My Fellow New Yorkers,
Writing this column has been bittersweet. I am leaving the de Blasio administration after seven years working with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and three years leading the agency as commissioner.
Before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, we worked tirelessly to push back against the Trump administration’s xenophobic rhetoric. From the halt of the public charge rule and the threat to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to family separations at the southern border, and much more, these unconscionable immigration policies stoked fear and confusion among our communities during the largest global public health crisis of our lifetime.
Today, we are seeing a shift to more inclusive federal immigration policies and Covid-19 economic recovery plans that center equity, informed by the expertise and experience of localities like New York City. And while there continues to be much work to be done, I am proud of the myriad achievements we have accomplished and the example we have set for local leadership across the country by building the necessary trust government needed to ensure that immigrants are empowered to get the care and support available to all our City’s residents, regardless of immigration status.
Demonstrating the City’s commitment to immigrant New Yorkers, the de Blasio administration has made major investments in programs and initiatives that MOIA leads, manages, and supports to further include immigrant New Yorkers in the civic, economic, and cultural life of the City.
We dramatically increased our investment in access to justice programming including our community-based ActionNYC program to ensure that every New Yorker can access free, safe immigration legal help. We expanded the accessibility of services through language access and IDNYC, the largest municipal identification program in the country that has empowered millions of New Yorkers to access many services, benefits, and savings that come with having an IDNYC. Additionally, the City’s NYC Care guaranteed health care access program, We Speak NYC English language learning program, and Know Your Rights forums are among the many free resources the City has made available to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, ability to pay, or employment. For more information and resources, go to nyc.gov/immigrants.
None of this work would have been possible without my incredible team at MOIA, colleagues across our administration, and the many community partners we work alongside. I am grateful to the Mayor for this opportunity and for his deep commitment to making New York City a more just and accessible place for immigrant families.
We know that immigrants have always been the lifeline of our city, and central to our immensely diverse and unparalleled cultural, economic, civic, and social fabric. Nearly 40 percent of our City’s population is foreign-born, over 200 languages are spoken here, and over a third of workers serving on the frontlines of the Covid-19 crisis are immigrants.
This is why the voices of immigrant New Yorkers are critical to this city. And as we look towards the Primary Election this June, and the general election in November, it is imperative that those who are eligible to vote exercise their right to do so and are empowered to make their voices heard.
For the first time ever this year, during the citywide June Primary Election, we will vote for our City’s next elected officials through a new system called Ranked Choice Voting. This means that instead of selecting just one candidate for each office, you can rank up to five candidates in order of your preference. This voting system will be used for all local offices: Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council member. This system has already been used in cities and states across the country and has been proven to give voters—us—more of a say in who gets elected. For more information about how Ranked Choice Voting works, how to request a mail-in ballot, and where interpretation will be offered in multiple languages during the early voting period, from June 12 to 20, and on Primary Election Day, June 22, go to voting.nyc.
And remember: you have the right to bring an interpreter to your poll site location. It can be your family member or your friend, anyone you choose, but not your employer or union representative. To learn more about your voting rights visit nyc.gov/cec.
Make a plan to vote and encourage family members, friends, and neighbors to head to the polls. As we saw with this past year’s Presidential election, our voices are key to our democracy and by using our voices we each play a role in helping to ensure our city remains a welcoming and inclusive City for all.
I am humbled by the trust bestowed upon me during some of the most tumultuous years in the lives of so many immigrants, and for the opportunity to have served our great City of immigrants.
We are home.
Bitta Mostofi left her position as Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in early May 2021.