By Rebecca Henely
Joined by prominent members of immigrant organizations with offices in Jackson Heights, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) announced last week that $4.5 million he had restored to the city budget for immigrant programs has begun to be delivered to recipients.
“We need to ensure that [immigrants] are given the opportunities and the resources necessary to become fully integrated in our society and pursue the American Dream,” Dromm said in a statement.
Dromm said he had been working to get this funding, referred to as the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative, restored since he was elected to the Council in 2010. The $4.5 million was put back into the 2011 budget in July and, after being split up equally among the five boroughs, allocated to various groups in September based on the need and immigrant populations in the Council districts.
Dromm said this issue became a priority when he was running for Council in 2009 ï»¿and immigrants on the campaign trail told him their top priority was to have more English as a Second Language classes available.
“There are waiting lists in all of these organizations for people who want to learn English,” Dromm said. “They desperately want to learn the language.”
The $100,000 in funds for Dromm’s district, which includes parts of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, LeFrak City, Corona, Rego Park and Woodside, were split up between Make the Road NY, the Ecuadorian International Center, Queens Community House and Sheba USA — all immigrant groups with offices in Jackson Heights and elsewhere. Dromm said he chose these groups to target numerous populations in the district.
The Ecuadorian International Center works with Ecuadorians, Community House works with Spanish-speaking and South Asian populations, Sheba works with Bangladeshi and South Asian women and Make the Road works with all different groups.
KC Williams, the adult education director at Community House, said in a statement the idea that most immigrants refuse to learn English is a myth and his group often has to turn hopeful students away.
“When immigrants learn English, they become more active, involved members of the community,” Williams said.
Dromm said IOI funding can be used for ESL classes, legal services or civic classes for citizenship tests. Most of these funds went to teaching English, although the Ecuadorian International Center requested funds for helping immigrants, who are often the victims of fraudulent lawyers, become citizens.
“We are pleased to be among the four organizations chosen to receive funds that will help provide a much-needed service to our immigrant community,” Veronica Piedra, deputy director of the center, said in a release.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.