News / USA

Diverse New York Conference Discusses Immigrants Rights

A widely diverse group of stakeholders attended the "This Land is Your Land" immigration conference, sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition. (A. Phillips - VOA)
A widely diverse group of stakeholders attended the "This Land is Your Land" immigration conference, sponsored by the New York Immigration Coalition. (A. Phillips - VOA)
Adam Phillips
With more than four million first generation immigrants living within New York state borders, government officials, immigrant advocates and community members often attend conferences that address their many complex legal, political and humanitarian concerns.

Until now, there has been little coordination or constructive conversation among those stakeholders, but the recent “This Land is Your Land Too” conference in a packed Manhattan meeting hall aimed to change that.

“I think the importance of today is that we’re seeing representatives of community-based agencies, [and] not-for-profit groups who work with immigrants coming down, sitting with government officials at the New York City, state and even the federal government levels,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales.

It is easy to understand why immigrants wish to be welcomed, and Perales said New York State has an economic interest in doing so.

“From a very selfish perspective, these newcomers are very important to our economy. They provide labor. They start businesses. We want to make sure that immigrants stay in New York, and understand that they are wanted in New York State,” he said.
      
Nisha Agarwal, New York City’s commissioner for immigrant affairs, would like to make it easier for immigrants to stay. She supports immigration reform that helps undocumented immigrants gain legitimacy and eases the path to citizenship.

“People’s lives are transformed. They can be pulled out of poverty and stay out of poverty if they have appropriate legal status,” she said, adding that the rules currently in place are a bureaucratic and humanitarian disaster.     

“Breadwinners being deported and permanently removed from their families; kids are entering foster care because of that, and just people living in fear because they don’t have appropriate immigration status. That’s not in anybody’s interest,” Agarwal said.

She said city-sponsored focus groups recently established that one out of four young immigrants were technically eligible for legal relief but did not know it.

“So they’ve been living undocumented and they don’t have to be. I think that’s astounding.”  

Attorney Camille Mackler of the New York Immigration Coalition says that getting accurate legal information to both rural and urban immigrants can be challenging but for different reasons.   

“In New York City, we face communities that are a lot more insular, a lot more closed in on themselves, where we are having a hard time getting the trust of the communities to have them come out and meet with representatives outside their communities to get help," Mackler said. 

"Upstate, the problem is that they are spread out and they are also not participating in any sort of civic life. They are not part of the towns. They purposely stay outside of the towns because they fear profiling, they fear discrimination, and they fear law enforcement,” she said. 

Getting adequate legal representation can be especially difficult for rural immigrants. Many work on farms and cannot make a daytime appointment with a lawyer. Without documentation, they cannot get drivers' licenses. This can put city-based lawyers out of reach as well.

To help, the New York Immigration Coalition, which organized this conference, runs a government-funded program to train local grassroots advocates who are not attorneys. 

Other groups help make it easier for immigrants to get to English classes, to connect with skills and job training opportunities, and to obtain practical support for starting a business - all efforts to let immigrants know that this land is their land too.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid