLAG on the ActionNYC initiative. To date, we have served over 700 community members that need support and guidance pertaining to legal immigration counseling. In addition to culturally and linguistically competent 1-on-1 service, we also provide know your rights education to our vulnerable and often overlooked immigrant community,” said Mitch Wu, Director of Queens Community Services at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC). “During these times, with the issues of Public Charge rules, the lack of awareness and fear of the US Census by the immigrant community, and the Covid pandemic; CPC is committed to continue our work with ActionNYC to continue to serve, educate, and support NYC's immigrant populations. The work of ActionNYC for our city is paramount as we work to empower our immigrant and low-income communities.”
“The Haitian Americans United for Progress is honored to be an ActionNYC partner. The majority of the people we serve are immigrants of very modest means, hailing from Haiti and other Caribbean nations, living in mixed immigration status households, and will greatly benefit from access to free immigration legal advice and representation through this program, particularly given the Federal Administration’s relentless attacks on our communities,” said Elsie Saint Louis, Executive Director at Haitian American United for Progress, Inc. (HAUP).
“Immigrant Justice Corps applauds the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs for its continued commitment to expanding legal services for low income immigrant New Yorkers. In these uncertain times when immigrants are under attack and immigration policies and practices change frequently, accurate information and quality immigration legal services are critical to keeping immigrant families together,” said Jojo Annobil, Executive Director, Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC). “Libraries serve as the great connector, and Immigrant Justice Corps is proud to serve immigrant New Yorkers in these vital community spaces under the Action NYC program.”
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs on its ActionNYC initiative. For over a decade, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement has provided free immigration legal services to countless immigrant community members and has long recognized the great need that immigrant New Yorkers have for access to reputable legal screenings and legal assistance. This award to serve as an ActionNYC host site in partnership with our colleagues at Sunnyside Community Services will greatly increase our capacity to meet that need and further our goal to help our immigrant community members thrive,” said Christopher Hanway, Executive Director of Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement.
“I am fortunate to live and work in Queens, the most ethnically diverse area in the US, with people from all over the world who have a great need for free legal immigration services. ActionNYC fills a much-needed gap to serve these often-forgotten communities,” said Shoshanna Malett, Senior Staff Attorney, Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY). “Through ActionNYC, I am able to provide free, high-quality legal services to immigrants and families at Chhaya, our community-based partner organization, a setting where our clients feel most comfortable, and where they can obtain holistic social services. Lutheran Social Services of New York and I are grateful to be a part of this crucial program for our city.”
“In practicing immigration law in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, I don’t think of our clients merely as individuals but rather as members of a larger community that has been systematically disenfranchised since arriving to the United States. The vast majority of my clients are women and hard-working families, fighting to provide for and protect their families. Most have also experienced collective trauma, persecution, and multiple forms of violence,” said Patricia Vázquez, Staff Attorney at Lutheran Social Services of New York(LSSNY). “ActionNYC mitigates cultural, socioeconomic and language barriers while providing essential immigration legal services. It has allowed me, as a lawyer, to be part of the solution, to build an opportunity to provide equitable access to legal information and legal services to a community that is central to the economic sustainability of this country.”
“Make the Road New York has been an ActionNYC partner since its launch in 2015, and we are proud to see it continue. ActionNYC has allowed us to provide high quality immigration legal services to thousands of our city’s most marginalized and impacted communities,” said Theo Oshiro, Deputy Director of Make the Road NY. “Immigrants make up the engine and lifeblood of our City, and through our ActionNYC work, MRNY will continue to fight for them by providing culturally and linguistically competent legal representation of the highest caliber.”
"The MinKwon Center for Community Action is proud to partner with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs to provide free quality immigration legal services to immigrant New Yorkers, especially the immigrants in our borough of Queens who comprise half of all immigration court cases in the City,” said John Park, Executive Director of MinKwonCenter for Community Action. “ActionNYC is a program that connects and scales up the collective capacity and effectiveness of local community based organizations and legal service providers with the cultural sensitivity, language capacity, and earned relationships with immigrant communities to provide legal services in a manner that is safe, equitable, and dignified.”
“NYLAG is proud to continue to partner with the groundbreaking ActionNYC program to provide critical legal services to immigrant New Yorkers. With a global pandemic and a sustained effort by the federal government to limit their rights, immigrants are facing unprecedented challenges. Through ActionNYC, we will protect the rights of immigrants, help them navigate the complex legal landscape, and ensure that they are afforded the quality legal assistance they need. In this difficult time, we are grateful to the City of New York for prioritizing these services,” said Beth Goldman, President & Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG).
“NMIC is proud to continue its partnership with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs to provide safe, effective legal services to immigrants in New York City through the ActionNYC program. Subsequently, NMIC has served thousands of immigrant residents as they continue a path to residency, citizenship, and access to work opportunities. This essential service will be a critical support for communities as the city recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC).
“Center for Family Life is proud to continue its partnership with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs to provide critically needed legal and supportive services to immigrant families in Sunset Park, Brooklyn through ActionNYC,” said Julia Jean-Francois, Co-Director of SCO Family Services/Center for Family Life (CFL). “The ActionNYC program has been and continues to be vital to ensure the stability and well-being of New York City's diverse immigrant communities, and we are deeply grateful to Commissioner Bitta Mostofi for including us in this work.”
“We are proud to partner with Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement on ActionNYC,” said Judith Zangwill, Executive Director of Sunnyside Community Services (SCS). “By helping immigrants understand policy changes and navigate legal issues, ActionNYC is meeting an important need in the immigrant community. Sunnyside Community Services has been serving immigrants since 1974. Over the decades, immigrants in our community have come to view us as an important resource for information and advice on everything from Pre-K to senior services. With ActionNYC, we can now offer guidance and referrals on immigration legal services."
ActionNYC is for every immigrant New Yorker. The hotline offers free, safe immigration legal help in a network of trusted community organizations, public health facilities, and soon libraries. To make an appointment to receive free immigration legal help, call 1-800-354-0365 or 311 and say “ActionNYC” from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. ActionNYC is a partnership between the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and the City University of New York. Visit nyc.gov/ActionNYC for more information.
About the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
The NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) promotes the well-being of NYC’s immigrant communities by advocating for policies that increase justice, equity, and empowerment. MOIA leads, supports, and manages programs that help to successfully include immigrant New Yorkers into the civic, economic, and cultural life of the City. For more information on all MOIA services and the City’s many resources for immigrant New Yorkers, go to nyc.gov/immigrants; call the MOIA hotline at 212-788-7654 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday or send an email to AskMOIA@cityhall.nyc.gov; and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.