In September 2018, activist groups around New York rushed to denounce the Trump administration for considering making changes to the “public-charge” rule for immigrants. The publicly funded New York Immigration Coalition, or NYIC, staged a protest outside the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. Leaders of the organization were arrested after they sat down in the middle of Delancey Street and blocked rush-hour traffic.
New York City has long been fertile ground for political protest. Civil-society groups, along with elected officials, activists and unions, typically organize these protests, which run the gamut from standard rallies to civil disobedience. What most New Yorkers don’t realize is that many of the protests are funded by taxpayers. Whether they agree or disagree with these efforts, New Yorkers should understand that they’re paying the bill for them.
Any nonprofit receiving money from the city is supposed to have a purely charitable purpose. A significant recipient of taxpayer largesse — it receives about $9 million annually — is Make the Road New York. Founded in 1998, Make the Road characterizes itself as a member-driven organization with more than 15,000 Big Apple members, almost exclusively Latino immigrants.
The group receives millions of dollars in city and state funding annually, ostensibly to run adult literacy classes, “know-your-rights” clinics, cultural activities and assorted information sessions.
But Make the Road’s real purpose, to paraphrase its mission statement, is to “build power through organizing.” Leaders of New York’s far-left Working Families Party run the group, which urges its clients to participate in political indoctrination as an implicit condition of receiving aid and encourages them to join as members.
Make the Road’s legal structure and leadership closely overlap with Make the Road Action — a 501(c)(4) organization that engages in electoral activity and endorsing candidates — to which Make the Road regularly makes contributions in the six-figure range.
New York Communities for Change, successor organization to the disgraced Acorn, also receives money from Make the Road. A spin-off group, the Center for Popular Democracy, receives millions of dollars in donations from the Open Society Foundation, the Ford Foundation, organized labor and the Rockefeller Foundation — and operates from the same street address as Make the Road Action, with which it shares overlapping leadership.
Public funding thus fuels an interlocking complex of political organizations on the left, including direct electoral endorsements and campaign work. Democratic elected officials know that they can count on Make the Road to thicken crowds at rallies and stand behind them at press appearances.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would not permit ICE agents to enter public school buildings, he was surrounded by Make the Road members; when he visited Las Vegas in April, as part of his pre-announcement presidential tour, he met with Make the Road Nevada.
Other nonprofits operate in a similar politicized mode. For instance, one week after President Trump’s inauguration, NYIC, joining forces with Make the Road, organized a march to protest the administration’s “Muslim ban.”
NYIC posted a video showing the leaders of the march holding a large banner reading “No Ban, No Wall,” with Make the Road and NYIC signs attached. Congressional Reps. Joe Crowley and Nydia Velázquez led the marchers in chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho / Donald Trump has got to go!”
In early 2018, ICE arrested an illegal immigrant, facing a felony domestic violence complaint, outside the Bronx criminal courthouse. Lawyers from the Legal Aid Society and Bronx Defenders — both publicly funded — staged a walkout from their cases and stood outside chanting, “Immigrants are welcome here.”
These groups are, legally speaking, charitable organizations, funded almost entirely by the taxpayer to provide indigent defense — not to protest federal immigration policy.
These left-wing groups develop talent that goes on to run political campaigns, work for elected officials, staff government agencies and run for elected office.
New York’s multibillion-dollar human services complex generally provides the services that it promises, but it has also become the operating environment for radicals, posing as social workers, who siphon off public money to promote their political agenda.
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post
Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images