The path to citizenship has never been easy, but it certainly helps to have a powerful immigrant advocacy organization and legislators behind you. According to co-executive director of Ana Maria Archila, Make The Road New York helped over 1,000 people learn English, obtain their GEDs, and learn computer skills through its adult education programs alone.
On Friday in Elmhurst, Congressman Joseph Crowley presented Make The Road with a check for $300,000 that will help the organization finance its adult education programs and legal services.
"As the son and grandson of immigrants, this is something I am very passionate about," said Crowley, who has been working with the organization since it was still the Latin American Integration Center.
Manuel Santiago, a member of Make The Road, spoke of how he approached the organization because an employer was not paying him for overtime. He ended up getting those wages back and learned to keep records of critical information such as hours worked and wages paid.
At his next place of employment, a vegetarian restaurant, he was paid below minimum wage. He went to Make The Road again, and the legal battle resulted in yet another victory.
"I’m no longer afraid of any employer," Santiago said through a translator. "We’re here fighting with the organization to make sure no boss will ever exploit us again."
Crowley thanked Make The Road for being a constant reminder to him of the importance of immigration reform, mentioning that 42 buses of people from the organization came down to the Capitol to join over 200,000 people in last month’s rally.
"I believe with your support and your help, we will get there," said Crowley. "We will get there, because we have to get there."