By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, Polish Daily News and FI2W reporter
With less than a month to go before the election that will decide whether he remains in office for a third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to support New York’s immigrants, to be implemented if he is reelected.
Standing at the podium with a sign that read “City of Immigrants, Mike Bloomberg NYC” at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan, the mayor reminded a crowd consisting mostly of ethnic media reporters of his previous initiatives for the city’s immigrants and went on to praise their role in the city.
“Immigrants are why New York City became America’s economic engine,” Bloomberg stated. “In these tough times our city needs more immigrants, not fewer.”
One of the new plan’s proposals is to ensure that more immigrant New Yorkers who want to learn English have the opportunity to do so. The initiative would also provide help for small business owners, support undocumented students pursuing higher education, and protect immigrants from exploitation by developing regulations to protect non-English speakers from fraudulent immigration service providers as well as by strengthening the legal assistance available to them.
Bloomberg also promised to take the cause of immigrants to higher levels. For example, he said he would lobby New York State to adopt a language access policy similar to New York City’s that would provide translation and interpretation services for all state agencies. He also promisesd to advocate on the federal level. “As the mayor of the city with the country’s largest immigrant population I have spoken out many times in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and I will continue to do so,” he said.
The announcement was followed by a press conference for ethnic and community media where for approximately 40 minutes Bloomberg answered questions about issues including education, affordable housing and the safety of undocumented immigrants.
The mayor’s goal of campaigning even among the journalists was clear from the beginning as his staff distributed “Mike Bloomberg NYC” stickers among those present. Still, many reporters were clearly pleased with the rare chance to interact with the mayor, and some started their questions thanking him for the opportunity.
Asked if he would make himself more available to the ethnic press if reelected for another term, Bloomberg said he would.
“I have not done as good a job as we promised,” he said. “We started out with good faith in doing it and it probably hasn’t gotten done. It’s a fair criticism.”
Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, who attended the press conference, focused on a positive side of the mayor’s announcement.
“I think that these pledges were very specific. Part of what was offered included not just a one-time funding program infusion but mandated long term commitment for ESL classes,” said Hong referring to a proposed 10-year plan where the city would make an initial commitment of $3-million for English classes. “Having campaign pledges is very important because then you can hold the mayor accountable,” she added.