Richards rolls out immigrant welcome center proposal ahead of Queens borough president special election

Photo: Max Parrott/QNS

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz joined Councilman and borough president candidate Donovan Richards in Corona Plaza on Friday, Feb. 28, to announce his plan to implement an immigrant welcome center in the Queens Borough President’s Office.

Richards and Cruz’s collaborative proposal would provide space within the borough president’s office to a center for immigrants that would provide immigration attorneys, access to agencies and housing and employment services.

“The diversity that exists in Queens is one of our biggest strengths. While immigrants are under attack at the national level, it’s so important that at the local level we work to ensure they have the resources necessary to call our borough home,” Richards said.

The welcome center would be based on the model of the Family Justice Center that is located in court branches across the city. Those centers, which provide free legal services for victims of gender-based violence, have been granted space to operate by the court system. 

The legislators described the welcome center as a “one-stop shop” that would rotate between different city agencies and local organizations throughout the week. 

“There has never been a place where you can send an immigrant to something. If you want housing, go over here. You want food, go over here. You want to know about transportation, go over there,” said Pedro Rodriguez, founder La Jornada, a Queens food pantry.

Richards pitched the idea as an act of consolidation rather than “reinventing the wheel.”

“There [are] already existing organizations that do this work. So the idea is to make sure that they have dedicated space that they can use at Borough Hall,” said Richards.

Richards declined to give concrete details on the number of staff that he would hire for the center, or how much funding he is proposing to provide from the borough president’s budget, but Cruz said that she would push to make sure it would be adequately funded if Richards was elected.