Since the presidential election in November, social and health workers across New York City have been bracing themselves for the uncertain consequences of a shift in power in Washington. President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial picks for his cabinet and his threats to cut federal funding to cities that limit their cooperation with immigration authorities, have left some concerned for the future of their organizations and their clients.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has remained adamant that New York will remain a “sanctuary city” for immigrants, despite those warnings.
Joseph Mpa, a board member for Community Voices Heard, a grassroots organizing group, says activists are concerned about Congress’ repeated attempts to cut funding for food stamps, adding that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is working on a contingency plan in case that happens.
“Even though it’s a billion-dollar budget, if they’re faced with losing hundreds of millions of dollars, then the question is going to be, how will that loss be made up?” said Mpa, 62. “It’s those kinds of things that are keeping people up at night.”
Even politically conservative health directors are concerned about what the upcoming administration means for their organizations. Chris Slattery, 61, the director of EMC Frontline, a collective of politically conservative anti-abortion centers throughout New York City says that he has already seen a backlash against his organization and a rise in what he calls “death-scorts,” volunteers who help women entering abortion clinics to avoid anti-abortion activists trying to dissuade them.
“If anything, Planned Parenthood will raise a lot of panic and hysteria leading to millions of dollar’s worth of donations,” said Slattery. “We have nobody that is our friend in politics. We’re barely hanging on by our fingernails in the state of New York.”
Terry Lawson, 39, an immigration lawyer and member of the Bronx Immigration Partnership, says that her clients are more susceptible in times of uncertainty to predatory organizations offering fraudulent services for large amounts of money. She has seen a rise in concern among her clients.
“I can’t really explain the look in their eyes as well as I would like to, but it’s a look of ‘what’s going to happen to me?’ ‘Am I safe?’ ‘What do I need to do to stay safe?’ ‘To keep my family together?’” said Lawson.
The group is currently organizing multiple “Know Your Rights” presentations to educate the immigrant population about their options and the services available to them.
Mpa said he will continue his work as the new administration takes power.
“Before the election my philosophy was this: either way we’re going to have to fight,” said Mpa. “With Hillary we can fight to advance. If Trump wins we’re going to have to fight to survive. But now it’s kind of like, ‘no,’ we don’t have to sit back and take this. We can push the agenda forward.”