Tag Archives: immigrants

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Thursday: A mix of clouds and sun. High 41. Winds SW at 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Cloudy. Low 36. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: New Sounds of East and West

Set in a quaint, Gothic style church, Project Hansori’s concert will present new original music centered on Asian-infused jazz. Free, donation suggested. Starts at 7 p.m at All Saints Church in Sunnyside. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Melissa Mark-Viverito says she has support to become next City Council speaker

Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito is claiming she will have enough votes in the City Council to become its next speaker. Read more: The Queens Courier 

Immigrant population highest in a century

The percentage of immigrants in New York City’s population is the highest it’s been in a century. Read more: New York Post

Bloomberg’s meddling ways on unions don’t sit well with de Blasio

Michael Bloomberg has offered an unprecedented challenge to his successor to slash union benefits — for the good of the city — even if it means he doesn’t get re-elected. Read more: CBS New York 

DeBlasio picks ‘true progressive’ for budget director

Describing him as a “true progressive,” Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio appointed a former top fiscal aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as the city’s next budget director. Read more: New York Post

Millions of Target customers’ credit, debit card accounts may be hit by data breach

Approximately 40 million credit and debit card accounts used by Target customers may have been impacted by a major data breach, the retailer said Thursday. Read more: NBC News 

 

NY Comptroller DiNapoli: ‘Queens is a New York success story’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Queens is on a roll and isn’t stopping any time soon, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Queens is a New York success story,” DiNapoli said. “Superstorm Sandy impacted thousands of Queens residents, but the borough is on the recovery path. With a strong economy, a fast growing and diverse population, and several large projects on the horizon, Queens is booming.”

DiNapoli gathered with local elected officials and community leaders at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City Friday to release an economic snapshot of Queens, revealing how the borough has made an economic comeback over the past two years since the Great Recession.

According to the report, since 2012 the borough has had the highest level of employment among all the boroughs outside of Manhattan as private sector employment reached its highest recorded level of 486, 160 jobs. The largest employment sectors in Queens include health care, social assistance, transportation and, warehousing and retail trade.

“A look around the communities of Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Astoria show what Comptroller DiNapoli’s excellent report illustrates – that the economy of Queens is back on track,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

The borough’s population has also grown by 20 percent over the past three decades, more than the citywide growth rate, according to the report.

The state comptroller’s economic snapshot also found that Queens is the most diverse large county in the United States, with immigrants from more than 120 countries making 48 percent of residents, with not a single dominant ethnic group.

In 2011, the borough had 44,070 business establishments with small businesses leading in the area, according to the report.

The report also found unemployment to be lower in the borough compared to the rest of the city. The unemployment rate averaged 8.3 percent in 2012 and in the first eight months of 2013 dropped to 7.8 percent.

“These numbers show that Queens has weathered the worst of the storm,” said Queens Borough President-elect Melinda Katz. “With nearly half a million Queens workers fueling growth and innovation in the private sector, our borough has moved past the Great Recession that gripped the entire country in recent years, As Borough President, I will build on the successful work of state leaders like Comptroller DiNapoli to ensure we continue creating jobs and growing the economy for all New Yorkers.”

Together with the number of jobs and low unemployment rate, film and television production have both been thriving in the borough. Silvercup Studios, with 410,000 square feet of space and 19 soundstages, is the biggest studio space in the city and Kaufman Astoria Studios has seven soundstages and the city’s only outdoor movie set.

“I just think that film and television production is a mutual part of New York and Queens and of surrounding areas and it provides jobs,” said actor Michael J. Fox, who is filming “The Michael J. Fox Show” at Silvercup Studios. “I want to voice whatever support I can to continue nurturing film and television production in New York, it’s a big part of the city. “

 

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Non-profit investigates fraud against Latin American immigrants


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Desperate for work, Gerardo Llanque, a Peruvian immigrant, visited an employment agency in search of a job five years ago. He paid $120 in exchange for a temporary construction position. When Llanque arrived at the address where his job was supposed to be, he found an abandoned house.

“It can be exasperating not to find work, and you get desperate,” said Llanque to a translator.

When Llanque returned to confront the employment agency, workers told him the person who promised him the job was no longer with the company and that he should return at 9 p.m. that night. When Llanque demanded to speak to someone, employment agency workers threatened to call the police.

An upturn in fraud against Latin American immigrants searching for jobs or seeking immigration has sparked an investigation into 51 Queens businesses. Conducted by the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center and the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) – a non-profit organization based in Jackson Heights – the study surveyed locals and conducted “mystery shopper” investigations, where trained community members examined employment agencies and Immigration Service Providers (ISP). Mystery shoppers surveyed agencies along Roosevelt Avenue, focusing on the contracts, signage and disclosure agreements that are germane to immigration. According to NICE executive director Valeria Treves, the study illustrated that laws protecting immigrants from fraud are either ineffective or unenforced.

“The report grew out of necessity to further investigate what was going on in the community,” said Treves. “Those rules and regulations are being routinely violated.”

According to Treves, the start of the recession brought a flood of complaints against employment agencies, grifting desperate and jobless people out of their money. Eighty percent of people surveyed during the study had gone to an employment agency, paid $122, and did not receive a job. The advance fee was not refunded.

One mystery shopper was promised a green card if she forked over $7,000.

A common violation surrounds ISP officials offering unlawful legal advice. More than a quarter of the study’s mystery shoppers received legal guidance beyond the scope of what the individual was trained to provide. In most cases, Treves said, the advice was erroneous.

Treves said the language barrier provides other opportunities for scammers to take advantage of those new to the country. According to Treves, in Spanish, the word “notario” means a high-powered lawyer. However in English, a notary is simply someone who acts as a witness but does not have any legal training.

While Treves was unable to provide exact data on how many Latin American immigrants are victims of fraud annually, she said the number is sorely underrepresented.

“Victims of fraud are nervous about coming out,” said Treves. “They are worried that they’ll get in trouble with immigration.”

To combat fraud in the Latin American community, Treves says her group hopes to close the loophole for scammers by ending employment agency’s advance fees. She said they also want to push for a tighter definition of the unauthorized practice of law to prohibit those without proper training from giving legal advice to those in need.

Llanque said his experience made him wary of turning to agencies for help. He fears the company that scammed him controls other local employment offices and he could become a victim of fraud again.

Immigrants finish high school at higher rates than U.S. born


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A report recently released by the city’s Independent Budgetary Office (IBO) found that immigrant students graduate in four years at a slightly higher rate than U.S. born students, but those differences depend greatly on the foreign born student’s country of origin.

The IBO’s report tracked the graduation rates of the 89,750 students who were or would have been part of the class of 2009 at New York City public high schools.

Students from the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, Central America and U.S. Territories graduated at a rate lower than those born in the United States, but students from other parts of the world earned a greater percentage of diplomas.

“We’re pleased to see the positive graduation rates for immigrant students overall,” said Kim Sykes, manager of education advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition.

But she was concerned that particular groups of immigrants had lower rates.

“The city needs to really ensure that all students get access to the services they need to acquire English proficiency,” said Sykes.

Also, she added, they need to have access to high-quality career and technical education programs, and have alternate paths to graduation that don’t include the state Regents exams.

Students at New York City public schools must pass those tests to graduate, which can be challenging for immigrant students who are trying to learn English, said Sykes.

One of the current activities that the New York Immigration Coalition is helping students with is the new policy that offers immigrants who entered the U.S. as children a way to remain in this country.

“I think [the new policy] is a meaningful incentive to stay in school,” said Sykes,

In addition to the gaps in immigrants from different areas of the world, there were also differences across racial lines.

Among immigrant students, whites had the highest graduation rate at 78.7 percent, but Asian students were only slightly lower at 74.6 percent.

U.S. born Asian students graduated at 87 percent, beating out white non-immigrant students by almost 10 percent.

Hispanic and black students graduated at a lower rate than white and Asian students in both categories, but the rate for black immigrant students was actually higher than their U.S. counterparts (68.3 versus 60.7 percent).

Hispanic immigrant students had the lowest graduation rate at 55.8 percent.

The IBO report was prompted by the large increase of graduation rates since the 2001-2002 school year. Before that time, they had barely changed since the mid-1980s when graduation rates were first reported.

In 2011, a record 65.5 percent of students graduated from high school, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced this June.

The Bloomberg administration has used these numbers to show the positive change the mayor has brought to the city’s public schools.

This sudden turnaround led to suspicions that the graduation rates were not what they seemed, and that some students who dropped out were actually being classified as “discharged.”

Discharged means a student left the New York City Public School system, but enrolled in another educational institution, such as a city private or parochial school, or in another public school district.

But the IBO found in its September 5 report that its calculations of graduation and dropout rates were close to what the Department of Education showed.

Queens Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

EVENT of the DAY: “Akeelah and the Bee” 

With an aptitude for words, 11-year-old Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) is determined to spell her way out of South Los Angeles, entering scores of local contests and eventually landing a chance to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

[Click here for more info] or to [submit your own events]

UPDATE: Two arraigned after kidnapped man found in NYPD officer’s home 

A New York City Police Department detective has been suspended without pay as internal affairs tries to figure out if he was involved in a kidnapping scheme in Queens. Authorities say a 25-year-old man was kidnapped at gunpoint on Friday while walking down 234th Street and that his captors called people looking for a ransom. Read more: [NY1] 

UPDATE:Pals of cop involved in abduction come to his defense

Friends and neighbors are defending an NYPD detective suspended without pay after a kidnapped man was found bound in his home. Four men were busted in the home of veteran cop Ondre Johnson, 45, Friday after a call demanding a $75,000 ransom was traced there. Read more: [New York Daily News]

One man dead, one injured in Corona bar stabbing 

Two men were stabbed — one fatally — during a fight outside a Queens bar Sunday morning, police and witnesses said. The melee between several men erupted outside the Manila Bar and Restaurant on Roosevelt Ave. in Corona just before 4:30 a.m., said cops. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Mayor Bloomberg pushing NYC hospitals to hide baby formula so more new moms will breast-feed

The nanny state is going after moms. Mayor Bloomberg is pushing hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breast-feed. Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation. Read more: [New York Post] 

National Pastimes: Immigrants bring Kabaddi to Queens fields 

It looks like a good old-fashioned game of tag. But this is no traditional American game. It’s Kabaddi, a mix of rugby, tag and wrestling. It’s a favorite among Punjabi immigrants who play at Victory Field. “We have a lot of fun playing this,” said player Sembeep Singh. “That’s our cultural game.” Read more: [NY1] 

 

Affordable Care Act: What it means for immigrants


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

When Sunnyside resident Blanca Palomeque had ovarian cancer two years ago she didn’t have full health insurance to cover her treatment.

She enrolled in the Medicaid Spenddown program, but it only provided her with six months of assistance and she was forced to pay $15 out of pocket for each visit to Elmhurst Hospital and $150 for each CAT scan during the next year-and-a-half of her battle.

Even after winning the war with the disease earlier this year, Palomeque, 49, still didn’t buy an insurance plan.

“I don’t have medical care, because it’s difficult to have it,” Palomeque said. “I don’t qualify for Medicaid health insurance, because my income is a little too high, and it’s difficult to afford private care.”

Instead, Palomeque, who emigrated from Ecuador 11 years ago and is a documented immigrant, prefers to pay for hospital visits instead of committing to a plan.

However, like many Queens immigrants, she is rejoicing after the Supreme Court’s recent approval of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), praising its expansion of the health care system, which will benefit legal residents and may even help undocumented immigrants. “I think it’s a really good idea, because now the community will be able to act fast on health insurance,” Palomeque said. “Sometimes people have illnesses that last a long time and it’s really difficult to go and pay each time.”

“As an organization we believe that it’s a step forward, because it opens up access to health care and health insurance to many people who are uninsured,” said Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make the Road New York, which is a non-profit organization that predominately supports Latin immigrants in the city.

Of the approximately 2.2 million residents living in the borough, nearly 50 percent are foreign born, according to the 2010 Census, and documented immigrants will receive the same benefits from the act as native citizens.

This means they won’t have to worry about getting insurance if they have pre-existing conditions, and now their children can remain on their current plans until age 26.

Documented immigrants must also follow the mandate that requires everyone to have insurance or face a tax.

But if they don’t already have insurance or qualify for Medicaid, they will be able to purchase health care from the state-run “exchanges,” or collections of low rate insurance options when they become available in 2014.

“They just have to worry about everything they worried about before,” said Stan Mark, senior staff attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “They have to struggle to get the minimal health care option that they can get.”

New York, which was one of the states that chose to expand its Medicaid coverage through ACA, will receive more than $2 billion in federal funding starting in 2014, and many immigrants will continue to receive care from it.

Immigrant groups officials say the down side to ACA is that it none of its benefits are available for undocumented immigrants, which could upset many foreign born residents.

But the law will affect them.

In 2003 Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued executive orders, (EO) 34 and 41, which replaced former Mayor Ed Koch’s EO124, but kept the same concept to protect immigrants.

The order “Ensures that all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, can access the city services that they are entitled to receive.” In addition, “City workers must protect the confidentiality of a person’s immigration status,” unless that person is suspected of illegal activity.

It was established so that undocumented immigrants would report crimes to the police, call firefighters, get medical treatment or send their children to school without fear of deportation.

Because of EO 34 and 41, undocumented immigrants have received care from public hospitals under the Health and Hospital Corporations (HHC), such as Elmhurst Hospital or Queens Hospital Center, and will continue to do so.

“For generations New York has been known as a city of immigrants, and for generations the public hospitals have cared for New York’s immigrant populations,” said HHC President Alan Aviles. “It is important to remind immigrant New Yorkers that they can get quality health care in our city without fear.”