Shortly after 9am on Sunday, September 28, immigrant community members and their families began to trickle through the front doors of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park. They were greeted by smiling representatives of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) who signed them in and gave them itineraries for the day’s events, which included presentations by various organizations on the opportunities, resources, and services available to immigrant communities.
Tables were set up along the front hallways where community members could minglewith volunteers and learn more about each organization. The New York Legal Assistance Group repurposed the cafeteria to offer counseling to unaccompanied minors and to those who might be eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). And of course—the central purpose of the event—representatives from the consulates of Mexico and El Salvador were set up in the auditorium to issue passports and consular IDs to community members.
By noon, the hallways were bustling.
“We do these events nearly every month during the school year,” explained NYIC’s Director of Special Projects, Betsy Plumb. She wore a T-shirt that read: United for Justice and Opportunity. “We are really taking advantage of a policy change in 2011, which allows New York City school safety divisions to be able to accept consular IDs or foreign passports for entry. Before, parents without identification were having difficulty entering the schools their children were going to. This allows them access, along with the ability to better engage with their children’s education.”
Betsy told us that usually around 600 people attend these events, and that over the last three years approximately 22,000 New Yorkers have been assisted.
“The intent with the IDs was to fill a practical need,” said Claudia Calhoon, NYIC Health Advocacy Senior Specialist. She motioned toward the community members lined up in the auditorium and waiting in the seats. “Then we thought, we have a captive audience, right? So why not provide other kinds of outreach and helpful information while they wait?”
Advocacy groups like the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund presented on DACA eligibility and benefits. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office spoke about ways to prevent immigrant fraud and to seek redress for crimes already committed. The City University of New York discussed scholarship opportunities and ways to seek financial aid. Even Council Member Carlos Menchaca was there to show his support.
Not to mention our very own Hewett Chiu and Mon Yuck Yu, who presented on immigrant healthcare issues. They also offered blood pressure screenings at the event.
“Getting AMPHS involved is great,” Claudia told us, “because you do stuff that we don’t do. So we can let people know about these other resources and provide a more holistic set of services.”
Not only was this an opportunity for community members to learn about these helpful resources, but it was also an occasion for the organizations themselves to meet, discuss future collaborations, and share their stories.
One young woman from Atlas: DIY, Developing Immigrant Youth, came to our table to introduce herself. She spoke of her own experience as an undocumented immigrant and how Atlas: DIY helped her to achieve DACA status. It can be difficult, she explained, for young people with DACA status to get work, because employers aren’t always able to see a history of education or relevant work experience, so one thing Atlas: DIY does is offer its members vocational courses. After getting a job as a receptionist, she was so grateful that she continued to work with Atlas: DIY, eventually becoming their Director of Operations and Outreach.
This was the first event AMPHS and NYIC participated in together, and we certainly hope it isn’t that last. It was a day of community, information-sharing and solidarity, and we at AMPHS were thrilled to be a part of it.