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December 14, 2018

Why Citizenship NOW! is essential

June 30, 2018
Volunteers man the phones during the Citizenship Now Call In at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan on June 20, 2017. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

We’re living in frightening times in the United States, and the group that feels this most viscerally are immigrants. Immigrants and their relatives have been under attack since Jan. 20, 2017, the day Donald Trump was sworn in.

Since then, we’ve witnessed border patrol agents cruelly separate children from parents seeking asylum.




We’ve seen a 35-year-old father arrested by ICE while delivering pizza – and his wife faced with the horrifying prospect he could be deported.

We’ve seen Xiu Qing You detained and kept from his wife and children.

We’ve watched people without any criminal history arrested by ICE in this city for no good reason.

Immigrants need our help now.

CUNY Citizenship NOW! – a program the Daily News has poured its heart into for years – is a shining example of how we can lend our support.

I’m proud to support it – especially now.

Today, over 300 volunteers will answer immigration questions from hundreds of people, to help those struggling to move forward with their lives.

They’ll offer assistance with applying for citizenship, permanent residence and deferred action. They’ll offer hope to people struggling to navigate not only our country’s Byzantine immigration laws, but the overt animus emanating from Washington.

The City Council supports immigrants. This month, we passed a budget that devotes $46 million to immigrant services — $12 million of which will go toward assisting children and their families. We increased funding to Citizenship NOW! by $500,000, to a total of $2.5 million. And we’ve passed laws that limit how much city law enforcement can cooperate with ICE and ban the use of city resources for enforcement of civil immigration laws.

The assault immigrants are facing is an affront to us all. And it may sound like pablum, but it’s true and bears repeating: This nation was founded on the backs of and built by immigrants. America would never have achieved what it has without immigrants.

Nowhere are the implications of this more acutely felt than in New York City, home of more than 3 million foreign-born residents. Like all the foreign-born New Yorkers who came before them, these immigrants ensure that our great city doesn’t grind to a standstill. They make it thrive.

Helping them to get a fair shake is the right thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do; it’s a public service; and it’s important we recognize that, especially now.

The Daily News – the paper I read on the subway to City Hall – has been involved with Citizenship NOW! for 16 years.

At a time when newspapers and journalists face constant – and almost always unjustified – vitriol from leaders and misguided readers on social media, it’s incumbent on elected officials to stand up and highlight the good work the media performs. Whether it’s the Daily News’ coverage of NYCHA, or the city press corps shining a light on Fair Fares, or Citizenship NOW!, this work is essential to a healthy democracy.




But you don’t have to work for a newspaper or government to lend a hand. You don’t have to sit on the sidelines. If you want to help, volunteer – whether it’s with Citizenship NOW! or one of the many organizations that assist immigrants.

And if you’re an immigrant who needs help, please, get it. We need you here. And we want you here. The fate of our city has always depended on your hard work and innovation.

Johnson is speaker of the New York City Council.




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