FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2009
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR THE DREAM ACT TO HELP YOUNG IMMIGRANTS FIND A PATH TOWARD LEGALIZATION AT IMMIGRANT HERITAGE MONTH ADDRESS AT GRACIE MANSION
Mayor Signs Executive Order Permanently Establishing Immigrant Heritage Week as a Citywide Celebration
The following is Mayor Bloomberg's remarks as prepared.
"Good morning, and in the spirit of Immigrant Heritage Week: Buenos dias, Buon giorno, Ni Hao, Privyet and Bonjou. In total, more than 200 languages are spoken in our city (and I'm still working on mastering just two of them). No other place on Earth can claim such incredible diversity; it's New York City's greatest strength. I'm proud to be the mayor of the nation's most diverse city - and it keeps me pretty busy, too. Just last month I celebrated Pagwa, Purim, Greek Independence Day, Nowruz, and I marched in so many St. Patty's Day Parades that I've probably covered the distance from here to Dublin.
"This year, in celebration of Immigrant Heritage Week, our Office of Immigrant Affairs, headed by Commissioner Guillermo Linares, has organized more than 180 events around the city - that's more than three times as many events as we had in 2007. The City first began celebrating Immigrant Heritage Week in 2004. Each year this celebration gets bigger and better - and we want to make sure it stays a proud New York City tradition.
"That's why last Friday, I signed an Executive Order that permanently establishes an annual 'Immigrant Heritage Week in the City of New York' to be held during the month of April. There's no question that New York City owes its greatness to the generations of immigrants who have come here to pursue their dreams. And it's critical that we continue to welcome new immigrants, and help those already here stay here and become legal residents.
"That's why today, I'm proud to announce my support for the DREAM Act, which was introduced in both chambers of Congress last month and has the backing of the President. While it does not solve all of our nation's immigration challenges, the DREAM Act does provide a good first step: It allows young people who have grown up here a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two years in higher education or military service.
"Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of children in our city who are not here legally - many of whom are not even aware of their immigration status. Once these children leave school, they face a heartbreaking reality that can extinguish the flame of an otherwise bright future. Ineligible for student loans and legal jobs, many of these children end up doing low-wage, off-the-books work, and some end up facing deportation.
"The current system just isn't working. Why shouldn't our economy benefit from the skills these young people have obtained here in our public schools? It is senseless for us to chase out the home-grown talent that has the potential to contribute so significantly to our society. They're the ones who are going to start companies, invest in new technologies, pioneer medical advances. We need to welcome more immigrants, not deport those already here.
"As we continue to push our leaders in Washington to pass the DREAM Act and a comprehensive immigration reform package, we're also going to make sure that New York City government continues to serve every single immigrant community in our city.
"For example, last July, I signed Executive Order 120, which requires all City agencies to implement language access programs to help them better serve non-English speaking New Yorkers. The Executive Order included specific goals - and I'm pleased to say the Mayor's Office of Operations and the Office of Immigrant Affairs worked together to help our agencies meet those goals.
"All of the agencies that were required to come up with actions plans have done so, and many agencies have already posted their action plans on the City's website. And by the end of the year, all agencies that interact directly with the public will be able to provide interpretation to their customers and translation of essential public documents.
"To hold City agencies accountable for serving non-English speakers, we'll soon add 'language access' to the performance measures available on our Citywide Performance Reporting tool. Anyone who wants to see how well our agencies are doing can find those performance statistics online at nyc.gov. The Language Access Order is just one of the many ways we're making New York more accessible to all the communities that contribute to its wonderful diversity.
"That's exactly what we're here to celebrate today and before I close the program, I'd like to thank all of the businesses and organizations that have contributed to this great breakfast. That includes The New York Times, which has generously sponsored this event for the sixth year in a row and also: Alliance for the Arts, Con Edison, El Diario/La Prensa, El Especialito, Fresh Concentrate, Goya Foods, Manhattan Neighborhood Network, NBC New York 4, New York Community Media Alliance, Telemundo 47, Time Out New York, Titan Cares, Univision 4, Western Union, and WNYC.
"And to all of our guests, I say: Gracias, Merci, Shukran, Xie Xie, and "thank you for coming" in all the other 200-plus languages of New York."
Stu Loeser/Evelyn Erskine (212) 788-2958
Watch the video in low or high bandwidth