Council Member Costa Constantinides // Credit: Costa Constantinides/Flickr

New Budget Boosts Funding For Immigrant Legal Services in Queens

By Jonathan Sperling

Two Queens organizations that stand up for the rights of immigrants got a lift from Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) in the latest budget.

On July 2, Constantinides announced that a portion of the city’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget would go toward funding Astoria’s ANSOB Center for Refugees and the citywide CUNY Citizenship Now! Program, which provide legal support and other services to refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants in Western Queens.

Constantinides’ district includes Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside, some of the country’s most diverse communities. Overall, immigrants account for nearly half of Queens’ population.

“We are a nation of immigrants, but perhaps now more than ever we need to ensure these communities have all the support we can provide,” Constantinides said in a statement. “Securing money for these groups was a top priority. Such funding in turn allows them to provide legal help, language training and prepare to become U.S. citizens. With the federal government’s continued assault on all immigrants, it’s on New York City to show that America really stands for inclusion and the exchange of ideas.”

Constantinides, who was appointed to the City Council’s Budget Negotiating Team this year, said that the ANSOB Center would receive $70,000 in the fiscal year 2019 budget, while CUNY Citizenship Now! received a budget increase of $500,000 for a total of $2.5 million. The budget went into effect earlier this month and will fund the city through June 2019.

ANSOB, located at 28-19 Steinway St., has assisted immigrants and refugees from nearly 70 different countries as they settle in to life in the U.S. The agency provides English language classes, job placement support and other resources.

“That people have a safe place to come, it’s very important,” said ANSOB Center Executive Director Cathleen Joyce in a statement. “We are appreciative of all the help and support.”

CUNY Citizenship Now!, a legal assistance program provided by the City’s university system, will use the additional funding for services that help immigrants gain U.S. citizenship, CUNY Citizenship Now! Director Allan Wernick told the Queens Daily Eagle.

“We are pleased that the Council enhanced our funding,” Wernick said. “We will use the funding to expand services at City Council offices and to hold more citizenship application assistance events and information sessions.”

The organization operates out of dozens of offices citywide, including sites in Flushing and Jamaica as well as a location inside Constantinides’ Astoria office.

Wernick said the money comes at a crucial time because the City’s immigrants are more worried than ever due to recent crackdowns by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“With enforcement up, immigrants are increasingly concerned about their status,” he said. “With the additional funding even greater numbers of New Yorkers will get high-quality advice information, and for those who qualify, a path to U.S. citizenship.”

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