When it comes to immigration policy – both in the 22st State Senate District and beyond – the differences between Andrew Gounardes and Ross Barkan, the two candidates vying for the Democratic Party line, is like splitting hairs.
Gounardes released his immigration platform Monday, which aims to create a welcoming environment for immigrants. Barkan released his platform earlier in July.
Gounardes’ platform, dubbed “Welcoming New Americans,” contains seven steps to making South Brooklyn an area where immigrants will have access to resources that will allow them to seamlessly integrate themselves in their new homes.
“It’s about immigrants getting a piece of the American dream,” Gounardes said, “Not only citizenship but getting a slice of the pie of success.”
Gounardes said he has been fighting for immigrant rights during the length of his career. He said his platform is built upon institutional knowledge gained from working with community organizations, people within his campaign and his own experience.
“I think it’s a realistic platform that can be achieved,” Gournardes said.
One aspect of Gounardes’ platform is making sure Immigration and Customs Enforcement stays out of courthouses. He said keeping ICE out of the courts will allow the community to report crimes or seek representation without fear of being detained.
Gounardes said that the abolition of ICE is something that is out of his control.
Barkan’s platform holds a similar stance to Gounardes on ICE, but he took it a step further. In his platform, he calls for the abolition of ICE completely.
“With hate and bigotry coming out of the White House, New York must be a true sanctuary state for all. Elected officials, Democrats included, are not doing nearly enough to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Barkan said, “We need to guarantee that Trump’s foot soldiers can’t continue to break up families. Immigrants make this country great. Only by passing laws to protect them will we realize the dream of a true safe haven for everyone.”
Both candidates took similar stances on the importance of accessibility to services for immigrants. Barkan’s platform calls for a $200 million investment for those learning English, and an additional $100 million for legal services. Gounardes called for $109 million in additional funding.
The two candidates also share similar stances on the passage of the New York Liberty Act, as well as allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses if they pass the necessary means to get one.
In addition to the release of his platform, the Gounardes campaign is hosting an event in response to a July 11 incident where a woman was attacked on the SB53 bus for being Muslim.
The event is a Bystander Training session, which is being held in association with The Accompany Project, an initiative of the Arab Association of New York.
Attendees will be provided with training on how to be allies to immigrants in situations of duress.
“It goes beyond just recording what’s happening,” Gounardes said, “We hope to show people all the ways they can help.”
“Hate crimes are on the rise across the country, and sadly Southern Brooklyn is not immune, there have been multiple incidents of harassment or aggression in our neighborhood, as recently as this month. I’m proud to partner with the Accompany Project to provide a safe space for community members to learn how to be helpful in high-risk situations” said Gounardes. “Times are scary, and it’s incredibly important for all of us to better understand how we can successfully and safely disrupt a hostile or aggressive situation and stand up for our neighbors.”
Barkan has also been working with the Muslim community of South Brooklyn.
The Muslim Democratic Club endorsed Barkan Tuesday. The organization is a group that looks to give progressive Muslim New Yorkers a say in New York Politics.
“Now, more than ever, we need candidates who will speak to the specific needs and issues that our community faces. We are confident that Ross Barkan is that candidate,” said Muslim Democratic Club President Tahanie Aboushi.
The primary is Sept. 13. The district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend and parts of Sheepshead Bay, Borough Park and Midwood.