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Confusion and fear often deter immigrants, regardless of whether they are here legally or undocumented, from receiving services from government agencies they have every right to and the state Assembly is making a push to change that.
“Just because someone is undocumented doesn’t mean they don’t have rights,” said Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), who hosted his second annual Immigrants Connect event Saturday at Make the Road New York.
Moya, who sits on the Assembly’s Small Business and Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry committees, is the author of the Assembly’s Dream fund bill, which would provide financial assistance to the children of immigrants for higher education.
He also sponsored a bill that would allow anyone with a taxpayer ID number to open a state family tuition account, designed to help immigrant families save for college.
The event was part of a statewide effort by Assembly members and the state Department of Labor to provide resources to those who may not even think to seek them out.
“In immigrant communities, you see a lot of problems that exist because of abuse,” Moya said. “This gives them the opportunity to talk to the right agency.”
Representatives from offices such as the National Labor Relations Board and the state Department of Health were on hand to give out literature, answer questions and provide resources to an essential segment of the state’s workforce.
Throughout the state, nearly 30 percent of small businesses are owned by immigrants, according to Labor. In the city, immigrants make up more than one-third of the population and almost one-half of its workforce.
Make the Road New York is a nonprofit with offices in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island that advocates for immigrants’ rights. Its latest victory came earlier this month when workers at the Hi-Tek Carwash and Lube in East Elmhurst voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Deborah Axt, the nonprofit’s co-executive director, said one of the biggest fights in Queens is to help undocumented workers collect unpaid wages.
“Newly arrived immigrants do have a lot more rights than they realize or exercise,” she said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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