Be an Advocate

In record numbers, you have called, emailed and stopped by Neighbors Link to ask what you can do to support immigrants. Thank you for standing up in this critical time. We are emailing out regular action steps and will update this page with those items. If you would like to be added to our email list, contact Katie Graves-Abe.

1. Participate in Events in Westchester to Support Immigrants and Refugees

Thank you to everyone who joined the rally for the Immigrant Protection Act on August 7th. We are deeply gratified to have the support of the majority of the Westchester Board of Legislators and for the leadership of Legislator Borgia, who worked tirelessly alongside us to create the Immigrant Protection Act. We are also incredibly grateful to the collaborative effort by a stellar collection of advocates, including New York Immigration Coalition, Westchester Hispanic Coalition, John Jay Legal Services, and our own Neighbors Link Community Law Practice, who worked to bring this bill forward.

While we are not at all surprised that County Executive Astorino will veto the bill, we are, nonetheless, disappointed that he chooses to willfully disregard the will of the majority of legislators and by extension, their constituents, who support this bill. It is our hope that in the end, we will be able to harness support to override his veto and this vital piece of legislation.

2. Speak Out!

Many people ask us for talking points on how to articulate their support for immigrants in our community. Here are a few sentences that you can use when the time is right.

Immigrants are good for our country, our economy, and our democracy. Most of us are descended from immigrants, and we know from our own family histories that when immigrants are integrated into a community, everyone thrives. I am going to stand up for the immigrants who are my neighbors.

3. Additional Resources

Many people have asked us for the best way to stay updated on immigration issues, both at a national and local level. Two reliable groups to follow are:
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), particularly for local updates on immigration issues in New York. Neighbors Link is a member of NYIC.
The National Immigration Law Center, particularly for legal updates on immigration issues.

4. Educate Yourself on Immigration Myths and Realities

People often come to us looking for advice on how to respond to false information they hear about immigrants. We will be updating these myths and realities often in the next few weeks:

Immigration Myth 1: Immigrants Don't Pay Taxes

FACTS:

  • Undocumented immigrants are taxpayers - they pay sales and property taxes and many pay income taxes. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) released a study showing that undocumented immigrants across the US paid an estimated $11.84 billion in state and local taxes in 2012.
  • The Social Security Administration estimates that undocumented immigrants contribute about $12 billion each year to the cash flow of the program without receiving benefits in return because of their status.
  • In New York, undocumented immigrants contribute over $1 billion in state and local taxes annually.

Immigration Myth 2: Immigrants aren't learning English

FACTS:

  • Immigrants in the United States today are actually learning English slightly faster than their predecessors. Sixty-six percent of immigrants who speak a foreign language at home can also speak English "very well" or "well," according to a new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
  • In many parts of the country, the demand for English as a Second Language classes is far greater than the services available.
  • The most significant determinant of whether or not immigrants learn a new language is their age at the time of entry. Immigrants who arrive as young children learn a second language quickly while adults find it much more challenging.
  • 89% of native born Hispanics in the U.S. speak English well.

Immigration Myth 3: Immigrants take jobs from native-born residents

FACTS:

  • Immigrants do not generally compete with U.S. born workers. Instead, immigrants usually compete with the migrants who came before them.
  • Many immigrants with legal authorization to work here are highly skilled and sought after by U.S. companies because of shortages in the native-born skill base. Economists find that highly skilled immigrants have a significant positive impact on creating new jobs in the United States.
  • Undocumented immigrants often fill the lowest rung of employment in construction, agriculture and domestic services. Studies show that low-skilled immigrant workers and low-skilled native-born workers take on very different jobs, with native-born workers taking jobs that require work authorization and English language skills.
  • The largest reason that native-born employment has stagnated or declined is due to significant restructuring of the U.S. economy.

Immigration Myth 4: Undocumented immigrants are receiving extensive public benefits

Facts:

  • Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid or most other public benefits.
  • Most government assistance programs require proof of legal immigration status and even legal immigrants cannot receive many benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years.
  • Undocumented immigrants can receive schooling and emergency medical care. A recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce states that "economists view expenditures on healthcare and education for children as investments that pay off later, when those children become workers and taxpayers."
  • Numerous studies have found that immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in government services and benefits.

Immigration Myth 5: Immigrants are bringing a crime wave to the United States

Facts:

  • Decades of research has shown that immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes than native-born citizens.
  • Research also shows that high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both documented and undocumented immigrants.
  • From 1990 - 2013, immigration in the United States increased significantly, including the number of undocumented immigrants, which more than tripled. During that time, the violent crime rate in this country declined 48%.
  • The reasons for lower crime rates among immigrants are not fully understood. One theory is that people who choose the intense emotional and social sacrifice that comes with migrating are less likely to engage in risky or criminal behavior that would put their new lives in danger. Another theory is that immigrants revitalize neighborhoods and generate economic growth, which helps decrease the crime rate.

Immigration Myth 6: Immigrants are stressing our public schools

Facts:

  • Children of undocumented immigrants made up 7.3% of the U.S. school population in 2014. Most of these children (5.9%) were born in the U.S. and are citizens. The rest (1.3%) are undocumented immigrants themselves. In New York, children of undocumented immigrants make up 6% of the total K-12 school population.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that children, regardless of immigration status, must have access to public elementary and secondary education. The Court found that the harm imposed on our entire society by denying undocumented children from public schools was far greater than any resources saved from excluding them.
  • Our entire country benefits from well-educated children. As our population ages, it is expected that today's immigrant children in elementary school will be an important part of the workforce in the coming decades.
  • There is significant opportunity in increased diversity in our schools. Research shows that increased racial, socioeconomic and ethnic diversity in classrooms provides students with a range of cognitive and social benefits.