Posted on February 17, 2010 in Press Releases

On Wednesday, February 17, New York Arab Americans from across the city gathered in Brooklyn for a Town Hall meeting on immigration, civil liberties, and national security issues hosted by AAI and cosponsored by seven local groups serving Arab Americans in greater New York, The Arab American Association of New York (AAANY), The Arab Muslim American Federation (AMAF), The American Mideast Leadership Network (AMLN), Arab American Family Support Center (AAFSC), The Salaam Club of New York, Network of Arab American Professionals (NAAP-New York), and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New York (ADCNY).

Almost 200 Arab American leaders attended the forum, moderated by AAI President Dr. James Zogby and voiced their concerns to congressional representatives and federal and local officials about the impact of NSEERS, immigration enforcement, racial profiling, searches at the U.S. border, selective deportations, the impact of family separations on the broader community, other ongoing issues in the immigration debate and priorities for comprehensive immigration reform.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (NY-11) opened the briefing with a positive message about inclusion and participation of Arab Americans in the national discussion about immigration reform. The congresswoman spoke of her commitment to immigrant rights and offered to take stories of abuse to the personal attention of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. She emphasized the importance of regular engagement with lawmakers and encouraged individuals to share their stories about immigration and other concerns with her and her colleagues in Congress.

District Director of U.S .Citizenship and Immigration Services Andrea Quarantillo spoke about the role of agencies responsible for different aspects of immigration and the specific responsibilities of USCIS. Ms. Quarantillo took note of specific problems individuals at the event were facing and encouraged the community to engage her office in the future.

Chung-Wha Hong of the New York Immigration Coalition candidly addressed the challenges and concerns facing immigrant communities, such as enforcement and detention abuses, and the priorities for immigrant rights advocates in comprehensive immigration reform. Ms. Hong encouraged the Arab American community to expand partnerships with other active communities and become more involved in bringing comprehensive immigration reform to the forefront of the national agenda

Fatima Shama, Immigrant Affairs Commissioner at the Mayor’s Office, highlighted diversity as a hallmark of New York and noted the important historic role of Arab Americans in the city. Ms. Shama encouraged Arab Americans to continue to be active in politics and public life, and cited the 2010 U.S. Census as an important opportunity for civic participation.

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