1:00 P.M. EDT
NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us herat the New York Foreign Press Center. It’s truly a pleasure to have you all. You made it through the rain, good to see.
So, we are delighted to welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center, New York City’s Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, Fatima Shama, who I will be turning the podium over to in just a moment.
When it’s time to open the question-and-answer session, we request that if you have a question that you please wait for a microphone, and then clearly state your name and media affiliation before asking your question.
We also have some colleagues joining us from the Washington Foreign Press Center. So if anyone with us over in D.C. would like to ask a question, we ask that you just please step to the podium, and we will acknowledge you in due time.
And with that, I’d like to invite Ms. Shama to the podium. Thank you.
MS. SHAMA: Great. Thank you. Good afternoon. I know some of you that are here; I don’t know all of you, though. I’m delighted to be here, so thank you for inviting me.
I am – I have the pleasure of serving as the city’s Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. And the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is particularly poised to, on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg, work with New York City’s immigrant communities. And I know many of you represent and work with these communities, live among them. But in New York City, home to about 8.4 million people, nearly 38 percent of our city’s population are foreign born. If we add their children, which I think is an advantageous group to recognize, nearly 60 percent of New York City’s population are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. And so it’s an incredibly robust audience in our city.
What is important to understand about the economic reality of immigrants in our city is, in fact, that nearly 20 percent of all business income that’s generated in the State of New York comes from immigrant business owners. And nearly half of small businesses in the city are immigrant-owned, which is incredible. And in the State of New York, 25 percent of all businesses are owned in the state are owned by immigrants, versus nationally where that statistic is much smaller; it’s actually half. So in the City of New York, we recognize the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants and we do all that we can to ensure that we support them.
So I actually want to talk about certain initiatives that we have launched in the city that focus on how do we support and better connect our immigrant small business community to city services. The importance of how we make sure immigrants thrive in the city is critical. I would say it’s – the Mayor has said this, but for us it’s really important to recognize that when we invest in our immigrant communities, they invest in us. They invest in their city, they invest in their communities. They are, I would say, vitally important in our main streets as they are in our Wall Street. They, in fact, are the folks that make the engine of our city run, and are critically important.
So we recognize that we have to continue to help them build their business capacity, help their small businesses continue to grow and thrive. We need to make sure that we’re connecting businesses and customers more effectively, and we need to make sure that business resources get supported more widely.
So in 2011, Mayor Bloomberg had announced, with our city’s Economic Development Corporation, with my office, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and our city’s Department of Small Business Services, three critical initiatives, and they were focused on enhancing small business services for immigrants by building their capacity. And through that, in fact, we have citywide presence through what the Department of Small Business Services runs; it’s called Business Solution Centers. And the Business Solution Centers are there in communities to better support anyone who wants to start a small business.
What we had learned, however, from immigrant small business owners through a survey process with them was that many weren’t going to our Business Solution Centers because they weren’t aware of them, the language capacity wasn’t as rich as needed to be, and so we partnered with community-based providers in key communities – in the Latino community, in the Russian community, in the South Asian community – to train them – and in the Korean and Chinese community – to train individuals in those community-based organizations to help them provide a series of workshops in the languages of the community. And then we took a number of materials of the city agency and translated them, all downloadable, all available. It’s actually – that was the first phase. It was wonderfully successful.
The second phase is actually focused on now going into translation of Urdu and Arabic and in Hindi. The first phase was focused on Korean, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. The second phase is actually much broader. And I would say the critical reality of community-based organizations for us is really important, knowing that they are the ones that are in communities that interface with communities.
The second initiative that I think is a really great one to talk about is a competition that was housed out of the city’s Economic Development Corporation called Competition THRIVE. And Competition Thrive was really – THRIVE stands for – the acronym actually stands for – let me find it for you – To Help Reach Immigrant Ventures and Entrepreneurs. And it was a partnership between the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Baruch College’s School of Business – the Zicklin School of Business – and it was funded by Deutsche Bank. The reason all of this is important is because it was actually some private monies that allowed us to go into our community-based audiences and say, “Who helps immigrants? Who’s helping immigrant entrepreneurs? Who’s helping immigrant small businesses, and how are you helping them?”
So it was a competition to acquire how they were helping them better understand what they were doing, and then be able to understand how – what needs to they need, what help do they need. We were able to get back a really robust audience of who was doing this work, and then we funded five different – with small grants – five different community-based organizations working in a range of organizations. One of them, for example, was the Queens Economic Development Corporation that was working with – had traditionally worked with contractors in Queens, and they were working with Mandarin-speaking contractors who were doing construction work in Queens. This actually – what they were doing with them was training them to become licensed in the city and to take the licensing exam with our Department of Consumer Affairs in Mandarin. The city has a language access policy, which I hope you all know. And if you don’t, I’ll tell you about. The city’s language access policy, signed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2010, is focused on how city agencies in the City of New York provide direct services to New Yorkers, and when we’re providing those direct services, ensuring that we provide them in the languages the New Yorkers most comfortably speak.
So for our immigrant communities, where nearly half of New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, where 1.8 million New Yorkers recognize themselves as limited English proficient, we in the City want to make sure that we’re communicating in the languages individuals in our city most comfortably communicate in. So the City’s language access policy really focuses on – whether it’s our school system, whether it’s our Department of Health, and whether it’s our Small Business Services – how do we communicate with individuals in the languages they most comfortably speak?
And so the same applies for our Department of Consumer Affairs. So for individuals who are taking licensing exams, they can take the exam in Spanish, they can take the exam in Mandarin, they can take the exam in Russian, they now can take it in Bengali and Urdu, which is really critical because we are about how do we help our community succeed.
So this organization in Queens was one of the recipients. Another was in Washington Heights, an organization that was working with child care workers, and in particular individuals who were starting child care centers in their home, day care centers in their home, and getting them, both of whom were multilingual – they’re working with the French-speaking West African community in Harlem, they were working with the Latino community in Washington Heights, and they were working with the fast-growing Chinese community that’s blossoming in East Harlem. And so they were providing classes for this audience to better understand the licensing practices and the process by which, both through the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, both of whom have to give you appropriate guidance and approval to run a home-based child care center. So this was another example of how are immigrant entrepreneurs thriving, and how do community-based organizations help these audiences thrive.
Competition THRIVE has been very successful. We actually launched a second initiative for it. We’re in year two of it, and five different groups were recognized. The guidance this past year was really focused on technology; who is helping our immigrant organizations better connect around the technological spectrum? And the irony here is many of our small businesses will tell us we want to have websites, we want to participate in people being able to order food online, but we don’t know how to; and we don’t want to miss that market, we want to be a part of it. Many individuals who are immigrant entrepreneurs who are starting businesses, catering businesses from their home, they want to have a web presence, but they weren’t sure how to do it.
Lots of people know the success of iPad ads – or apps, and they want to be able to sort of participate in that, in what could be a very lucrative business.
So the five organizations that have been identified in this round are focused specifically on those things, and we’ll be evaluating them and announcing who’s sort of the grand prize winner of that. So those are two of the third thing.
And then the last one was this incubator. Many of – in New York, we actually have a tremendous number of immigrant entrepreneurs that are focused in the food arena. We have one of the largest audiences of Mexican food businesses that are creating tortillas and other things that could be exportable. In our Greek community, there are lots of small businesses that are sort of creating, whether it’s the tzatziki or hummus or other things that can be exportable. Our Chinese community, you go into Flushing Chinatown, there are lots of folks that are the creators now of wontons and dim sum and all these other things that are now exportable. And the same can be said for our Caribbean community and in our Russian community. The question is: Where are they able to do those things that allows them to bring their businesses to scale? And so the City of New York has created incubator spaces. In Queens, there’s actually an incubator kitchen. Up in East Harlem, there’s also an incubator kitchen that is actually housed and run by an incredible group called Hot Bread Kitchen. And in Varick Street, it’s actually more focused on sort of the technology. It could be around fashion.
So the city really does care about how are immigrant entrepreneurs being able to cultivate their business strategy in a place that isn’t their home but actually is a place that allows them to grow their business to scale.
And one other reality of the food business is actually that the City of New York, in partnership with Baruch, has now created a – I think it’s fair to say – like a bit of a food competition. So all of these folks that do these large scale food business can actually come and do a bit of an exposé. And the City of New York will identify three or four of them and pay for them to be part of these larger big food conferences that happen at the Javits Center, and then connect them to the possibility of growing their businesses.
So last year, Georgios was the winner of this, which actually you can go into Whole Foods and find their tzatziki and their other things. But he used to work out of the Queens incubator kitchen. And he now has a contract with Whole Foods and is able to export his food across the city.
Again, when we invest in our immigrant communities, they invest back in us. He’s now employed a good number of people, he’s been able to grow his business, and we see the direct benefits locally, right? More tax revenue, more business income, more success. So those are some very wonderful strategies that we’ve been able to support. Our Department of Small Business Services has done a really great amount of work in our immigrant communities.
The last program I want to just mention is something called NBAT. It’s New Business Acceleration Teams. And it is an initiative the Administration took on, really recognizing from restaurant owners how hard it was to open a business in the city in some instances, and how it could actually be cumbersome when you’re going to four or five different city agencies. And so we essentially took those four and five city agencies, we brought them together in one arena and said you are now going to be responsible – and we focused on restaurants in particular – to go into these communities and help businesses streamline the process. So one person essentially project manages for a business how quickly you open a restaurant. We took the process from what could have been an eight-month process to a two-month process, and it’s been hugely successful. It’s open and free to any and all who need it. The materials are available actually in Spanish and in English and in Mandarin. I’m not sure we have it up in Russian yet, but I can make sure that we circle back with all of you to make sure that we do that. So the city is constantly thinking about innovative ways that we support our immigrant small businesses, because it’s really critical.
The last thing I want to just share is we have been able to provide guidance to cities across the country in this arena, not just on how do you support immigrants and their entrepreneurial spirit, but that actually is an incredibly important one, because the conversation on comprehensive immigration reform has largely focused on sort of what role will immigrants play. And I think through the Mayor’s voice, Mayor Bloomberg’s voice nationally on the importance of immigrants and what they mean, the narrative across the country has now really recognized the role of immigrants and their ability as their voice economically for the country.
So cities across America have now turned to New York and said, “How do we borrow some of what you guys have done?” So our office has created something called Blueprints for Immigrant Integration. And we’ve done these blueprints in a number of arenas. So they’re very beautiful, and they look like this. We have worked with over 30 mayors’ offices across the country where they have learned the importance of how do we in New York City invest in immigrant communities. And one of those arenas happens to be in economic development. And so this is actually a downloadable guide that cities across the country, but also you, can take a look at and better understand how do we in the city do this. And this is what I would say is a how-to guide that we help municipalities across the country understand that immigrants matter, you have to invest in immigrants, and how do you do it. And it’s not a secret New York wants to keep to itself, but actually is a secret we actually want cities across the country to invest in, because again, when you invest in your communities, they invest in you.
And so it’s everything from our language access policy, where we have created a citywide policy on how do you recognize – so for cities in the country like Charlotte, North Carolina that’s wondering – we have new immigrants coming, we have a fast-growing immigrant community, how do we serve them? First, you need to serve them. Local government is responsible for serving the individuals in their community and shouldn’t be a mystery, right? You can turn to these guides. Thanks to the support of Bloomberg and thanks to his voice on immigration and the importance of immigrants, cities across the country can actually – this is not a mystery. How do you serve them is critically important. And we have been able to not only provide technical assistance and guidance, but provide tools for how cities across the country, on the economic spectrum but also on naturalization, on – we have three more of these coming out that focus on the importance of libraries in immigrant communities, the importance of financial empowerment, another area we in the city care a lot about. We recently did a study on immigrant financial services, really understanding how do we recognize immigrants’ opportunities and their economic vitality.
Certainly in the small business arena, we were able to connect some access to capital to these immigrant-owned businesses. Again, in this connecting, our Small Business Solution Centers work with Grameen Bank, work with Accion, work with community-based networks that can provide loans to small businesses. Oftentimes our immigrant small business owners don’t want to – don’t sort of want to add debt to their responsibilities, but in many instances there are loans that are available that really can provide better opportunities.
And there are great providers in the city, like Business Opportunity Centers of New York or another really great group that works, Business Center for New Americans. All of these groups are really, really great organizations that are embedded in our communities. And the city has worked very strategically with them to make sure that we’re using their expertise to better serve our immigrant small business owners.
So there’s a lot more I can talk about, but it’s probably a good chance for us to have some question-and-answers. I can talk about the economic portfolio, I can talk about the Blueprints, and I’m happy to talk about some other things as well.
MODERATOR: Thank you, (inaudible).
MS. SHAMA: Good.
MODERATOR: I will open the floor to questions.
QUESTION: Yes. Hi. Thank you for having us here. I’m Bouchra Benyoussef from Moroccan news agency Maghreb Arab Press.
MS. SHAMA: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I just have two questions. One, about – you were speaking about the small businesses.
MS. SHAMA: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I just want to know, in which field the immigrants are the most – more present here in New York, and also if there is any policy in the field of health for this population which is really not very rich. Is there any policy in the --
MS. SHAMA: In health?
MS. SHAMA: Oh, sure, yeah. Great question.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. SHAMA: So – yeah, with pleasure. So the first question was around where are immigrants more concentrated from a business perspective. So, we actually looked at three different sectors in particular, and the first is what we would call mom-and-pop, which are essentially stores, right? Storefronts. And that’s actually where immigrants – immigrant small businesses are greatest. And I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but I’m going to do this from memory. Food is the highest. In certain communities, you actually have a great number of the sort of drycleaning associations or the drycleaners and nail salons sort of concentrated, but food by far. And immigrants start businesses in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx faster than native born New Yorkers. In Manhattan, it’s the only place where we don’t see immigrants outpacing everybody else. But in the other boroughs, immigrants outpace by creating of small businesses more than anybody else. So that’s your first question.
The second one is around health, which is a really great question. For small business owners, there – we have a program that is run out of our citywide office that does health insurance and access that is really focused on small business owners and how do they participate in buying small business – participating in getting health insurance for all of their workers. We’ve essentially negotiated a big pool where they can benefit from and, quite honestly, pay lower fees for their employees to have health insurance.
Health insurance access is really critical these days, in the City of New York and nationally, quite honestly, with the healthcare exchange underway. New York City runs a very robust public hospital system. So the hospitals like Bellevue or Metropolitan or in Queens, Elmhurst or in Brooklyn, King’s County or Coney Island Hospital. Those are all part of what New York City calls its Health and Hospitals Corporation. It’s our public hospital system. Anyone who needs access to healthcare is very – is able to go and access health without questions or concern, irrespective of immigration status. Those hospitals are there to serve any New Yorker for any reason. They’ve – they’re very, very good hospitals. And now in particular, with health insurance becoming an option for many people, they do have people who are able to talk you through what your options are.
For children in the City of New York, irrespective – from the – from birth to the age – to 21, any child in the City of New York has access to free health insurance. It’s called Child Health Insurance, it’s Child Health Plus. And even with the Affordable Care Act coming into play, the State of New York has committed that we will provide health insurance to any child, irrespective, again, of status. So if we have a child that’s undocumented, the parents should not be afraid. They should enroll their child in Child Health Insurance. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m from one of the smaller communities, Turkish community.
MS. SHAMA: Mm-hmm. Not so small; it’s growing.
QUESTION: And now that we know – it’s big in Brooklyn.
MS. SHAMA: Yes (inaudible).
QUESTION: And now that we know, we’ll probably bring them to you, or direct them to you. Maybe you guys can work better together.
I have a few questions. One – oh, my name is Kahraman Haliscelik. I’m with Turkey’s national broadcaster, Turkish radio and television. After the – the Turkish businesspeople, or community members we talked to, complain about not getting enough help after the Sandy.
MS. SHAMA: Interesting. Hmm.
QUESTION: Or they don’t actually know how to apply for aid, or, you know.
MS. SHAMA: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is your office doing anything to help them and other communities to actually recover from the damages that were caused by Sandy?
My second question is about undocumented workers in the city. There are millions of them, which is great.
MS. SHAMA: There aren’t millions. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s – well --
MS. SHAMA: But go ahead.
QUESTION: I mean, the city runs on – if they are not here, our city would probably not run very well.
MS. SHAMA: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Is there any plan, or is there any push for the city or the state to provide them with IDs or very basic needs that they can actually survive, they can rent an apartment, they can buy a cell phone? You know, very, very basic things. What do you do on that? Thank you.
MS. SHAMA: Good. Great question. So the first one on Hurricane Sandy. So now, a year later, we – there’s lots of things that have happened in our city, and I think the City of New York – I have to commend my colleagues, and being on the team that did some of this work right after. I think we did some really, really great things to respond to some of the challenges.
In particular for small businesses, small businesses were incredibly challenged along – certainly in Brooklyn, along Brighton Beach and along the corridor right down in South Brooklyn. Most of the benefits come from FEMA, which is a federal agency in – within the Department of Homeland Security. And FEMA, along with the U.S. Department of Labor, I would say, and the Small Business Administration, were in New York in very, very big numbers right after Hurricane Sandy.
The true reality is, as most of the – but for some amounts of money that can be given to you, whether as a homeowner, for businesses in particular, some of the relief is actually based on loans, and low-interest loans. And for many of our small business community members, that wasn’t their interest. They were sort of trying to leverage how could they get access. The access was really from insurance – from insurance dollars. Many of our small businesses didn’t realize the amount of insurance they should’ve had, could’ve had, and therefore, I would say, recognized a tremendous amount of losses. What I think the federal government did through the Small Business Administration was really able to provide these loans.
The City of New York, however, did come in and say we have grants to give you, as small businesses, and loans that we also were insuring, that we would give. I don’t know how many of our small businesses participated in the process. Our Department of Small Business Services worked very strategically with what we call BIDs, Business Improvement Districts, which we have across the city, actually. We have a very robust audience of Business Improvement Districts. Many of them are in ethnic enclaves in our city, whether they’re in Brooklyn like the Brighton Beach BID, or in Washington Heights, or in Flushing, or in our Chinatown, in Manhattan, or in Corona there’s the 82nd Street BID. And all of these organizations – these BIDs were really critical for helping provide assistance.
So in Brooklyn in particular, the Brighton Beach BID is a very, very robust BID. So if the Turkish small business owners are not connected, I’m happy to make sure they are connected, because the woman who runs that is really, really very good. And if additional resources are needed, I’m sure that our colleagues at the Department of Small Business Services would be happy to help.
I don’t know, to be very honest with you, what happens a year later. But our – again, I think the commitment that we have as a city is always to help our small businesses continue to thrive. So we should figure that out.
The second question, about undocumented workers, is a great one. So in the City if New York, we have 8.4 million people, and we estimate that – and I have to say this very honestly – that only half a million are undocumented. So it’s actually not that big of a number, as many people sort of suggest it to be. So I think that’s important to note.
Undocumented workers have the same rights around labor as anyone else does, so they – actually, it’s important that you guys help us make sure they know that. Both the City of New York, both the state Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Labor are very clear that anybody who works here in the United States has access to rights. So they can’t be treated unfairly. They can’t be abused in the workplace. They should have, in fact, access to health and safety trainings if they’re working in construction. There are all of these programs, and they provide services irrespective of documentation status. That’s really important to know.
Around access, in particular, to benefits, ID is an interesting one. Many individuals have their passports from their country. The Mexican Consulate, for example, is very good at providing consular IDs or re-issuing passports. Some other country consulates are not as well established to do something like that, but the Mexican Consulate, for example, does that and does it really well.
The City of New York has worked with banks across the city to make sure that if anyone wants to open a bank account, you don’t have to be a legal permanent resident to do that. You can go into a bank – with a credit union, for example, as well, which are community-based credit institutions where you could open a bank account, start – become a member. You can use an expired passport, your foreign passport, to open a bank account. And that’s really, really important for people to know.
You can – there are benefits. Every single individual who is in this city who works and may be undocumented should file for an individual tax ID number. It’s known as the ITIN. You can pay taxes. When comprehensive immigration reform happens – and I’m going to be an optimist and say it’s going to happen – we have to be optimistic about it – people are going to have to demonstrate – if they’ve been undocumented, they’re going to have to demonstrate that they have been in the country, and that they have been working here, not trying to drain our system but actually be beneficial to our system. So having an ITIN and starting to pay taxes locally and federally is really important. We know that undocumented workers pay taxes, because they shop in our stores and they rent homes and the participate in how they – whether they’re raising their families or doing other things. The ITIN, the individual tax ID number, would better help someone demonstrate that when the time comes, for them to demonstrate to the federal government that they are here.
The last piece of undocumented workers that I want to talk about is in fact the youth population, or a population that might be between the ages of 16 and 30. President Obama last year, in June of 2012, announced an initiative called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. People know it as DACA. DACA provides an opportunity for anyone who’s been in this country and can demonstrate that they’ve been in this country for five years prior to 2012, in a continuous way, that they actually are in our school system or have graduated from our school system, or are connected to an educational program that can draw some sort of – that they are going to get a benefit from, a certificate or something, like the GED or a certificate-type program, that they can apply to receive work authorization and protection from deportation.
Too many – too few – too few – and I’m going to say that again – too few New Yorkers have applied for that benefit. And so we actually need your help to make sure that kids in our city, individuals between the ages of 16 and 30, come forward and actually find quality legal representation – there’s a lot of free legal services in the city – to get the benefit of applying for deferred action for childhood arrivals. It will provide work authorization. And again, if comprehensive immigration reform happens, those people will actually be very well prepared to, hopefully, get on a pipeline or a pathway to legalization.
The City of New York has funded an additional $18 million in both providing free legal services and free educational classes. So there are community-based organizations in the city right now that have more English classes available, more GED classes available. The City University of New York, CUNY, is offering free additional English classes and GED programs. So it’s really important that you help us help people understand that that’s available. People can visit NYC.gov and type into the search Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. They can come onto MOIA’s website, NYC.gov/immigrants, and we will – we have all this information there. But it’s really important, because it will in fact help someone who is undocumented get work authorization, certainly if they’re in that age group.
QUESTION: And just a quick follow-up if I may, very quick. Now, a lot of immigrants, undocumented immigrants, are afraid to come forward. They don’t know what will happen to them. They think they might be deported. What do you tell them to assure them that they will be – they will benefit from their action instead of the other way around?
MS. SHAMA: So for deferred – that’s a great question. So for deferred action in particular, we have seen for the people who have applied and who have received deferred action, we have seen an incredible response. So of the individuals that have applied, over 65 percent of them have applied for New York state driver’s licenses, they’ve got work authorization, they’re already working and benefitting, they’ve already seen their economic trajectory change tremendously.
I have to say that I think this is a program that is being administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The director of that agency office, Alejandro Mayorkas, was really clear to explain to all of us this was not trying to be a catch moment. It really is about for many of us who are trying to demonstrate nationally the benefits of immigrants, this is going to help us make a good argument to say look how many people have come out of the shadows and look what the economic outcomes, right? We anticipate that if 11 million people come out of the shadows that we help them become parts of the U.S. economy without fear, this country will benefit in the trillions, right? And so this is actually an opportunity where we can demonstrate that.
There’s no assurances. Somebody needs to talk to an immigration attorney who can help them understand if they have been involved with any criminal activity, if they have in fact done something that could jeopardize their status -- and I say an immigration lawyer, right? Not somebody down the street who did your housing, not somebody who, like, tells you they’re a lawyer. No, a proper immigration attorney. The City of New York funds a good number. Not a notario, right? These are not folks who know immigration law, which is quite complex. So that’s – so I would say you’ve got to believe in the system to try to help you benefit from it.
MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more question.
MS. SHAMA: Good.
QUESTION: Okay. We – excuse me. Okay. We know the governments provide the EB-5 program for the –
MS. SHAMA: That’s a federal issue. So we’re talking about New York City.
QUESTION: New York City, okay. Another question. Right now and recently we heard about the ABC News Jimmy Kimmel Show, they have very ridiculous joke. So would you tell me, the government even provide any censorship program to avoid this ridiculous joke for Chinese community? Thank you.
MODERATOR: Can you state your name?
QUESTION: My name is Jerry Du from Sing Tao Daily, the largest Chinese daily newspaper. The Jimmy Kimmel Show just say we were – the kids that were killed, all the Chinese people to avoid American death. This is a ridiculous joke. So could you tell me, the city provide any censorship program to educate your media to avoid this ridiculous joke again? Thank you.
MS. SHAMA: So we in the City of New York don’t have authority over what happens on programming like any – whether it’s Jimmy Kimmel or any other show. There are, however, people should know, both on the city, state, and national level offices of human rights protection where people can file formal complaints. And within the broadcasting arena there is, in fact, a formal complaint process that you can all participate in. We have a city human rights commission, but the commission doesn’t extend its arm around what happens on broadcasting stations.
QUESTION: I'm actually part of Coro program, and (inaudible) which program (inaudible).
MS. SHAMA: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m really sorry, I know you have to run. (Inaudible.) Okay, so my name is Bukola Shonuga. I’m with Global Media Productions and I also host a show called the African View for many years now. So I’m so excited you are here. When I heard you were coming, I said I have to be here.
MS. SHAMA: Thank you.
QUESTION: So last time you and I met was the session that was held at Baruch after Hurricane Sandy to help immigrant access resources in the community. So now since then, I mean, part of neighborhood leadership program you officiated the graduation a few months ago. I was so really happy that you were there and now -- I'm now part of Coro. So my question specifically is that in the African immigrant population, of course, in New York is quadrupled in the last 10 years, and we’re now quantifiable and economically measurable and the numbers are increasing for the most part in the Bronx area, in the Bronx borough, I should say. And this last election cycle, about seven African immigrants were for city council office and also for public advocate office city-wide specifically.
Now, the experience in my opinion or research where I’ve been focusing on the African community for a while now, and education is a serious problem. Would I – in terms of African immigrant parents get involved with their parents – I mean with their children’s education, and I’m part of something called CCC – CCP, Community Change Program is what I’m doing for Coro. So my question is that is there any specific initiative on the part of the mayor’s office in the past 12 years to actually help African immigrant parents, or I should say immigrant parents in general, educate them about getting involved with public school education, how to understand how their childrens are performing? Because a lot of African immigrant have been coming lately, they’re working for three, four jobs to make ends meet. They’re not really getting involved in their children’s education, they’re not going to PTA meetings, and chances of their children surviving and succeeding in this country is very little if they don’t understand the education system.
MS. SHAMA: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m really sorry for the long question.
MS. SHAMA: Yeah. So I want to pick up on two things that was just shared with you. One was around immigration leadership development. During my role as Commissioner, one of the things we cared tremendously about was how do we recognize the breadth of immigrant leaders in the city and how do we help support them. And so we have sponsored and funded around the city neighborhood leadership institutes for two years now, and I think we’ll be doing it for a third year so I’m really excited. So if that happens, all of you stay tuned because we’ll need you to inform your communities about how do they get involved.
But the idea was really to pick up, actually, on Bukola’s point, which is how do our immigrant communities, how do individuals, how do parents, how do individuals in our communities better understand what their rights are and what are their responsibilities, right? So we want you to know what your rights are. Our office runs a series of Know Your Rights and Responsibilities forums for communities, right? It’s our responsibility as an office to come into the communities, connect city agencies with those community-based providers. And we talk about what your rights are.
But what’s really important is helping our communities understand what are their responsibilities, how do their voices matter in our communities. And many of us know – like, many of our immigrant communities have come from countries where governments weren’t the thing that was available, open, and wanting them to be a part of it. That’s actually very uniquely different not only in the city but in this country. And what we want to make sure our immigrant communities are doing is actually benefitting and being a part of that. And so what Bukola was a part of was both our neighborhood leadership institute and now a city-wide program that is partnered with Coro New York, where we fund over 20 immigrant leaders, emerging immigrant leaders, to be part of this cohort.
The last thing around immigrant parents in particular is that our school system – I think the Department of Education has done a really good job of supporting our immigrant families, of knowing what their options are, right? There are many more options now than there ever was. Certainly I’m a born and raised New Yorker. The options that exist today for families never existed. Materials are translated into nine different languages and provided to communities, to our immigrant communities. Families need to know to ask for those materials. And if they don’t receive them, they have the right to ask and to get these things.
In particular around parent engagement, there are – there’s a TV show that we in our office are responsible for called We Are New York. Two of those episodes are really focused on parents and parent engagement. So when there is a parent-teacher conferences, what are the five to ten questions that a parent should be prepared to ask. The City Department of Education provides those questions. We actually have printed them in five – in nine different languages so that parents know. But it’s actually almost as important for you all to help us help families know this, which is why I think it’s important for myself and for many others to be able to meet with you and to let you know, right?
When our parent-teacher conferences? Parent-teacher conferences happen. They’re coming up. So if you put that in your articles, that would be very helpful to me, right? They’re November 13th, 14th, and 15th for elementary schools. But it’s really important that parents show up at those meetings. It’s really important that they ask about their children and how their children are doing in schools. Having parents be involved is critically important, and we need parents – we, I think, continue to do a better job. We have parent coordinators, something the city has never seen before. This is a Mayor Bloomberg initiative. Parent coordinators are at each school available to respond to parents’ needs.
There isn’t anything specific to African parents. We have been working with immigrant parents as a whole, whether it’s through our Office of Family and Community Engagement or through the Office of the English Language Learners. There’s an annual conference for immigrant parents. And I think we’re going to see a lot more of that, actually. We have a really exciting opportunity coming up that will be announced quickly – or will be announced at the end of November.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Unfortunately, the Commissioner does have to leave. We hit our time. But if we possibly just – we will be emailing the transcript, so you could always review that. And unfortunately, the commissioner has to leave, so thank you.
MS. SHAMA: And again, visit our website, nyc.gov/immigrants, and you can actually ask us questions through the website.
MS. SHAMA: So no, it’s for anybody in the city. It’s really focused – we have an office of – that focuses on individuals who are – who experience domestic violence and we have family justice centers around the city. It’s not specific to women. Anybody who’s a victim of violence can go there. But it’s free, irrespective of immigration status, and completely confidential and multilingual.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Commissioner. Thank you. Thank you for joining us for this briefing, and again, the transcript will be emailed to you as soon as it’s available. Thank you again.
# # #