Voices of NY http://www.voicesofny.org Showcasing the best of the community and ethnic media Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:13:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Discussing Free Speech at Brooklyn College http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/brooklyn-college-event/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/brooklyn-college-event/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:20:25 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57432 Steven Salaita, Katherine Franke and Sarah Aly (l. to r.) listen to a question at an event on the silencing of critics of Israel within academia, at Brooklyn College, on November 20, 2014. (Photo by Matt Surrusco for Voices of NY)

Steven Salaita, Katherine Franke and Sarah Aly (l. to r.) listen to a question at an event on the silencing of critics of Israel within academia, at Brooklyn College, on Nov. 20, 2014. (Photo by Matt Surrusco for Voices of NY)

Professor Steven Salaita’s scathing tweets last summer criticizing Israel for its actions in Gaza were read aloud by both his supporters and critics at Brooklyn College Nov. 20, during a student-organized event on silencing dissent in academic discourse related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Salaita, a Palestinian-American professor whose job offer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) was revoked before he was to start teaching classes this fall, after he tweeted denunciations of Israel, spoke at Brooklyn College about academic freedom and attempts on U.S. campuses to stifle political and scholarly views that are critical of the State of Israel.

“I believe it’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend Israel,” Salaita said, which is why, he added, it becomes necessary for Israel’s supporters to censor criticisms before they are made publicly.

Formerly a professor of English at Virginia Tech, Salaita was joined in the discussion at Brooklyn College’s Student Center by Katherine Franke, a Columbia University law professor, and Corey Robin, chair of the political science department at Brooklyn College.

The event was attended by approximately 125 people, many of them professors and activists, and a few dozen Brooklyn College students. Some sported black-and-white checkered scarves, the kaffiyeh, known as a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

“I think it’s just absolutely a fundamental principle that people should not be penalized at work for what they say politically,” said Robin, who moderated the discussion.

As Robin read aloud some of Salaita’s most controversial tweets, giving Salaita an opportunity to explain his 140-character diatribes, some elicited applause from a few people in the audience.

Regarding one tweet, which critics interpreted as Salaita claiming “anti-Semitism” was something “honorable,” Salaita said his views were the opposite, and that equating criticisms of Israel’s actions with anti-Semitism is “not only a stupid thing to do, but it, at least tacitly, alters the meaning of anti-Semitism.” It “devalues the word,” he said.

Salaita’s main message to the audience: You can’t punish people for their political views, or because of how you interpret what they say on Twitter. Salaita is now suing UIUC to force the release of administration officials’ emails related to his firing.

This week, student organizers, academic departments and the administration of Brooklyn College faced criticism over the event, which was co-sponsored by five academic departments, five outside organizations and Brooklyn College’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter.

New York State Assembly members Dov Hikind and Steven Cymbrowitz, both Brooklyn Democrats, called for the event to be cancelled, claiming the speaker, Salaita, is a hater of Israel and the event will only serve to incite anti-Semitism on Brooklyn College’s campus.

In a letter to Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, referencing the controversy surrounding previous student-hosted speakers critical of Israel, Cymbrowitz wrote that, “Brooklyn College should not make a habit of turning a deaf ear either to the community it serves, which includes a large Jewish population, or to its major funding source.”

Salaita, who has been on a national speaking tour, and made recent stops on college campuses in New York City and New Jersey, later said the officials trying to get cancelled a discussion on the topic of silencing dissent “need to hone their sense of irony.”

In recent years, on-campus events hosted by SJP groups have faced public criticism, with detractors citing one-sided, anti-Israel bias by invited guest speakers or organizations. An event featuring speakers who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, held at Brooklyn College in February 2013, was criticized by Hikind, 10 New York City Council members, and the well-known attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

During the Q&A session on Thursday, some students spoke out against politicians’ attempts to suppress campus events, past and present.

“This campus belongs to us, more than any City Council member,” said Thomas DeAngelis, a SJP member and senior at Brooklyn College.

Another Brooklyn College student, Michelle Terebelo, who identified herself as Israeli, quoted a Salaita tweet she found offensive.

Terebelo criticized Robin for hosting Salaita in spite of his speech on social media; Robin told her people should not be punished for their political opinions.

“I think you want to see this as a form of hate speech,” he said. “I don’t see it.”

After the event, Salaita said his priority now is to have UIUC’s offer of a tenured position reinstated. “I’m still holding out hope because I think it’s the best solution for all parties involved,” he said.

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New Yorkers Celebrate Obama’s Executive Order http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/new-yorkers-celebrate-presidents-executive-order/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/new-yorkers-celebrate-presidents-executive-order/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:04:06 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57400 New Yorkers Celebrate Obama’s Executive Order [see the SlideDeck]

 

On the evening of Nov. 20, President Barack Obama took executive action to ease the lives of millions of U.S. workers and residents.

Immigration relief will be provided to parents of children who were born in the U.S. and have lived here for at least five years and pass background checks, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be extended.

In this special reporting package on Obama’s historic action, Voices of NY offers two articles. The first is an account by Gwynne Hogan of reaction from the crowd that watched the president’s address at a “viewing party” held at 32BJ SEIU (Service Workers International Union) headquarters in Manhattan. In the second article, Pamela Granda reports from the Brentwood, Long Island offices of the nonprofit Make The Road NY where people assembled to listen to Obama’s announcement. Finally, check out NY-area reaction on Twitter, curated by Nancy Ayala, in the Storify slideshow at bottom.

As President Barack Obama announced his historic executive order that will pave the path to amnesty for 5 million undocumented immigrants, immigrants and their allies gathered at 32BJ SEIU headquarters in New York City to watch and to celebrate.

The massive room swelled with excited energy and nearly a hundred bodies. Families and friends greeted one another with warm embraces and bright smiles; in an art corner, kids and parents drafted up colorful signs.

Despite the festivities, the moment Obama began his speech a hush engulfed the crowd. Many in the audience had only dreamed of this moment, while others had been fighting for it for years.

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?” Obama asked. “Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?”

Obama’s executive order may allow almost 5 million undocumented immigrants who’ve lived in the U.S. for at least five years and who have no criminal record to apply for legal work permits.

“I’m so happy that President Obama finally did something that he proposed years ago,” Bismarck Contreras, who attended with his wife and two young sons who are both U.S. citizens. “We have children and we’re paying taxes. It’s time for a change.”

Clarisse Mefotoso Fall came as a representative of the African Hope Committee that advocates for African immigrants.

“This is good for our community. Africans also have a large number of people detained,” she said. “It’s a victory.”

Maria Palaquibay clutched an American flag joyously. She’s lived in Queens for 20 years and her two children are citizens. But because of her legal status she’s been terrified to leave the city.

“[I feel] such happiness,” she said with a wide and radiant smile. “If everything goes right I might be able to visit my parents and my family.”

Some still had damp eyes as they piled into the elevators and headed back to street level. But the cold night and a few angry protesters were quick reminders of the struggles still to come. The clump of dissenters pumped signs that read “Stop the Illegals” and “No Amnesty,” and heckled people entering and exiting the building.

“You should be ashamed,” one woman chanted back at the protesters and channeling Obama’s message from the evening, “We’re all immigrants!”

One protester who’d been saying, “I follow the law,” got under the skin of Robert Blair, who’d attended the viewing party. Blair pushed by the protesters in a huff.

“Slavery was a law, does that make it right?” he asked.

 

**************

 

An hour before the president was set to make a historic announcement, energy was high at the offices of Make the Road in Brentwood. As they walked in, community members searched for a seat in front of a large projector, where they would watch and listen to the nation’s commander-in-chief deliver some much-anticipated news.

With 20 minutes left for the broadcast, a tall, lean man took center stage to welcome everyone.

At Make The Road NY in Brentwood, organizers stress the importance of continuing to be involved until comprehensive reform is accomplished. (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

At Make The Road NY in Brentwood, organizers stress the importance of continuing to be involved until comprehensive reform is accomplished. (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

“We’ve been anxiously waiting for this announcement. We’ve been fighting for 11 million undocumented people. What is our ultimate goal?” he asked in Spanish.

“Keep fighting for comprehensive immigration reform,” the crowd responded in unison.

The man was Daniel Altschuler, coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, a nonpartisan coalition of grassroots organizations working to increase civic participation in working-class communities of color on Long Island. He further explained that because Congress had not taken action, the president was taking a legal measure to protect millions of undocumented people.

Make the Road organizer rallies the crowd, chanting si se pudo (yes, we did it/we did it) (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

Make the Road organizer rallies the crowd, chanting si se pudo (yes, we did it/we did it) (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

On Long Island, immigrants make up 16 percent of the area’s 7.5 million population. Of those, about one in five immigrants in the Long Island area is estimated to be undocumented, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute. The total number of undocumented immigrants in New York State is 690,000, about 6 percent of the estimated 11.5 million nationwide.

There have been a number of cases in which communities of color, including immigrants, have been systemically targeted by police. Organizations on Long Island like Make the Road have pushed for immigrants’ rights. Most recently, they claimed a victory when Suffolk County officials announced an end to the “Secure Communities” program, which detained immigrants in local jails while they waited to be questioned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Lucy Castillo, a native of Colombia, is an active Make the Road member who has been part of the organization’s reform efforts. She has been living in Suffolk County since she arrived in the U.S. 13 years ago, and has been undocumented since.

“I feel so happy right now,” she said with a smile. “This is going to bring change to so many families. They’re going to be able to achieve the American dream – buy a house and drive a car without fear of being deported.”

Because she has two American-born children and no criminal record, Castillo would qualify for temporary relief.

Assemblyman Phil Ramos at the Brentwood Make The Road NY offices on Nov. 20 (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

Assembly member Phil Ramos at the Brentwood Make The Road NY offices on Nov. 20 (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

When the president finally spoke, the chatter in the room went away. People listened intently. When the connection went away, people took out their cellphones and played the announcement on loud. Seventeen minutes later, there was a roar of applause.

¡Sí se pudo! ¡Sí se pudo!, they chanted.

Assembly member Phil Ramos was present at the event and spoke to the crowd.

“My friends, tonight we won a battle. Today it was 25 percent, and maybe in the next two years the other 75 percent can be won,” he said.

“Five million people living out of the shadows is huge,” he emphasized.

In his speech, the president emphasized that relief would not begin until spring 2015, and urged people to beware of scam artists.

Lawyers agree. Raymond Fassano, an immigration attorney with the firm Youman, Madeo and Fasano, LLP, advises people to demand to see a lawyer’s full credentials before seeking legal advice.

“What we’re going to see is places like churches, law schools, temples, that are all going to come out and say that they can fill out their applications. It’s not enough to have the heart and altruism,” he said.

Poster announcing workshops to help determine eligibility for immigration relief (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

Poster announcing workshops to help determine eligibility for immigration relief (Photo by Pamela Granda for Voices of NY)

“With these types of giveaways, anyone thinks they can handle it. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean they’re qualified.”

At Make The Road, attendees signed up for informational workshops that will start as early as Saturday. There, people will get a description of the political context and implications of the executive action, and will see which programs they are eligible for and if they meet all the requirements. The service fee is $50 for professional review by one of the group’s attorneys.

In the meantime, the group suggests that people begin to gather the same sort of evidence and documentation people provided to demonstrate eligibility for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

Nancy Morawetz, clinical professor at NYU School of Law, said that although the president’s executive action may seem bold to some, it’s more modest than what George H. W. Bush did with the family unity provision of the Immigration Act of 1990.

“People need to understand that although today it looks partisan, over history presidential authority has been exercised on a very bipartisan basis,” she added.

 

 

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Checking out ‘Little Odessa’ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/checking-little-odessa/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/checking-little-odessa/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:37:48 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57377 Red borscht at Volna. (Photo by Lore Croghan via  Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Red borscht at Volna. (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

With a chill driving out the unseasonably warm days of fall, it might just be time for some borscht.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Lore Croghan recommends a visit to Brighton Beach, aka “Little Odessa,” to take in the charms of a waterfront community that is home to Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, Uzbekis, and other Russian speakers of the former Soviet Union.

Ignore the depressingly autumnal leaves on the trees along the elevated B train tracks and make a break for the oceanside haven where everyone speaks Russian and/or various Slavic and Central Asian languages.

They’ll feed you well even if you don’t, and share their beachfront with you.

Though its steel-gray Atlantic Ocean waters are too cold for ordinary mortals this time of year, you can count on finding a few tougher-than-the-rest-of-us guys striding along the boardwalk in their bathing suits, heading off for a swim.

There’s also a shirtless fellow who takes his dogs on shoreline strolls.

“They love to go walking on the beach,” he told us when we asked to take pictures of the pooches.

Restaurants and stores abound on the famed boardwalk. Volna, a shoreline restaurant at 3145 Brighton 4th St., serves up borscht, including a green version that seems to be off the menu now, says Croghan – who dubs the red version “crave worthy.”

Fortified by the borscht, it might be time to wander to some of the stores dotting the area – like the St. Petersburg Global Trade House at 230 Brighton Beach Ave., with its shelves and shelves of Russian language books, as well as Russian china and other gift items, including nesting dolls of Russian leaders that feature an appropriately dour Vladimir Putin on the outside.

Russian nesting dolls at st. Petersburg Global Trade House (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Russian nesting dolls at St. Petersburg Global Trade House (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Next, time to check out the selection of vodkas –more than 50 kinds of them – at Ocean Wine & Liquor at 514 Brighton Beach Ave., a neighborhood mainstay for many decades. The best sellers come from Russia and France. French vodka, Balinoff, retails for $16.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle, and is a deal compared with Grey Goose, a popular French favorite. Flavored vodkas, such as Ukrainian honey hot pepper vodka, are also available.

Vodkas at Ocean Wine & Liquor (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Vodkas at Ocean Wine & Liquor (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Time to stock up on some food to take home to accompany that vodka. Gold Label Delicatessen and Grocery at 281 Brighton Beach Ave. sells a wide range of gourmet specialty foods, Vintage Gourmet Specialty Food at 287 Brighton Beach Ave. sells candies, chocolates and nuts, and Taste of Russia at 219 Brighton Beach Ave. has cakes and breads galore.

A fish display at Gold Label. (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

A fish display at Gold Label. (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

All that food shopping may make you hungry for another meal. You can head for Kashkar Cafe, a halal restaurant serving Central Asian food at 1141 Brighton Beach Ave. to sample geiro layman – sliced beef and lamb in a sauce with peppers and green beans on a bed of noodles.

Lagman at Kashkar Cafe. (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Lagman at Kashkar Cafe. (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

If that feels like too much, it’s possible to just take tea at Kashkar and relax a while.

Tea at the Kashkar (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

Tea at the Kashkar (Photo by Lore Croghan via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

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Behind the Push for Latino Representation http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/behind-push-latino-representation/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/behind-push-latino-representation/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 21:31:08 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57371 Mayor Bill de Blasio at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in June (Photo by Diana Robinson for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, via City Limits)

Mayor Bill de Blasio at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in June (Photo by Diana Robinson for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, via City Limits)

Despite making a series of high-profile political appointments of Latinas early in his administration, Mayor Bill de Blasio has failed to fill the ranks of the administration with Latinos proportionate to their numbers and importance in New York City, leaders of a new campaign, Fair Representation for Latinos, have argued.

Ed Morales of City Limits explores their arguments and speaks with, among others, Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, about the campaign.

“Right away he hired Lilliam Barrios-Paoli [Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services], Schools Chancellor [Carmen] Fariña and Gladys Carrión [Commissioner for Children's Services],” said Falcón. “At the time it was 26 percent of the appointees, but those were the ones that were publicly announced. We asked for the full list and they wouldn’t provide it. By September it was down to 12 percent. We’ve made specific recommendations but they won’t engage with us directly. Instead we get this progressive trickle-down argument: ‘Look, what are you people complaining about? We have all these great policies like minimum wage, municipal ID cards, this stuff that’s benefiting your community. Why are you bringing this up?’”

Falcón’s statistical revelations are numerous and significant. Given that Latinos represent 29 percent of the city’s population, the 12 percent of all mayoral appointments, combined with the fact that Latinos are 20 percent of the full municipal work force, make Latinos “the most underrepresented group.” Furthermore, Latinos tend to be concentrated in three of the city’s 39 agencies, there are no Latino appointees at all in a majority of city agencies and although 23 agencies have predominantly white staffs, and 17 have predominantly black staffs, none have a predominantly Latino staff.

Meaningful representation, not quotas, are what Fair Representation is after. It’s understood that the de Blasio administration is in the position of having to reverse the effects of two decades worth of Republican policies in the city. Still, the leaders of the campaign say that for that very reason, the need is urgent.

But, as Lucía Gómez, president of the civic-participation advocacy group La Fuente, insists, “This is a long-term issue that predates this administration. Inclusion can be a pipeline where people are able to learn city government so they can help people not just from the Latino community but people from a similar demographic. We can’t expect future appointments without a clear understanding of how government works, and we need opportunity to do this from the inside.”

City Limits reached out to a number of Latino politicians for comment, but they demurred, and public comments recently have been largely innocuous, citing, for instance, the initial appointments by de Blasio.

Read the original article to learn how the campaign’s quest may parallel efforts decades ago by the Italian community to secure fair representation in city government. And find out just what Falcón thinks of the Cuom0 administration’s efforts to include Latinos in its administration.

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Korean Fulfills Dream As Flushing MD http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/korean-fulfills-dream-flushing-md/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/korean-fulfills-dream-flushing-md/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:15:28 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57353 Wan Soo Lee in his Flushing medical office. (Photo via Korea Daily)

Wan Soo Lee in his Flushing medical office. (Photo via Korea Daily)

“Everyone said I was insane.”

This is what he heard when he unexpectedly said he wanted to go to medical school in his 40s. He was working as a pharmacist after immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 38 for his children’s education. “My wife kept quiet for two weeks. It might not have been easy for her to decide to live apart for four years and raise our two sons alone. Besides, it wasn’t certain whether I would pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination after graduation.”

This is the story of Wan Soo Lee, a director of a pediatric clinic in Flushing, New York. After graduating from pharmacy school in Korea, he lived a comfortable life as a pharmacist. After he immigrated to the U.S., he spent two years preparing for the licensing exam to become a pharmacist. He then got a job working at a psychiatric center in Manhattan. “Even though I got paid every week, the amount was too low to support a family of four.” A challenge came out of the blue.

“One day, a Greek doctor working in a ward with me told me, ‘You look young and smart. Why are you working here? Why don’t you go to medical school? In fact, I was once an engineer. I went to medical school at the age of 33.’ Even though I was already 42-years-old at the time, I felt the dream of my youth reviving.” It was hard for him to go to medical school because the cost of raising twin sons made family finances tight.

He found that a medical school in the Dominican Republic cost one-fifth that of medical schools in the U.S. and would give him a qualification to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Without telling members of his family, he visited the Universidad Central del Este in San Pedro de Macorís and met with an admissions officer. “I showed all the records for entering pharmacy school [with top entrance exam results], my experiences as a pharmacist and career after getting the license to be a pharmacist in the U.S.”

“After receiving an answer that I might be able to finish medical studies in three years if things go well, I started to convince my wife. Had it not been for my determined choice and the commitment of my wife, my life might not be like this.” After scraping together the money so that his wife and two sons could manage, the 43-year-old medical school student started to study.

Every class was in Spanish. “Even while not yet perfectly fluent in English, I had to focus on studying Spanish after attending [medical school] classes, and it took about six months to one year to understand what was being taught. I memorized the texts in Spanish for exams in the school and prepared for the United States Medical Licensing Examination in English. I studied almost the whole day except for sleeping for a few hours.”

Struggling with Spanish has contributed to making Lee’s pediatric clinic widely known among non-Koreans – as much as a third of his patients are Latinos. “I appreciate that the [medical school in the] Dominican Republic made me qualified to take the test. But the conditions were so harsh. Just to name a few, I had to light a candle due to a cut off in electricity. On a hot day without any air conditioning, when the electricity kicked in and I was able to enjoy the breeze from an electric fan, I felt so grateful.”

The issue after passing three stages of the medical licensing exam in the U.S. was to get a residency. “I graduated at the age of 47. I was worried about being unemployed because I feared I was too old to be a resident. However, thankfully, only my career and not my age was considered. Pharmacist licensures from both Korea and the U.S. brought offers from many hospitals and I started a residency in the Pediatrics Department at Nassau University Medical Center.”

Lee says that his heart still overflows with joy, looking back at the moment. “When I wore the white doctor’s gown engraved with ‘MD’ behind my name, the panorama of the challenge of the last four years came and went.” After spending two years as a resident and turning 50, coworkers at the hospital threw him an unexpected party. “After three years as a resident, in 2002, working as a pediatrician, I opened my clinic.”

His twin sons, who studied economics at Boston University and Stony Brook University, entered medical school, advised by Lee, and have worked as residents in pediatrics and family medicine. Lee said, “As no one can predict the future, we can see our limits only when we demonstrate our potential. Without the decision at that time, I would not be who I am today. I have heard that many people are thinking of switching their careers due to stagnation. Admittedly, trying one’s best in their current position is important. However, age doesn’t matter in terms of trying to achieve a dream. I hope my story can encourage the youth who are reluctant to meet the challenge.”

Dreams don’t age. Lee flashed a wide smile.

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Activists Warn of Immigration Scams http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/activists-warn-of-immigration-scams/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/activists-warn-of-immigration-scams/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:04:19 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57355 Pro-immigrant organizations are calling upon undocumented people to stay informed. Left to right: Maritza Mejia Ming, Kings County District Attorney Immigrant Fraud Unit; Rosemary Yu, Assistant District Attorney and co-director of the Immigrant Affairs Program; Carmen Cerrada, affected immigrant, parent of DACA recipient; Steven Choi, executive director, NYIC; Neena Dutta, attorney and Chair of New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; Izaskun Pineda, Consul for Political Affairs, Consul General of Mexico in New York; Valeria Treves, executive director, New Immigrant Community Empowerment." (Photo by Photo: Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

Pro-immigrant organizations are calling upon undocumented people to stay informed. Left to right: Maritza Mejia Ming, Kings County District Attorney Immigrant Fraud Unit; Rosemary Yu, Assistant District Attorney and co-director of the Immigrant Affairs Program; Carmen Cerrada, affected immigrant, parent of DACA recipient; Steven Choi, executive director, NYIC; Neena Dutta, attorney and Chair of New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; Izaskun Pineda, Consul for Political Affairs, Consul General of Mexico in New York; Valeria Treves, executive director, New Immigrant Community Empowerment. (Photo by Photo: Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

In advance of President Obama’s speech announcing his plan for immigration relief on Nov. 20, prominent organizations in New York City are doubling their efforts to keep the beneficiaries informed and aware of related scams.

On previous occasions when immigration relief plans have been put in place, unscrupulous businesses offering phony legal services often try to rip immigrants off. Some take their money without fulfilling their part of the deal, make false promises about helping the customers obtain citizenship, and even put people at risk of getting disqualified.

“While we await the specific details of the plan, we are doing what we can to prepare our communities,” to avoid immigration scams, said Steven Choi, executive director at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC).  “Our communities need to know that administrative relief is temporary relief and not a path to citizenship.”

NYIC launched an online campaign (www.thenyic.org/Ready4Relief) to inform immigrants of requirements, documents they will need to prepare, and services available throughout the state.

The organization has coordinated the efforts of several pro-immigrant groups, legal services providers, consulates and local and state government officials to spread the information to as many undocumented people as possible who may be eligible to qualify for these new opportunities.

On Sunday, an information session will be held in Jamaica, Queens. Representatives of the consulates of Mexico and Guatemala and the organization New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) will be in attendance, offering direct assistance to people in need of identification documents, advice and free immigration-related legal services. The session will be held at 162-02 Hillside Ave., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Valeria Treves, director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), said that she has received calls from immigrants in Queens who have been contacted by lawyers offering to help them apply for the relief. However, the official details of the immigration plan have not been divulged yet.

“Fraud in immigration services can bring serious consequences beyond losing money,” said Treves. “Even people who meet all the requirements and qualify for the relief may lose their chance if they are tricked by an incompetent or unscrupulous provider.”

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Budding Filmmakers Make ‘Films for Change’ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/budding-filmmakers-make-films-change/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/budding-filmmakers-make-films-change/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:52:55 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57383 Comedian Ricky Barrino (left) was the subject of student Lenno Carter's (right) documentary. Barrino spoke of the time he spent in prison, where he found his calling in life to "make people laugh." Barrino's nephew Kaleb (in purple) stands beside Carter's son Taliq, currently in a filmmaking class for kids. (Photo by Gregg McQueen via Manhattan Times)

Comedian Ricky Barrino (left) was the subject of student Lenno Carter’s (right) documentary. Barrino spoke of the time he spent in prison, where he found his calling to “make people laugh.” Barrino’s nephew Kaleb (in purple) stands beside Carter’s son Taliq, currently in a filmmaking class for kids. (Photo by Gregg McQueen via Manhattan Times)

NeON Arts is an education project started by the NYC Department of Probation that gives young people – including those on probation – the opportunity to learn about music, poetry, dance, visual arts and other artistic fields. Manhattan Times reporter Gregg McQueen covers a screening of works produced by the 11 students of a 12-week intensive filmmaking course in the South Bronx. The training was sponsored by NeON Arts and taught at the Maysles Documentary Center.

Throughout the intensive filmmaking course, 11 participants from the South Bronx NeON (Neighborhood Opportunity Network) office, where people meet where their probation officers, received a crash course in the basics of documentary filmmaking, were provided cameras to film a subject of their choice and taught to use editing equipment to create the final piece.

The project, conducted in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, produced four original short films.

On Sat., Nov. 15th, the filmmakers gathered to screen them in Harlem, presenting works that fit under the topic “Films for Change.”

Film topics included the “impact of technology on human relationships,” spirituality, and domestic violence in families. The students could go with any topic and filmed everything on their own schedule, spending the last few weeks of the course “hunkered down” at the Maysles Center editing their films.

One of the students, Tiffany Marrero, said the course gave her a newfound interest in filmmaking and the dedication that went into producing her film instilled her with discipline.

“Also, it teaches you how to work well with people, who are going to have different viewpoints,” she said. “It’s like making a soup — you have all these different ingredients, but if you blend them together correctly, it comes out great in the end.”

Find out what other participants had to say about the class as well as other opportunities being offered, at Manhattan Times.

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All Races, All Faces, Unveiled http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/races-faces-unveiled/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/races-faces-unveiled/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 03:27:29 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57339 Dmitri Daniel Glinski (left) and TBI founder and president Bertha Lewis (PHoto by Kinue Weinstein for Voices of NY)

Dmitri Daniel Glinski (left) and TBI founder and president Bertha Lewis (Photo by Kinue Weinstein for Voices of NY)

[Editor's note: This story has been corrected and updated.]

“All Races, All Faces: A Guide to New York City’s Immigrant Communities,” has been published by The Black Institute (TBI) as a resource that “addresses common problems across the communities,”  said TBI founder and president Bertha Lewis at a launch party at the offices of 32BJ SEIU on West 18th Street in Manhattan on Nov. 18.

The book offers a listing of community-based nonprofit organizations that provide social services, cultural programming, and advocacy as well as a directory of elected officials and prominent community leaders. To encourage better communication among different immigrant communities, the book also provides cross-immigrant community data, such as statistics on naturalizations, green card issuance, deportations (nationwide), as well as the breakdown of the city’s and each borough’s immigrant population by country of origin and, for the entire city, by language spoken at home.

“The book is written in a simple language in a directory format to be an easy-to-read information source,” said Dmitri Daniel Glinski, the author, who is a Russian-Jewish immigrant. During his speech at the event, Glinski, who is director of intercommunal affairs at TBI, talked about prejudice, racial discrimination, and anti-Russian sentiment.

Introducing Glinski warmly and to audience laughter as “a black Russian,” TBI founder Lewis, co-producer of the book, talked about the importance of an integrated approach to today’s immigration issues.

”While there are many races and faces, the problems immigrants encounter are similar and, therefore, integrated approaches are necessary,” Lewis said. The book is intended for use by government offices, nonprofits working with immigrant populations, educational institutions, academic researchers, and by immigrants themselves and their organizations, aside from being used as a communication tool among different communities.

“This book is different from ‘The Newest New Yorkers’ published by City of New York Department of City Planning,” Lewis pointed out. “Ours is written very simply to reach and be read by average people.”

The book is available for free at The Black Institute at 39 Broadway Avenue, Suite 1740, New York, New York 10006.

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Hunts Point Churches Share the Faith http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/hunts-point-churches-share-faith/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/hunts-point-churches-share-faith/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 23:45:54 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57323 Reverends Kahli Mootoo and church board member Harry Isaac at Bright Temple AME Church. (Photo by Danny R. Peralta via Hunts Point Express)

Reverends Kahli Mootoo and Harry Isaac at Bright Temple AME Church. (Photo by Danny R. Peralta via Hunts Point Express)

Facing overcrowding and a looming rent increase at Pentecostal Iglesia Cristiana Emmanuel, Rev. Johnny Mercado and his congregation have found a new space – at another church in Hunts Point. Starting later this month, the Pentecostal congregation will share space with the African Methodist Episcopal congregation at Bright Temple, reports Cole Rosengren for Hunts Point Express.

Bright Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church is also facing financial difficulties. By teaming up, the two churches hope for a more stable future.

Although they follow different doctrines, the churches have joined forces out of mutual respect, and necessity. By sharing pews and a pulpit, they hope to not only survive but also thrive.

Bright Temple has a leaky roof, poor insulation, and consequently high heating bills, a shortage of Bibles and not to mention of money as well. Mootoo is looking at affordable housing as a way to save the financially-strapped church.

To earn the money his church needs for repairs and supplies, Mootoo is trying to broker a deal that would lead to the construction of affordable housing on the Lafayette Ave. side of the church’s property. The proceeds could keep the church afloat for years, he said.

Go to Hunts Point Express for more on Mercado and Mootoo and why the Methodist Episcopal church has “Temple” in its name.

Curious about how developing affordable housing can save cash-strapped churches? This episode of CUNY TV’s “Independent Sources” explored this phenomenon in some Brooklyn churches.

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Undocumented and Irish: How One Man Has Lived http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/undocumented-irish-one-man-hopes-obama/ http://www.voicesofny.org/2014/11/undocumented-irish-one-man-hopes-obama/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 22:22:34 +0000 https://www.voicesofny.org/?p=57315 (Photo by Billie Ward, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Billie Ward, Creative Commons license)

A 41-year-old Irish construction worker tells Kayla Hertz of Irish Central that President Obama’s anticipated executive action Nov. 20 on immigration “would change my life 100%.”  He has lived in New York City for 21 years as an undocumented resident, and his daily life here has been severely constrained.

The Irishman, married with three children, would qualify under Obama’s action, which is expected to permit undocumented parents with children born in the U.S. and no arrest record, to remain here legally.

“I don’t have a life here. I get by and I survive. It is what it is. But it would be a life-changing situation for me – just to be able to go out in the morning, get in the car and drive my son to a birthday party or to a football game. Just the simple things that people take for granted – it’s precious to me.”

“People shouldn’t be so scared of what’s going to happen. We’re just common people. I think there are a lot of fear mongers out there who are putting this down – but yet again, they’re probably living beside somebody that’s in this situation.

“Their best friend, their neighbor, people they work with every day. They go out and have drinks after work with people who may be in this situation. I’m sure a lot of people don’t know I’m in it, because I keep it to myself.”

He told Irish Central that his career “is stagnant,” and noted that because he can’t get a driver’s license, he has to take his kids certain places in taxis.

He refuses to risk traveling outside of NYC within the U.S., and visits to Donegal, where he was born, or elsewhere in Ireland or anywhere outside the U.S., are foreclosed to him.

Over the past 21 years, he has missed births, deaths, weddings and anniversaries in Ireland. Read more at Irish Central.

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