Queens Lawmakers On The Move Nov. 20, 2019

Queens County City Council News

Meng Calls On Trump Administration To Abandon Fee Hikes For Immigrants

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park) Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), and Norma Torres (D-CA), along with 80 other members of Congress, yesterday sent a letter to the heads of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demanding that they abandon plans to hike up USCIS application fees.

Last Thursday, the Trump administration proposed exorbitant increases in application costs that may lead to scenarios in which individuals may not be able to maintain or obtain legal status or apply for naturalization. The proposal includes:

  • Raising the naturalization application fee from $640 to $1,170. 
  • Raising fees associated with lawful permanent residency from $1,220 to $2,195. 
  • Raising the fee for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals from $495 to $765. 
  • Creating a $50 fee for individuals to apply for asylum and requiring them to pay $490 for employment authorization while their asylum case is pending. 
  • Eliminating fee waivers for naturalization, lawful permanent residence, employment authorization, and other applications. 
  • Increasing fee rates to recover the cost of using Immigration Examinations Fee Account funds to support Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations.

 The letter sent by Meng, Jayapal, García, and Torres also protests the shortened public comment period for the fee hikes, which allots only 32 days for comments as opposed to the usual 60 days. 

 “These massive increases are outrageous and are yet another case of the Trump administration attacking our immigrant communities,” said Meng. “Hiking and implementing additional fees will only create more barriers for immigrants, and make it harder for them to achieve the American dream. But this is what the President wants, and why he continues his crusade against those who seek to become Americans. Immigrants make our nation great, and we will not allow this administration to kick them to the curb. We will do all we can to stop these increases from going into effect.”

Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Improve Food Safety

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday announced her new legislation to help improve food safety in New York and across the country. 

Dubbed the Expanded Food Safety Inspection Act, would expand the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to investigate other potential sources of contamination to trace outbreaks of foodborne illnesses to the source.

Currently, when there are outbreaks of foodborne illnesses linked to produce, the FDA is limited to investigating only the produce farms from where the outbreak originated. However, this does not take into account if contamination from nearby farms contributed to the root cause of an outbreak of foodborne illness. The measure comes as Thanksgiving is approaching.

“Thanksgiving should be a time for celebration, but with large, family meals comes the fear of food contamination that can lead to scary, and sometimes life-threatening illness. Foodborne illness makes tens of millions of Americans sick every year, and it is vital we work to prevent it and stop it from spreading,” said Gillibrand. 

“I’m proud to announce the Expanded Food Safety Inspection Act, which would allow the FDA to fully investigate the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks. This would help stop the spread of the disease and help prevent future outbreaks. I urge my colleagues to support this bill and help improve food safety,” she added.

Gillibrand will officially introduce this bill in the Senate later this week. This legislation is endorsed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Consumer Federation of America.

Gianaris To Attend Early Voting Hearing

State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) today will attend the Joint Legislative Hearing on Early Voting. 

Earlier this year the legislature passed historic new early voting laws. This year was the first year New Yorkers were able to vote early. Gianaris was one of the first Early Voters in Queens.

The hearing is slated for 10 a.m., today, Nov. 20 in the Senate Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, 19th Floor in Lower Manhattan.

Koo, AAF Announce Holiday Promotional Giveaway in Flushing

City Council Member Peter Koo

City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows, Whitestone), The Asian American Federation (AAF) and the Union Street Small Business Association (USSBA), held a press conference yesterday for an upcoming holiday promotional giveaway event.

AAF’s Small Business Program will host a holiday event to benefit shoppers and small businesses on Union Street in Flushing. Supported by NYC Economic Development Corporation, the fun event will feature sweepstakes with a wide array of prizes and gift cards, as well as free promotional items.

The highlight will be opportunities for children to take photos with Santa Claus.

Prizes for the sweepstake include premium Korean/Japanese skincare sets, a pearl necklace, 24-carat gold figurines, Apple AirPods 2, ginseng supplements, and gift cards up to $100 in value for spas & hair salons, local boutiques, and Korean/Chinese/sushi restaurants.

“Union Street’s Holiday giveaway event looks to share one of Flushing’s best-kept secrets with the community. Thank you to Asian American Federation for organizing another great promotional opportunity that will attract new customers and benefit our businesses,” said Koo.

Dromm Applauds De Blasio Administration Creation Of Housing For The Homeless

City Council Member Daniel Dromm

City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) applauded the de Blasio Administration’s announcement yesterday that it is entering the second phase of the City’s plan to convert more cluster buildings into permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers. 

Through this preservation transaction, the City will help not-for-profit housing developers acquire and rehabilitate another 14 residential “cluster site” buildings, currently used to house homeless families, and convert them into over 200 permanent affordable housing units to continue addressing the homelessness crisis.

As a result, more than 200 homeless families will receive permanent affordable housing with rent-stabilized leases, regulatory protections, and rehabilitated apartments. When this transaction is complete, this Administration will have reduced city-wide cluster use by nearly 70 percent citywide.

“This effort means more affordable housing for New Yorkers who need it the most,” said Dromm, the council’s finance chair. “By helping local non-profit housing developers acquire a majority of remaining cluster sites, the City is taking steps to end a Giuliani-era stop-gap measure and increase permanent housing for low-income families. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Banks for leading this important effort which has long been a priority for housing activists.”