NYC Council: $10 Million For Immigrants

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“Immigrants have enriched, enhanced and contributed to the development and growth of our city, state and nation. Yet, we continue to treat them like second-class people. A national anti-foreigner attitude has made immigrants the target of every violation of human and civil rights imaginable. Our immigration policies are an embarrassment to the civilized world.�

The Brooklyn Delegation to the New York City Council is seeking to quadruple the amount of funding currently designated to immigrant services to $10 million. Last fiscal year, a mere $2.5 million was earmarked for such things as job training, English as a second language, certain legal services and other community-based programs that help “new Americans� assimilate.

For fiscal year 2005, the delegation is proposing a $10 million budget to improve and enhance these programs. They want $6 million for English language programs, $1.5 million for immigrant legal services, another $1.5 specifically for immigrant worker legal services, and $1 million for English language and civics classes for immigrant seniors.

This initiative has the strong backing of community organizations, immigrant rights groups, and the faith-based community that see immigrants’ problems firsthand on a daily basis. They have long complained that immigrant services are greatly inadequate and have stated that much more money is needed for them to have the necessary impact.
“Immigration is a fact of life in New York City,� said Council Member Kendall Stewart, Chair of the City Council’s Immigration Committee who was the main force behind the initiative. “Immigrants have enriched, enhanced and contributed to the development and growth of our city, state and nation. Yet, we continue to treat them like second-class people. A national anti-foreigner attitude has made immigrants the target of every violation of human and civil rights imaginable. Our immigration policies are an embarrassment to the civilized world.�

Stewart went on to say that $2.5 million was woefully inadequate to meet the growing needs of a population that now exceeds 2.5 million people. That comes out to only a dollar per person. “We believe that $10 million won’t solve the problem entirely, but it will go a long way in helping to better address immigrants needs,� he declared.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz spoke about the importance of the diverse immigrant community to Brooklyn, pointing out that nearly one million of the borough’s 2.5 million residents are foreign-born. “Just imagine how drab, how bland Brooklyn would be without the contribution of all the different ethnicities,� he said.

Council Member Yvette Clarke commented that we all know this nation is a nation of immigrants, some voluntary, some involuntary, but immigrants nonetheless. And she said that as a second-generation American herself, she recognizes the value and contribution that immigrants make to this society, and when we commit injustices against immigrants, it amounts to self-hatred. “We can no longer turn a blind eye when we see our seniors, for instance, struggling just to get meals because of cuts in the budget that are really tiny in the overall picture, but would mean so much to them,� Clarke stated.

Also speaking were Council Member Letitia James who pointed out that $10 million is really a very meager request when you look at how much the immigrant population has done for the City.

Roy Hastick, President of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce, also spoke about his early days as an immigrant in New York City. He brought up the necessity of providing immigrants with small-business information because small-businesses provide a foothold in American society and are the backbone of the nation's economy.

Hastick pledged to do everything in his power to spread the word on behalf of the Immigration Opportunities Initiative so people will help assert pressure and sensitize the Mayor to the critical need for more money to be directed toward immigrant programs and services.

For more reports please call (212) 481-7745 for the newsstand edition of The Black Star News or click on “subscribe� on the homepage.

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