This article was originally reported and published in Spanish by El Diario on June 1, 2021. It was translated by Carlos Rodriguez and has been updated and lightly edited for clarity.
The June 22 primary to elect the Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor of New York City in November’s general election is less than a month away. As they continue on the campaign trail, contenders of both parties who remain in the race speak openly about citizens’ concerns, such as crime, police reform, affordable housing, education, health, jobs and the Big Apple’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Latino voters, however, still feel that they have not heard concrete proposals regarding immigrants.
While everyday New Yorkers ponder who would best serve the immigrant population and steer the city in a better direction, community leaders, activists and Latino politicians involved in the various campaigns are defending their candidates as the best bet.
Most of the contenders boast strong supporters with influence in the Latino community who might be able to tilt the scale in their favor. This is especially important because the majority of the Democratic electorate – who traditionally constitute the better part of New York City voters – remains undecided, according to the latest polls.
Alana Cantillo, senior director of advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, said that while the organization has yet to decide which candidate to endorse, they feel that a specific agenda on immigration must be proposed and that most of the mayoral candidates have yet to do so.
Despite this, Cantillo said some candidates have shown more interest than others in sharing their plans with the immigrant community. A few weeks ago, she explained, the NYIC invited the contenders to an event to that end, but not all of them attended.
“We wanted to review with them the topics immigrants are most concerned about. Shaun Donovan, Maya Wiley, Andrew Yang and Dianne Morales attended, and we are grateful to them for showing an interest in sharing their answers. However, we believe that their immigration agendas have not been fully explored or amplified to the level we would like to see,” said Cantillo.
The NYIC representative pointed out that, even though Comptroller Scott Stringer was not in attendance, he did sign the organization’s vision for immigration, which proposes further protections for the immigrant community. “We did not hear from Kathryn García, Eric Adams or Ray McGuire.”
Carlos Menchaca, current Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Immigration, strongly supports Andrew Yang. Citing his life story and honesty, he defended the entrepreneur as the best bet for the city and for immigrants.
“I support him because I know him as a human being. He has a very strong connection with immigrants. Because he is the son of immigrants, he knows what that means and shares the values of those of us who have been raised by immigrants. Also, we both want to change this city and grant more value and protection to our people,” said the Brooklyn politician.
Menchaca said that he does not support Adams because he does not “trust him,” adding that Yang is a man of values who has “fought for workers.”
However, Adams, who is the current Brooklyn Borough president, is considered the best option for New York City and its immigrants by Ydanis Rodríguez, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and one of the city’s most influential Latino politicians.
“I have known him since 1989, when he was a police officer, and he has been there every time our community has needed him. I believe that the phrase ‘the company you keep’ fits him perfectly, as he has always been with us and on our side,” said the Dominican-born politician.
Rodríguez said that Adams has a clear plan to help immigrants – documented and undocumented – that includes better access to city services that will improve their quality of life. He added that the candidate is proposing providing legal support to immigrants, rejects collaborating with federal immigration authorities, and wants to give Latinos the level of representation they deserve.
“When he becomes mayor, we Latinos will see our leadership participate more, and better jobs will come to our immigrant and Latino neighborhoods, as well as an investment in quality education. We are going to have the mayor who will make the largest investment and who understands the value of our undocumented brothers and sisters and the way they contribute to the city’s economy, a contribution that was felt more strongly during the time of COVID,” said the politician, who is the coordinator of the Latinos with Eric Adams group.
“Unlike other candidates, like Andrew Yang, who during the pandemic left to quietly ride his bike in the Hudson Valley, Eric stayed here fighting hard and defending immigrants,” Rodríguez added. “He is going to expand the concept of sanctuary city, guaranteeing that all immigrants, even undocumented ones, will be treated as they deserve.”
Adams has stated that he will support the immigrant community if he wins the election, and mentioned specific programs that would benefit the community’s everyday life, including financial aid.
Make the Road Action (MRA), one of the city’s most active pro-immigrant organizations, has endorsed the two women of color in the race, favoring Dianne Morales followed by Maya Wiley.
“Diane Morales is an unapologetic progressive Afro-Latina leader with a long track record in fighting for justice alongside our communities,” said Theo Oshiro, co-executive director of MRA. “Recently, she firmly supported our members in their fight to provide financial aid to excluded workers, including putting her own body on the line and risking arrest. Maya Wiley is a civil rights leader who has focused on racial justice throughout her career and who has a progressive vision for our city.”
New York Comptroller Stringer has for years been considered one of the Latino community’s most loyal allies and an advocate for immigrants. Until just a few weeks ago, his campaign had the support of powerful figures among the progressive wing of New York politics, including Senators Jessica Ramos, Julia Salazar and Gustavo Rivera, as well as Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.
Although Stringer categorically denies a former intern’s allegations of sexual harassment dating back to 1999, some Latino leaders jumped ship. One Latino who still defends him tooth and nail is his stepfather, Carlos Cuevas. Born in Puerto Rico, Cuevas, 93, has known Stringer since he was a child and refers to him as his son.
“Scott is a man born and raised in Washington Heights, a product of the public school system, who studied at CUNY, and who has the intelligence, the experience and the will to do well the job required of a mayor,” said Cuevas, a former Bronx Borough deputy president. “He is a respectful man who knows Hispanics, who has promised $1 billion in loans to help small businesses – the bodegas, which have had it so rough – and, because he is my son, he has three things I taught him: He does not forget where he came from, he does not forget how he got where he is, and he does not forget why he is there.”
Latino Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is running for Bronx borough president, has endorsed former Obama Administration housing secretary Donovan, whom he described as the best option and a friend of immigrants living in forgotten boroughs such as his.
“Shaun has been front and center helping the people of The Bronx and all of the U.S. to recover from the crisis throughout his career, and he is especially qualified to help our borough and our city to come back better than ever,” said Cabrera. “For too long, the people of The Bronx have had leaders who say to be progressive but fail to make progress. Shaun has the big, bold visions we deserve and the experience and track record we need to do the job. I know that he will be a great mayor to all New Yorkers.”