En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Chronicle
Subject: Strategic Policy Advocacy
Type: Media Coverage

Raucous Immigration Forum Highlights Deep Divisions

Though
Councilwoman-elect Julissa Ferreras netted the win on election night, last
Thursday’s immigrant forum undoubtedly belonged to businessman-turned-longshot
candidate Eduardo Giraldo.

Around 170
people packed the Elmhurst
headquarters of immigrant rights advocates Make the Road New York, with Giraldo supporters cheering
and applauding loudly at what organizers hoped would be a laid-back
question-and-answer session focused on issues plaguing newcomers to this
country, legal and illegal.

Instead,
the forum revealed pervasive ethnic, racial and political divisions not likely
to be solved by one City Council campaign.

"His only
interest is to look after the well-being of the Latino community," candidate
George Dixon said of Giraldo. "It is clear that he is not interested in
representing the rest of the community."

Dixon, who is black, accused Giraldo of
taking advantage of long-simmering resentment between African-American
residents and Latinos.

Following
the debate, Giraldo fired back, accusing Dixon
of sour grapes over the former Queens Hispanic Chamber of Commerce leader’s
inroads in East Elmhurst — considered to be Dixon’s base of support.

"Obviously
this district is very big so there is little communication between different
groups of people," Giraldo said. "But if I’m elected, I will do my best to
bring everyone together."

Meanwhile,
Tuesday night’s victor Ferreras tried to stay out of the fray.

Several
people in the crowd asked Ferreras about her involvement in the alleged
involvement in the mismanagement of funds at nonprofit LIBRE.

Others
aired their grievances about Ferreras’ former boss, state Sen. Hiram Monserrate
(D-East Elmhurst).

One of
Ferreras’ chief rivals for the seat, Francisco Moya, did not appear at last
week’s event, citing scheduling conflicts.

Lost in
much of the mudslinging were many of the legislative goals of forum co-sponsors
Make the Road, the New Immigrant Community Empowerment and South-Asian
immigrant advocates Chhaya.

"Really
this event was about educating the candidates on the issues that our members
care about," said Javier Valdes, deputy director of Make the Road.

On the
agenda were several measures before the City Council, ranging from the
establishment of a school holiday for the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha to a bill
calling for safe and equal access to prescription medications.

"If would
be unfortunate if what was remembered from that night wasn’t the issues, but
all the personal accusations flying around," Valdes said.