Photograph of a woman holding an identification card on a NYC street.
Photograph of a woman holding an identification card on a NYC street.
OneNYC 2050 : Volume 2 of 9 : A Vibrant Democracy

Welcome New New Yorkers From Around The World And Involve Them Fully In Civic Life

Our diverse immigrant residents fuel the dynamism of our society, our economy, and our democracy. New York City is home to more than three million foreign-born residents. More than half have naturalized, but some 1.5 million remain noncitizens. Moreover, more than one million households are of mixed status, meaning they have at least one undocumented family member. In this city of immigrants, we are committed to doing more to help New Yorkers from around the world thrive in the city’s civic life. New York City will strengthen our reputation as a welcoming city for individuals of all documentation statuses, and help all immigrants integrate into the civic, economic, and social fabric.
Expand the Reach of IDNYC

IDNYC, the City’s municipal identification card, was launched in 2015 and has grown to more than 1.2 million cardholders. The program reaches those in highest need of identification and access to services, as well as those seeking additional opportunities to engage in the cultural life of the city. With the unprecedented reach of this program in traditionally underserved communities such as disconnected youth, the homeless, undocumented immigrants, and LGBTQ residents, IDNYC represents an important opportunity to provide more and deeper connections to services and supports. To better serve IDNYC cardholders, the City is exploring IDNYC functionality that would give cardholders the choice to opt in to low-cost banking services like low-cost cash-loading, withdrawals, and debit card purchases in order to expand its banking utility beyond the 14 existing banks and credit unions that currently accept the card.

More than one in three New Yorkers is foreign born, and nearly one in five is a noncitizen.
Bar graph displaying More than one in three New Yorkers is foreign born, and nearly one in five is a noncitizen.

More than one in three New Yorkers is foreign born, and nearly one in five is a noncitizen.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

Raise Naturalization Rates Through Targeted Outreach and Assistance

Increasing immigrant access to citizenship is a powerful tool for fighting poverty, and has been shown to lead to higher rates of home ownership, better pay, increased political participation, and protection from deportation. Naturalized citizens can vote in national and local elections, are protected from deportation, travel with a U.S. passport, qualify for federal government jobs, and can access the same government benefits as U.S.-born citizens. Expanding citizenship pathways helps immigrants achieve greater economic, social, and political stability. Naturalization also benefits New York City as a whole. A 2015 report commissioned by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) found that government benefit expenditures would decline by $34 million if all residents went through the process of naturalization.

The City is exploring methods of raising the naturalization rate among those who are eligible to naturalize but have not yet done so. Importantly, a substantial number of these immigrants are eligible for full or partial waivers of the federal application fees, and may therefore apply for free or at half the cost, thereby helping to address one of the major barriers to seeking citizenship. In addition, the City is exploring ways of empowering newly naturalized New Yorkers to impact policy and become leaders in their community, through expanded voter education, voter registration, language access at the polls, and other forms of civic participation.

Non-naturalized and undocumented immigrants earn lower median incomes than the citywide average.

Bar graphic displaying Non-naturalized and undocumented immigrants earn lower median incomes than the citywide average.

Source: MOIA

The City-funded New York Immigrant Family Unity Project has increased the rate of clients avoiding deportation to 48 percent from 4 percent — a remarkable 11x increase.
Protect And Provide Resources To Support New And Undocumented New Yorkers

Recently arrived New Yorkers, especially those lacking documentation, have long faced exploitation and challenges accessing services. Policy changes and increased immigration enforcement at the federal level have created particularly acute needs for immigrant New Yorkers already navigating a complex and broken immigration system. New York City will:

  • Provide deportation assistance in the face of overaggressive enforcement
    Through City-managed legal services, programs such as ActionNYC, the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative, and others, the City facilitates the provision of high-quality advice and representation, and helps trusted providers build their capacity to assist immigrant communities. The City has dramatically expanded funding for these services in recent years, paying particular attention to addressing crises precipitated by federal policy changes such as the travel ban, family separation, and attempts to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations. The City is exploring avenues to expand legal representation even further.
  • Guarantee affordable health care regardless of immigration status
    Recognizing that inequities persist in health care access for immigrant residents — and in particular, undocumented immigrants — the City will guarantee access to care for all. The NYC Care initiative, set to launch in the Bronx in the summer of 2019, will provide support to uninsured and underinsured residents, including a population of undocumented residents estimated at about 300,000 — a number that is expected to rise due to the chilling effects created by the proposed federal public charge rule and ongoing immigration enforcement concerns. The City is undertaking a large-scale effort to connect any and all residents in need of health care services, regardless of their immigration status.
    (see more in Healthy Lives).
  • Provide protections for immigrant workers to prevent exploitation and unfair labor practices
    Low-wage workers, a disproportionate number of whom are immigrants, are at increased risk of being victimized by unfair labor practices. In New York City, low-wage immigrant workers are more than twice as likely as other low-wage workers to be paid below the minimum wage. The City is exploring expansions of legal services for workers, as well as legislative, policy, and public education measures to address unfair practices in immigrant-dense sectors with high rates of exploitation, including home care, nail salons, taxi services, and the construction industry.
  • Advocate for driver licenses for undocumented New Yorkers
    The City’s IDNYC program has helped address the need for valid government-issued identification, but does not grant permission to drive. The exclusion of undocumented immigrants from State driver licenses denies tens to hundreds of thousands of residents the ability to drive their children to school, drive a family member to a doctor’s appointment, or find work to support themselves and their families. Based on so many other jurisdictions (12 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) offering all of their residents the opportunity to apply for a driver license suggests that doing so is good for everyone — not just the immigrants who gain eligibility for licensure. Issuing licenses to all may increase the willingness of immigrants to engage with law enforcement, lower auto insurance premiums, and increase the safety of everyone on the roads by ensuring all drivers have passed a driving test. The City will continue to advocate for this measure to be adopted by the State Legislature.

A City of Immigrants

“New York City was built by hard-working immigrants. We should be the national leader in immigrant safety and rights today.”

– Resident of Woodside, Queens

New York has always been a city of immigrants, with diverse people from around the globe coming here to make a better life for themselves and their families. This influx of immigrants is an integral part of our city fabric, shaping our identity as an open and welcoming place that values equality and inclusion. In today’s immigration climate, it is essential to highlight that immigration does not undermine American success, but rather we must stand strong against the attacks that threaten the character of the five boroughs.

At almost 40 percent of New York City’s population, and nearly half our total workforce, immigrants are undeniably integral to the city’s economy, bringing diverse skills and multilingual assets to the workforce. They also make up significant percentages of key sectors, including food service, construction, health care, and retail, wherein the City is investing to build industry partnerships and career pathways.

In addition to providing significant economic benefits, immigrants are a vital part of New York City communities. With more than 200 languages spoken in immigrant-majority neighborhoods, New York City epitomizes a dynamic melting pot, with diverse activities, cultural institutions, stores, and restaurants with global cuisines. The continuing inflow of immigrants should be a lasting source of pride for all New Yorkers.

Photograph of outdoor religious service in NYC.