The job of protecting the rights of immigrants and communities of color in New York City when it comes to issues like voting and redistricting has fallen to grassroots organizations who fight for justice every day. Whether it is housing, food insecurity or jobs, groups like the New York Immigration Coalition and the Center for Law and Social Justice are there on the front lines. 

So it is no surprise that they are taking the lead in protecting the rights of the city’s most vulnerable groups now. Asher Ross is the senior strategist for New York Immigration Coalition Action, and is one of those spearheading their “Mapping Our Future” campaign to assure representation for all in the redistricting process.

He joins In Focus to say that the NYIC is actually grateful for the formation of the Independent Redistricting Commission because, even if they couldn’t complete the task of drawing one redistricting map, they held hearings and gave voice to New Yorkers who wanted to be involved in the process. Ross says many of those New Yorkers had already come to groups like the NYIC for advice on how to participate in the public forums, and at least were able to make their concerns known. 

Now, he says, it’s time to draw maps that consider the city’s immigrant population who have been largely ignored. The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College has gone a step further, joining with the Asian American Legal Defense Fund and Latino Justice to draw what they are calling “Unity Maps,” redistricting plans that end the packing, stacking and cracking of communities of color, gerrymandering them to make sure their votes don’t count. 

Ross and Lurie Daniel Favors, the general director for the Center for Law and Social Justice, both recall the intimidation the administration in power at the time tried to use to get immigrants not to fill out their Census forms and now, they say, they must have a part in maintaining whatever political power they have gained.