IMMIGRANTS TAKE ACTION

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New York’s immigrant groups are putting aside their differences to push for the McCain/Kennedy bill, which offers undocumented workers paths to permanent residency, and will be discussed at Judiciary Committee hearings on immigration later this month. “Working only within your own community is not enough,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. Although language and cultural barriers often prevent different ethnic groups from working together, Hong said, most immigrants care deeply about the same issues: education, healthcare, work and travel. Yet Irish immigrants, who have taken the lead on the bill so far, have an advantage over many other groups. “The Irish have political and historical ties with many politicians, especially with Senator McCain,” said Hong. “They can do targeted lobbying on their own.” Some say the Irish get special treatment. On February 17, Senator Charles Schumer spoke at an Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) event, prompting a minor backlash first reported by the New York Sun. “Many immigrants, especially those of color, were slighted by Schumer’s appearance at the Irish meeting,” said Monami Maulik, a leader at Immigrant Communities in Action, an advocacy group. “Politicians should show the same level of commitment to all groups.” Still, there are also new alliances being drawn. Immigrant groups are working with religious and business organizations such as Catholic Charities and UNITE to raise concerns about illegal aliens. Hong said ILIR was recently asked to join her coalition. ILIR Vice-Chair Kiernan Staunton said he didn’t know the status of that request. But “as long as everybody is working for the passage of the Kennedy/McCain bill,” he said, “we are on the same page.” (K. Angelova) [3/7/06]