NEW YORK — Hundreds of immigrants and people of color are in Albany today calling on legislators to act on a list of priorities they call the Respect and Dignity for All platform.
They traveled from New York City, Long Island and Westchester for a morning rally and day of lobbying in the state capital. At the top of the list is a bill called the Protect Our Courts Act which would remove Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from state courthouses.
According to Jennifer Hernandez, a lead organizer with Make the Road New York, the presence of ICE agents in courts is denying many immigrants access to justice.
“There’s an ongoing war in immigrant communities and people are scared to go into court because ICE will basically hunt you down wherever they can get you and will stalk you,” Hernandez said.
Other priorities include legislation to protect tenants from unreasonable evictions and to end discriminatory discipline practices in public schools.
Hernandez says a bill called the Solutions Not Suspensions Act would address racial and ethnic disparities in the severity of punishment given to students in New York public schools.
“We have data to corroborate that youth of color are being targeted for suspension and are getting harsher disciplinary actions than their peers,” she said.
She noted outside of New York City, 10% of students facing discipline are African-American but they are 31% of those being suspended.
The housing-affordability crisis is spreading, but millions of tenants have no protection from developers who evict for frivolous reasons. Hernandez pointed out that rent-stabilization laws currently apply only to buildings with six or more units.
“Last year we passed a big reform to the rent laws that was a great start, but it’s not enough,” she said. “And we still need to push for good cause so that all renters have protections.”