Summit on Immigration: Long Islanders Can’t—and Won’t—Wait for Washington

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Jorge Montalvo (right), director of New York State Office for New Americans talked about how the state is moving forward on pro-immigrant legislation.
Jorge Montalvo (right), director of New York State Office for New Americans talked about how the state is moving forward on pro-immigrant legislation.

Yesterday I was at the summit on immigration organized by Long Island Wins and Hofstra University’s Center for Civic Engagement. There was a lot of discussion and planning that took place there, but the biggest accomplishment was the size and composition of the crowd. Nearly 300 Long Islanders spent most of a weekday meeting for immigrant rights. Participants included lawyers, doctors, corporate CEOs, social workers, mayors, librarians, and community organizers, among others.

The conversations were not the divisive ones fostered by the media. We were all on the same page, looking for solutions to move our region forward. Volunteers from churches talked about how they were organizing support for the child refugees who arrived here last year. Economists discussed the ways immigrants are revitalizing our downtowns. Educators shared the best ways to bring immigrant children into the mainstream and to help move them towards college.

The gridlock and dysfunction in Washington were not the main topics at the summit. Long Islanders are proceeding without waiting for Congress to do the right thing. Nassau and Suffolk can’t tie their futures to Fox News’ analysis of immigration, or to the ignorance of our politicians about the importance of immigrants to our economy. The attendees agreed that there is so much work to be done that waiting for the “leaders” to lead is not an option.


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