Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $8.7 million in new grants for nonprofit community-based providers, including one on Long Island, through the state's Office for New Americans — funding she said will support naturalization and a host of other free legal services for new immigrants statewide.
The grants come as the 2023 federal budget increases overall funding for the Office for New Americans to $20 million. Hochul said that will help support ONA's Legal Counsels, a program providing "expert immigration attorneys" to any immigrant in need.
Hochul said it also will allow the ONA to continue funding core services, including mental health support, workforce development, English language learning and helping to address immediate community needs — such as "supporting the increase in immigrants and refugees coming to New York State from the southern border," as well as newly arrived Afghans and Ukrainians.
It also will help the ONA fund special pilot initiatives that the governor's office said "respond directly to changing federal immigration policies."
About $2.7 million in Opportunity Center grants are being awarded to organizations statewide, including Long Island's Central American Refugee Center, or CARECEN. The agency is also included in another $6 million for Legal Counsel grants, Hochul's office said.
A CARECEN spokesperson was unavailable to comment Friday. Its website lists offices in Hempstead and Brentwood and says, "We advocate for just, equitable laws and policies that protect immigrants and reflect the value they add to our communities across Long Island, New York, and the entire country."
The Office for New Americans was founded in 2012 as the nation's first statutorily created immigrant services office. It assists new Americans with accessing and navigating a wide range of free services and support through a statewide network of local providers, according to Hochul's office.
"Today's investments toward critical services for immigrants sends a clear message to all: New York welcomes you and celebrates you," Hochul said in a statement.
Assemb. Catalina Cruz, chair of the state Assembly Task Force on New Americans, said: "As more and more immigrants make New York State their home, it is imperative that we continue to support and strengthen programs that are helping them integrate socially, economically and politically."
State-provided figures show that last year, ONA Opportunity Centers and Legal Counsels served 28,797 people with free services, including legal services and naturalization support on the path to citizenship.
For more information about services, call the New Americans Hotline weekdays 9 a.m.-8 p.m. at 800-566-7536 or go to dos.ny.gov/office-new-americans.
Assistance is available in more than 200 languages, and all calls and contact are confidential.