ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Lawmakers at the Capitol are taking steps to honor the brave men and women who fight for our freedoms with two bills. One would prevent unlawful housing discriminations against our vets, and the other would strengthen protections for immigrant family members of military members.
“And at a time when we see division amongst so many regarding this issue this is a great opportunity for New York State to lead the way,” said Senator Jake Ashby who is co-sponsoring the Alex R. Jimenez Legacy bill. This would provide a pathway to citizenship for family members of veterans who are undocumented. This is a current federal program. New York would be the first state in the country to provide resources. Senator Jake Ashby explained the inspiration behind the bill, “When I was in Iraq in 2008… I remember when Staff Sergeant Jimenez’ remains were being recovered and what I didn’t know at the time was that his spouse was actively being deported which is an unbelievable travesty.”
Advocates say this is no way to honor those who serve. In Jimenez’ case, his spouse was able to remain in the states, but Ashby said there’s simply not enough knowledge about the federal program. “And again, states aren’t putting forward the necessary resources for it and just think of how many people out there, how many families, service members are working to protect this country and we owe it to them to help protect their families and bring them into our country,” said Ashby. If passed, the bill would help to hire lawyers to represent those being deported.
Senator Nathalia Fernandez is proposing another piece of legislation to prevent unlawful housing discrimination against vets. “There’s a stigma with elderly veterans, if they need medical care, if they’re dealing with mental health issues, if they’re dealing with substance use issues, and we need to make it certain and known, and rule in law – that a veteran shouldn’t be discriminated of housing especially,” she said.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, only 7% of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly 13% of the homeless adult population are veterans. “This shows that with proof of you serving you cannot be discriminated against programs,” said Fernandez. Advocates say both bills have bipartisan support and will be voted on, on Wednesday.