BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
On April 3, community leaders and elected officials assembled at a town hall meeting to discuss proposals to reform the United States immigration laws.
Approximately 200 community members came to discuss the debate taking place in Washington surrounding the immigration system and the role individuals can play in ensuring the passage of fair immigration reform.
The meeting convened in the auditorium of PS 19Q, located at 98-02 Roosevelt Ave. The key speakers at the town hall included U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside), Jose Tejada, executive director of Dominico-American Society of Queens; Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation and Julio Hernandez, a member of the Dominico-American Society of Queens.
Aside from the key panelists, members of the community spoke about their personal experiences of working illegally and struggling after a member of their family is deported back to their homeland. A young girl came close to tears as she pleaded to see her father come back to the U.S. and reunite with her family.
“Tonight’s event shows that the need for immigration reform stretches far beyond individual ethnic groups and immigrant communities and is really an issue that affects us all,” Crowley said. “I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss the important issue with such a wide variety of passionate advocates, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue with the community as we work to finally address our nation’s broken immigration system.”
The topics highlighted during the debate included the key representatives in Congress driving this debate, the immigration principles, what the reform means to immigrants, how to prevent being victimized by immigration fraud and how individuals can join the fight to ensure immigrant justice.
Meng spoke to the crowd about her parents immigrating to the U.S. in the early 1970s with only $200 in their pockets.
“According to data, 30 percent of the immigrant families are more likely to start their own business and are capable of starting up to four million jobs a year,” Meng said.
In a statement issued by the Hispanic Federation, Meng stated, “Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue, but the discussion our nation is finally having about this critical issue is very encouraging. As a daughter of immigrants, I look forward to tackling this vital issue so that millions can continue to achieve the American dream.”
“We are gathering today to push for a new comprehensive immigration reform law that will help immigrant families by granting legal permanent status to the undocumented, so they can work legally and reunite with their families, while helping generate increased economic activity in states that are in financial crisis,” Tejada said.
“Do not pay anyone who says they will help you with your immigration process,” said Hernandez. He overtly explained to the community that immigration reform is still underway and they should learn English to avoid any immigration scams.
“A central principal in any immigration reform bill must be a broad and generous legalization program that reaches even the most marginalized and vulnerable of immigrant workers by bringing them out of the shadows and onto a clear path to citizenship,” said Valeria Treves, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment in a earlier statement issued by the Hispanic Federation.
Reach Reporter Trisha Sakhuja at (718-357-4000), Ext. 128, or at email@example.com.