Today, a brand new coalition of elected officials and advocates are launching “Care For All Families,” a campaign to win at least $10 Million in New York City’s FY23 budget to expand access to publicly-subsidized early childhood education and care for undocumented children excluded from the City’s contracted programs and vouchers.

Elected officials in the coalition include Council Members Tiffany Cabán, Chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity and Shahana Hanif, Chair of the Committee on Immigration, and Comptroller Brad Lander, and their organizational partners include Advocates for Children of NY, the Day Care Council, Alliance for Quality Education, and the New York Immigration Coalition.

“If there was any question before the pandemic, it is certainly undeniable now that undocumented New Yorkers keep this city running,” said NYC Council Member Tiffany Cabán. “Since we rely on the labor of our undocumented neighbors to stay afloat, we have a moral and economic obligation to guarantee them the same publicly-subsidized childcare other New York families are entitled to. I am proud to be working with our coalition partners to advance this campaign and urge the Mayor and the Council to include the demand in the FY23 budget.”

“Our City offers all school age children regardless of immigration status a public education because providing an education to all has enormous benefits to children, families, and our city. Those benefits shouldn’t just begin when a child enrolls in school; they should begin at birth. Our City should engage our youngest learners and ensure that working families have access to high quality care regardless of immigration status. When we build a city where no one is excluded from obtaining care, where workers can support their families without worry—that is when everyone can thrive,” said NYC Comptroller Brad Lander.

“Childcare for all means childcare for all, regardless of immigration status. Our City has the opportunity to expand the state’s historic investment in the caring economy by ensuring undocumented families are included,” said NYC Council Member Shahana Hanif. “As chair of the Council’s Immigration Committee, advocating for our immigrant communities is one of my top priorities. I’m proud to stand with Council Member Cabán and dozens of immigrant rights advocates to demand $10 million in this year’s budget to ensure our undocumented families are not left behind.”

Undeniably, undocumented New Yorkers kept the city running during the worst of the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, about 1 in 5 essential workers were noncitizens.

The facts:

  • In NYC, median tuition rates for center-based child care top $19,000, over 60% of a full-time minimum-wage salary.
  • Without publicly-subsidized early childhood programs, therefore, many working families cannot afford the early childhood education and care they need for coverage during working hours.
  • Publicly-subsidized programs include Extended Day/Extended Year early education programs offered in community-based organizations funded with DOE contracts and childcare vouchers issued through ACS and HRA.
  • Hundreds of children under the age of five are excluded from such programs due to immigration status, as the programs are funded through the federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), which restricts eligibility to US citizens or “qualified aliens.”
  • Federal guidance does provide an exemption from verifying immigration status for childcare provided in settings subject to public education standards, but New York has not to date exercised that exemption.
  • States like California and Illinois have used non-federal dollars to fill the gap and include undocumented families, but such measures were not included in New York State’s Enacted Budget.
  • While undocumented children do qualify for universal 3-K and Pre-K, these programs generally run until 2 or 3PM during the school year, making them insufficient to meet the needs of many working families.
  • Although Head Start serves children regardless of immigration status, many low-income working immigrant families do not meet Head Start’s strict income or categorical eligibility criteria.

To address this pressing issue, the campaign is calling on the city to:

  • Make city-funded early childhood education and care vouchers available to the relatively small number of children currently ineligible for CCDF-funded child care vouchers due to their immigration status.
  • Ensure that all DOE-contracted early childhood programs that currently require CCDF eligibility also accept these city-funded vouchers, allowing children who receive a city-funded voucher to enroll in a DOE program or another program of the parent’s choice.

Given the relatively small number of ineligible children, these funding priorities are projected to cost just $10 Million, or roughly .01% of NYC’s total budget.

“As providers of early childhood education, Day Care Council of New York’s members know that all children benefit from the education and socialization that child care provides.  All New York families deserve access to early care and education. Tragically too many young children are denied an early education because of their immigration status.” said Tara N. Gardner, Executive Director of the Day Care Council of New York (DCCNY)  “DCCNY is proud to join the Care for All Families Campaign in calling for a $10 million investment in child care for excluded families.  We look forward to working with the Care for All Campaign and our partners in government towards ensuring that all New York’s children can get the high-quality start to their education that they deserve.”

“No child in New York City should be excluded from an early childhood education program because of their immigration status,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “We fully support this initiative to expand access to early childhood programs to more New Yorkers.”

“It is essential that we provide quality care to all children regardless of immigration status. The Alliance for Quality Education is proud to support the Care for All Families Campaign.  We applaud Council Member Cabán, Council Member Hanif and Comptroller Lander for seeking a $10 Million investment in the NYC budget to expand access to childcare for undocumented children. It is our duty to ensure that undocumented families, who are as vital and precious to our city as all New Yorkers, have access to the resources and tools they need to thrive”, said Smitha Varghese, the campaign coordinator at the Alliance for Quality Education.

“New York City’s undocumented children deserve equal access to the same early childhood education programs as their peers, but are currently being left behind,” said Liza Schwartzwald, Senior Manager of Education Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. “At a time when all working parents most need safe, reliable, and educational spaces for their young children, immigrant parents and essential workers are struggling to find the quality care they need. As the city continues its economic recovery, we must ensure that all families can access quality education and care for our youngest learners.”

Julissa Bisono, Co-Director of Organizing at Make the Road New York, stated, “In order for New York to fully recover after two years of a deadly pandemic, childcare is a must for the immigrant, Black, and brown families of New York City. In this year’s State budget, Governor Hochul left immigrant New Yorkers behind, leaving undocumented families out of childcare and instead, chose to fund her donors and subsidize a multi-billionaire. With the Care for All Families campaign, New York City now has the opportunity to correct this by investing $10 million in the City budget to fund early childhood education and care assistance. Child care should be a right afforded to every child regardless of immigration status and this investment in their futures would show New York City’s vulnerable communities that they will not be left behind.”

“Having access to affordable, high-quality early care and education is crucial to the healthy development of our youngest New Yorkers – impacting school readiness and long-term life trajectories; it also offers parents a safe space for their children while they work or attend school,” said Ramon Peguero, Esq., President & CEO of the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF). “Access to child care and early learning programs should be truly universal, regardless of the child’s or parent’s immigration status. While the federal government might place limitations on how federal dollars can be used, New York City can invest its dollars in what is right. The Committee for Hispanic Children & Families (CHCF) whole-heartedly supports the Care for All Families campaign, joining the call for NYC to dedicate at least $10 million to make City-funded early childhood education and care available to all children, regardless of immigration status.”

“Child care is education, and every child deserves access to education,” said New York State Senator Jabari Brisport, Chair of the Committee on Children and Families. “I applaud my colleagues in the NYC Council for advancing this and urge the Mayor to make sure that undocumented children are not excluded from child care in this year’s budget.”

“Early care and education services provide crucial support to families with young children, helping caregivers return to or remain connected to the workforce and supporting children’s social emotional and developmental growth and school preparedness,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “Given the disproportionate impact the pandemic and related economic downturn have had on immigrant New Yorkers, it’s important to take action to ensure that early education programs are available to all New York City children and families regardless of immigration status. We urge City leaders to dedicate at least $10 million in Fiscal Year 2023 Budget to ensure children in undocumented households have access to the same early childhood programs as other children, and that equity remains at the forefront of New York’s recovery.”

“We have a responsibility to provide early childhood care and education services to all children in New York City – regardless of their family’s immigration status,” said Michelle Yanche, Executive Director/CEO of Good Shepherd Services. “Good Shepherd Services is proud to support the Care For All Families campaign in the fight for a fair and equitable city budget that includes at least $10 million to ensure we can provide the supports children need to thrive in NYC.”

“One in seven Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is undocumented, and this disproportionately impacted undocumented children who are shut out of critical educational and support services. As an early childhood education provider for immigrant families, we strongly believe that all children should be able to participate in these programs which are critical to academic and social-emotional development, and that immigrant parents should have quality childcare while they work. We urge the City to invest $10 million in Care for All Families in the FY23 budget to ensure children and families of all backgrounds have this critical support,” said Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC)
“Settlement houses have a long history of serving their neighbors, including immigrant communities in New York City. No child should be denied access to safe, high-quality early childhood education programming based on their immigrations status. United Neighborhood Houses applauds Council Members Caban and Hanif and Comptroller Lander for promoting common sense solutions that will help further our City along the path to a true universal child care system,”  said Susan Stamler, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses.