“I know the people benefiting are New Yorkers,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Thursday. “Half a million of our fellow New Yorkers happen to be undocumented. They are part of our city, they are part of the life of our city.”
“So my answer is yes, this is important to do because these are families, these are human beings who are part of our community, part of our life,” he continued. “They have been suffering without a lot of the help other people have gotten. This is part of how we recover together, so I do think it was the right thing to do.”
When asked whether including undocumented immigrants in the Excluded Workers Fund was the right decision amid a surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border, de Blasio stressed the “root cause” of illegal immigration from Northern Triangle countries, which are Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
“I think the answer is increasingly clear: It’s comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway for citizenship for the 12 million who are here, and let’s change this whole paradigm and make sense of it rather than this illusion we’ve been living with for decades and decades,” de Blasio said.
“The U.S. has had a long, deep, deep involvement in Central America. We have very much been a part of what has created both the good and bad there, but we have to work to solve that problem because unless we do that, there will constantly be people coming here because they have no other choice, they’re facing violence and terror in many cases,” he said. “Any parent faced with the same challenges would do the same thing … so why don’t we deal with the root cause? It’s the right time to do that.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and state lawmakers reached a deal on Tuesday for the $2.1 billion fund targeted toward people who weren’t previously eligible for unemployment assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, The Journal News reported.
The fund is part of the $212 billion state budget. While the $2.1 billion fund is a step up from Cuomo’s original January budget proposal, which included no money for excluded workers, some activists say the number is not high enough. They protested for the final budget proposal, due April 1, to include $3.5 billion, and some activists even went on hunger strike, The City reported.
“This is a matter of urgency,” said state Sen. Jessica Ramos, a sponsor of the Senate bill. “There’s no time to get their documentation together. We have to be able to meet people where they are.”
California created its own $125 million coronavirus relief fund for undocumented workers last spring. That fund provided one-time $500 checks to certain immigrants who could get through on an overwhelmed phone system. Some illegal immigrants in New York were offered a one-time payment of $400, or up to $1,000 for families, through a $20 million relief fund donated by billionaire George Soros.
Fox News’ Ben Evansky and Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.