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Queens lawmaker launches civic engagement initiative for new Americans

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz launches two initiatives designed to promote civic engagement among new Americans. (QNS file photo by Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech)

The Task Force on New American chair, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, has launched a series of civic engagement and educational town hall meetings.

The “Community for All” initiative includes monthly webinars aimed at understanding the function of government and will encourage new Americans to become civically engaged. The first-of-its-kind program will teach participants the different roles government entities and officials play at the various levels of government, the fundamentals of the redistricting process, ranked-choice voting, and civic engagement opportunities beyond the ballot box, as well as an overview of the U.S. naturalization process.

“New Yorkers must understand that their voice is imperative to their communities, and not just on Election Day,” Cruz said. “Non-citizens and youth under the age of 18 are also influential in holding their leaders accountable. They can garnish momentum on the critical issues they face and the decisions being made at every level of government that impact them. This webinar series will be an essential tool to ensure that all community members have the resources they need to have their voices heard.”

There are currently nearly 4.6 million new Americans in New York, of which 2.6 million are United States citizens. New Yorkers with non-citizen status represent nearly 1.4 million of the state’s population, with an additional 800,000 who are undocumented.

“Civically engaged communities are empowered communities,” NALEO Educational Fund”s Juan Rosa said. “Understanding the functions of government and how eligible voters can harness their power at the ballot box are critical elements of preserving community resilience and a healthy democracy. And with Latinos being fundamental to the fabric of New York and the nation, ensuring the community is well-equipped with information around voting and civic life is paramount to maintaining a civically engaged society.”

The task force will stress the importance of community for all, and will show the new Americans how to become more involved in their local regardless of immigration status.

“The pandemic has made one thing clear, we’re stronger together, and history shows that when we work together to solve our problems and allow for all pisces to be heard, our democracy is stronger,” New York Immigration Coalition interim co-Executive Director Murad Awawdeh said. “The Community for All initiative will ensure that immigrantNew Yorkers have access to the information and tools they need to become civically engaged, from the ballot box to City Hall. Our democracy is strengthened when all of us are working together to tackle our problems and make life better for us all.”

Cruz also announced a series of virtual forums as part of her statewide listening tour aimed at better understanding and improving the effectiveness of the programs and resources available to welcome new Americans to New York. The impact on immigrants in New York is substantial, from the more than $61 billion in taxes pumped back into the state by immigrant families every year, to the contributions made by immigrant business owners, teachers, first responders, and others.

“As we bear witness to an increase in xenophobia and hate crimes across the country. Our government has to do more to ensure new Americans feel welcome in our communities,” Cruz said. “I strongly believe that to fully build an inclusive society, there must be a dismantling of barriers to the social and economic integration of our growing immigrant communities. The recommendations made by the participating panelists will serve as a foundation to guide the future social and fiscal public policies.”

The forums are held at 3 p.m. every Wednesday.

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