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Sampson, Espada Team Up to Host Immigration Forum in the Bronx Aimed at Addressing Disturbing Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in New York and to Assist Immigrant Populations; Forum Scheduled for Sept. 9

    With an alarming rash of bias attacks against immigrants, particularly Hispanics, in the Bronx, Staten Island and Long Island, and a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment across the country and state, State Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson and Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, Jr. announced today that they will host a special Immigration Forum aimed at addressing this “developing crisis.”

    The two Senate leaders will hold a press conference this Wednesday, September 1, when they will be joined by community-based immigration organizations, clergy and other immigration advocates, to unveil details of their Immigration Forum. They will also provide an overview on the Senate’s strong pro-immigration legislative package, including bills they and other members of the majority conference have sponsored that would provide greater protections and bolster the rights of all immigrant populations throughout the state.

    The Immigration Forum will take place on Thursday, September 9, 2010, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Bronx Community College.

    “Having just commemorated the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march on Washington, we should not be plagued by anti-immigration sentiment – by a mentality that discriminates and disrespects based on ethnic origin, color of skin, language, religion and gender – not in the 21st century, not in this country, state or city,” Senator Espada said.

    “The rash of attacks we have seen in the city and suburbs is clearly being fueled by the anti-immigration sentiment sweeping the country – particularly against immigrants of Hispanic origin – that began in Arizona with that state’s discriminatory immigration laws,” added Senator Espada, who came to New York at age five when his parents left their native Puerto Rico.

    Senator Sampson said, “As the son of immigrants, I understand that it is New York’s diversity that makes us the greatest state in the nation. The recent onslaught of anti-immigrant violence is un-American, and unworthy of the hardworking New Yorkers who came here in search of a better life for themselves and their children.”

    Senator Sampson continued, “Our state is where dreams flourish, diversity fuels innovation, and opportunity comes not from the color of your skin, but the content of your head and heart. We need greater protections and better communication if our state is to live up to the principles of justice it was founded upon.”
   
    Both Senate leaders warned that the anti-immigration sentiment sweeping the country has the potential of becoming a crisis if “we don’t address it on several fronts – legislation that provides greater protections for immigrants, dialogue and communication that stimulates tolerance and understanding, services that help improve the lives of immigrants and preserves their cultures, and swift justice against those who commit bias attacks against immigrants.”

    They believe that their Immigration Forum and legislative package are important steps toward addressing this issue. Espada has sponsored a legislative package in the Senate that would provide greater protections to immigrants – ranging from protections against racial and ethnic profiling and encouraging immigrants to come forward with information without the fear of reprisal or deportation, to improving educational opportunities to immigrant students and securing affordable housing and job opportunities to families.

    Individual bills from this legislative package are expected to go before the Senate in the upcoming session.

    The Senate Majority has already passed legislation that provides labor protections for domestic workers, the vast majority of whom are immigrants. Espada continues to advocate for labor rights of farm workers across the state, a population consisting mostly of immigrants.

    “Our country was built on immigration, by hard-working European immigrants. The new immigrant populations come here to live the American Dream through the same hard work and sacrifice, and must be treated with respect and acceptance,” Espada said, “and not with abuse and violence.” #