William Alatriste for the City Council

Brooklyn Democrat Carlos Menchaca chairs the City Council's committee on immigration.

The clock is ticking toward ta 2020 Census with profound implications for the balance of political power in the country and billions in federal aid to New York and, according to the chair of the City Council’s immigration committee, neither the state nor the city is doing enough to prepare for it.

“It’s a big question-mark whether or not the city will get this right,” Coucilmember Carlos Menchaca, a Brooklyn Democrat who co-chairs the Council’s Census task force, told WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday. “You’re seeing two leaders of the state, the governor and mayor – you’ve seen a real lackluster response in funding and resources, and really thinking about how we get funding into our organizations that are best equipped [to help].”

Menchaca was referring to a Council push to get $20 million earmarked in the city budget for local nonprofits to do outreach encouraging participation in the Census and reassure people worried that answering questions in today’s atmosphere of intense immigration enforcement could put their families at risk. The state has allocated $20 million to that end, although “there are still a lot of questions about how to spend that money,” Menchaca noted. “We’re trying to figure out how to expedite that.”

Menchaca has been a big player in efforts during the de Blasio era to strengthen New York City’s place as a “sanctuary” city for non-citizens, like creating a municipal identification card that does not indicate immigration status, paying for lawyers to represent low-income people facing deportation in immigration court and ending the Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence on Rikers Island. But he acknowledges that there are limits to how much of a sanctuary local policy can create.

“A sanctuary city is a municipality that is limiting cooperation with federal enforcement. That means we’re honoring the 10th amendment that allows the state and the city to do what it needs to do on local law enforcement and allows the federal government to enforce their laws. We don’t get to change federal laws and don’t get to enforce them,” he said. “This entire country has been hit with grotesque policy changes and a real affirmation of a white nationalist government coming from the president on down. No one feels safe.”

State policy figures prominently into current efforts to make things safer in the city. The Council on Wednesday voted to approve a resolution calling on state lawmakers to bar ICE from state courthouses and their grounds. And the push continues to open drivers’ licenses to the undocumented.”There are some really great studies showing we can bring in more tax revenue. The insurance companies are also saying this is going to be safer for our drivers in general,” Menchaca said. “This removes a kind of fear that people are feeling every day by getting into their car [who] are really forced because of their jobs to drive around.”

Hear Menchaca talk about those issues, whether there is a way to combat antipathy toward immigrants in the five boroughs and other topics below. Or listen to the full show, which includes a size-up of Mayor de Blasio’s possible presidential run.

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca on Immigration Policy

Sizing Up De Blasio’s Possible Presidential Run


Max & Murphy: Full Show for May 9, 2019