This is the sixth article in our series outlining the results of and intended follow up steps to each of the breakout sessions from Long Island Wins’ highly successful summit on immigration, Long Island at a Turning Point—It’s Everyone’s Opportunity.
Our summit, which took place on Feb. 26 at Hofstra University, included a breakout session on governance, which was co-facilitated by Ellen Gallagher, director of nonprofit programs for Welcoming America, and Vivian Viloria Fisher, a former Suffolk County Legislator.
The governance session was one of seven tasked with developing action steps to make the most of the opportunities that President Obama’s administrative relief program would bring to Long Island and to help shape the future of immigrant integration and inclusion in our region.
The conversation centered on several issues, including voter registration, advocating for policy changes, and getting immigrants access to government and private services.
Influencing politicians was a key point of discussion. The group talked about the importance of using a positive framework to counter the negative narrative, with emphasis on shared values in communities. They recommended talking to legislators and identifying a “champion” before bringing issues directly to local legislature.
Establishing centralized hubs of information and resources was also deemed important. Two examples brought up were adminrelief.org and Long Island Wins’ Long Island Community-based Organization Services for Newly Arrived Immigrant Children and Families resource and referral guide.
It was also noted that sometimes a culture shift is more important than a policy shift. The Welcoming Long Island initiative was cited as a successful example of engaging all elements of the community to create a change in attitude toward immigrants.
The action items for the group were as follows:
Engage your local legislator/representative. This person needs to become a “champion” for the cause so they can represent you in your legislative body.
Build comprehensive list that connects all the service providers on issues on immigration on Long Island. Some action has already taken place on this front, such as Long Island Wins’ Long Island Community-based Organization Services for Newly Arrived Immigrant Children and Families resource and referral guide, but awareness of it needs to be more widespread.