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Know Your Rights
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Staten Island immigrants share experiences, advocate for reform

A group of immigration reform advocates gathered in New Dorp Monday to speak about their common experiences and “share the faces” of those who immigrated to the U.S. and now call Staten Island home.

“As immigrants, we have so much to contribute to this country,” and the same aspirations of those born in America to “own a home, have a business, travel, send our children to school,” said Dee Cooper Jones, a member of Clifton’s Liberian community.

“The United States is a land of opportunity and I came here to find a better life for myself,” said Jose Rosales, who came to Port Richmond 25 years ago.

And Rosales said that while he has achieved that goal through in a career in Island restaurants, he said he “encountered many problems” including being paid below minimum wage, which has made paying taxes “a challenge.”

“We are not stealing anything from anyone,” said Rosales through a translator. “We are contributing to the government.”

Ms. Jones and Rosales were among those who spoke during a lunchtime gathering of about a dozen Islanders at Taste of India II, New Dorp.

The event is part of a week-long push, said Theresa Thanjan of Organizing for Action and Daniel Coates of Make the Road New York, that will include canvassing Mid-Island and South Shore neighborhoods, and seeking support for House passage of the Senate’s immigration bill.

The groups will also hold a business leaders breakfast Thursday at Staten Island Foundation offices, Graniteville, to discuss the positive economic impact of immigration reform.

Ms. Thanjan said a renewed push is being made around the country, with the House out of session this month, to garner support from members of Congress “to support a pathway to citizenship and help us come out of the shadows. This is about bringing it back to basics, to share immigrant stories, personal stories.”

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) has been meeting with Island immigrants, but told the Advance last month he does not favor the Senate reform bill because it doesn’t do enough to strengthen border security.

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