Albany, NY - March 21, 2014 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that more than 34,000 immigrants were assisted by the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) during its first year of operations. The Governor launched ONA in March 2013 to assist newcomers in the State who are eager to contribute to our economy and become part of the family of New York. ONA is the first office of its kind to create a direct service provision infrastructure of centers focused on immigrant integration.
“New York has a proud history of welcoming and supporting immigrants seeking greater opportunity for themselves and their families” said Governor Cuomo. “Our recently established Office of the New Americans is continuing that legacy by giving tens of thousands of new residents in our state the help and support they need to realize their hopes.”
Immigrants are vital contributors to New York State’s economy with their significant purchasing power and capacity to generate new jobs. Today, 4.2 million immigrants live in New York State, and one in four New Yorkers of working age are foreign- born. According to the Immigration Policy Center, in 2010, 31.2 percent of all business owners in New York State were foreign-born. That number rises to 36 percent in the New York City metropolitan area. These businesses had a total net business income of $12.6 billion, representing 22.6 percent of all net business income in the state. New York’s immigrants are responsible for $229 billion in annual economic output annually.
“I applaud Governor Cuomo for his dedication to helping immigrants in New York State succeed,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, who oversees the Office for New Americans for Governor Cuomo. “The New York State Office for New Americans enhances our State’s historic role as leader on immigrant issues in New York.”
Highlights from the first year of operations of the New York State Office for New Americans include:
- More than 34,000 immigrants were assisted by the ONA Opportunity Center network through English-for-Speakers-of-Other-Languages training; naturalization and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals assistance; federal immigration law and policies information and referrals; and business development training.
- Over 190 naturalization drives have been held at ONA opportunity Centers throughout New York State, resulting in more than 3,200 naturalization applications submitted to the federal government.
- Through the Office’s partnership with the New York Council for the Humanities, over 130 community conversation forums on immigration have been held throughout the State to inspire dialogue amongst New Yorkers on our shared history as immigrants.
- The launch of a comprehensive State-led initiative which assisted approximately 1,000 young immigrants in New York State apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
- Over 100 high-skilled immigrants from 37 different countries of origin have been re-trained for careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math sector through ONA’s partnership with The Cooper Union and the Bnai Zion Foundation.
- The launch of an entrepreneurship program to help immigrants start and grow their own businesses, with more than 100 immigrant entrepreneurship seminars to be held throughout New York State in the coming year.
- New consumer protections adopted to fight notario fraud. Notarios are individuals who falsely represent themselves as persons able to provide immigration assistance.
- Trained more than 90 not-for-profit immigrant service providers in 50 organizations in immigration law for the purpose of becoming accredited by the U.S. Bureau of Immigrant Appeals.
- The cornerstone of ONA’s effort is the creation of a network of 27 neighborhood-based Opportunity Centers located throughout New York State. The Centers are hosted within existing culturally competent, language-accessible, community-based organizations. The ONA Opportunity Center network is supported by a team of attorneys who are experts in immigration law and by a toll-free, multi-lingual hotline (800-566-7636) to respond to general questions about immigration and naturalization and provide referrals to other immigrant-related public and private programs. ONA’s Opportunity Center network will assist more than 100,000 New Americans over the first three years with English-for-Speakers-of-Other-Languages training; naturalization and DACA assistance; federal immigration law and policies information and referrals; and business development training.
States with the largest immigrant communities have historically maintained offices, initiatives or committees to address immigrant issues. ONA is unique in accomplishing its mission as the only Office of its kind with an infrastructure of 27 opportunity centers focused on immigrant integration.
The effort builds on the Cuomo Administrations’ dedication to helping immigrants fully participate in the State’s civic and economic life. Previously, the Administration suspended participation in the federal Secure Communities program when concerns were raised about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York. Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 8 expanding the State’s minority and woman-owned business enterprise contracting goal to 20 percent. In October of last year, the Governor exceeded the 20 percent goal in awarding contracts to minority and women-owned firms. Additionally, the Governor issued Executive Order 26 requiring state agencies that provide direct public services to offer free interpretation and translation services to members of the public for vital forms and instructions. Recently, Governor Cuomo announced a major settlement agreement that helps make communities more just and affordable by ending the reported harassment and intimidation of mainly Spanish-speaking immigrant tenants in nearly 1,800 apartments within 49 buildings in Harlem, Washington Heights, Brooklyn and the South Bronx.