A deeper look at “sanctuaries”: next steps to protecting the undocumented population

As the federal administration continues to threaten funding cuts for self-proclaimed sanctuary cities, mayors from around the nation have spoken out to assure their commitment to this policy and their communities has not changed. For example, Mayor de Blasio has successfully taken steps to block Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents from pursuing a federally mandated search-and-deport enforcement strategy by banning agents from entering public schools without warrants and emphasizing community policing.

But what else can be done to protect undocumented immigrants and their families? As more City officials position themselves against the Trump administration, ready to fight all the way to court, there is also the looming federal budget cuts that further threaten immigrants and the nonprofits they rely on for services.

For the human services sector, these potential budget cuts compound already realized issues of working in communities – like undocumented immigrants – where federal policies already have adverse impacts. Nonprofits are essential in providing legal services, along with support services like mental health, food, shelter, and case management. The City Council has recognized that human services are integral to sanctuary policy, citing that legal services for immigrant families as just one area of services that need to be sustained in order to follow sanctuary claims. The Council’s Finance Chair, Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, connected sanctuary policy to human services by stating, as a sanctuary city with a plan, now is the time to right-size human services contracts,” pointing to the fact that human services organizations are not in a healthy position to continue their supportive services effectively without a financial adjustment to the sector.

Human services must face the reality that more and more people may have to rely on their services in this climate, while balancing potential cutbacks in their budget to continue to provide services. Chronically underpaid contracts, however, continue to drain the resources of these organizations and their ability to serve New Yorkers.

Regardless of their documented status, human services not only provide legal support, but valuable opportunities for professional and familial support to immigrants, ensuring their ability to contribute back to their communities. From job training programs, to adult literacy classes and childcare centers, human services are the frontline providers of access and opportunity. Doing this work responsibly requires careful planning and adequate financial resources. For the Mayor, who promises to maintain New York City’s status as a place of safety and opportunity for immigrant populations, neglecting the human services sectors’ fiscal crisis during this time is problematic.

Undoubtedly the state and local government are overburdened in trying to protect all their constituents from imminent federal cutbacks. The Mayor’s decision to take a stand against federal criminalization of undocumented immigrants by designating NYC as a sanctuary city is a huge step, but this cannot be done effectively without a financially strong human services sector providing sanctuary.

As established by the Council, a direct investment in the human services sector is a direct investment in sanctuary policy. HSC’s “Sustain Our Sanctuary” campaign is asking for just that; a 12% across-the-board increase on human services contracts. Given that close to 1 in 5 New York human services providers are insolvent, delayed commitments are detrimental to New York’s stated sanctuary policy. By putting additional resources to shore up New York’s human services sector now, Mayor de Blasio will reinforce commitment to maintaining New York’s sanctuary legacy, allowing organizations to expand their services to meet the increasing demand from all New Yorkers.

Andrea Parejo, Government & External Relations Intern 

About Human Services Council

The Human Services Council strengthens New York's nonprofit human services sector, ensuring all New Yorkers across diverse neighborhoods, cultures, and generations reach their full potential.
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