Mayor de Blasio says even if federal aid flows to the city, the local government will not be in a position to provide cash benefits to families who have been boxed out of most pandemic relief.

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor de Blasio delivers remarks at the Iglesia El Camino Church in Brooklyn on Sunday, November 15, 2020.

This article originally appeared in El Diario.

Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodriguez.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, thousands of undocumented families and workers in New York City who lost their jobs have had to figure out ways to survive.

Immigrants like Samuel Fernández, who has not had a steady job in eight months, were hoping there would be some kind of direct relief if former Vice President Joe Biden won the election and the federal government allocated more funds to the city to mitigate the destruction caused by the coronavirus.

However, relief for people like Fernández  is not going to happen in the Big Apple. 

The City of New York will not send checks to undocumented individuals or families living in any of the five boroughs, a type of aid which has been proposed in cities like Chicago, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed to El Diario in a meeting with the ethnic press. 

“I think it sometimes looks like a sad responsibility telling people things that are not ideal or that they do not want to hear and that are not necessarily fair, but we are not in a position as a city to provide direct financial assistance to people who certainly need it but are undocumented. We do not have the conditions for that,” said de Blasio.

“To begin with, we do not have the money. We do not have federal cash flow that we can use and, while I have high hopes for a stimulus, with a Republican Senate I do not see that such a stimulus is being built in a way that could involve direct financial aid for undocumented people. I think that is the sad reality,” he added.

Despite this announcement, the mayor pointed out that the city will continue to offer food and health assistance. This, however, is not enough for families like Fernández’s.

“This mayor is just like any other politician. Like Cuomo: All talk. We are asking him to lend us a hand should more resources come into the city, and he is saying bluntly that he will turn his back on us in that respect. Meaning that, even if the city gets more money, we are not a priority,” said the Mexico native in a frustrated tone. “It is so sad to hear that he will not even make an effort or try to find alternatives. He is slamming the door in the face of those of us who have no papers—just like Trump does.”

Despite the news, de Blasio insisted his administration has shown a commitment to assist undocumented or mixed families who did not qualify for federal stimulus checks or unemployment benefits. Many of these families are said to be under water. 

“The fact is that we support everyone in this city,” said the mayor. “We support New Yorkers regardless of their documentation status with something else that matters a great deal, even if it is not direct financial aid: the food assistance program we have been offering all New Yorkers. No New Yorker should go hungry, no matter their immigration status. It is available to all.”

“Medical services are also available to all free of charge. NYC Care is a plan that provides quality medical attention through our hospitals and public clinics to any New Yorker, regardless of status…No other place in the country has guaranteed medical attention for all,” added de Blasio. “And, obviously, we have the eviction moratorium to ensure that people will still have a roof over their heads. So, we do a lot, but not everything.” 

Read our coverage of New York City’s Coronavirus crisis.

De Blasio also said that, under Biden’s government, there will be a higher chance of passing immigration reform that leads to regularizing the status of undocumented people. 

“I have my hopes set on immigration reform. I think that the majority of people in the United States want immigration reform. Even many Republicans want immigration reform, which will undoubtedly keep Dreamers here. They want to find a better way to allow people to come here and work. They understand that there are many families who need to reunify,” said the mayor. 

Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Bitta Mostofi also said that there is no plan to provide direct aid to undocumented families, but highlighted the distribution of financial assistance that the city has carried out through the Open Society Foundation, which she said has benefited thousands of people in the city.

“We reached more than 76,000 people and their families across the city with direct cash assistance. We have also worked closely with partner organizations to ensure that they have the capacity to enroll these people and their families in food assistance programs, which are available to all, regardless of status,” said the civil servant. 

Deborah Axt, co-executive director of non-profit Make the Road New York, expressed aggravation at de Blasio’s remarks. 

“Eight months into the pandemic, more than one million undocumented New Yorkers are still enduring the pandemic and the economic crisis without any government help. It is extremely frustrating to hear that Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo continue to come up with excuses to avoid providing urgently needed resources to these New Yorkers throughout the city and the state,” said the activist. “Every level of government needs to take swift action to fund excluded workers.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson did not say whether the body he presides is willing to promote any initiatives to provide money to undocumented families affected by the pandemic if more federal funding is assigned to the city. However, he added that he is optimistic that the president-elect will decide to include undocumented people in new relief programs.  

“Undocumented immigrants need help from both the federal and local governments. Sadly, the Trump Administration did not include them in the federal stimulus package, but I hope that President-elect Biden will make sure that they will receive the aid they need,” said a spokesperson for Johnson.

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