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Coalition and Partners Launch "Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative" to Support and Uplift Black Immigrant Communities

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York  (Monday, May 2, 2016)

Coalition and Partners Launch "Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative" to Support and Uplift Black Immigrant Communities

Partnership Will Engage Growing African, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latino Immigrant Communities in New York 

(New York, NY) On Monday, a coalition of immigrant advocates representing Black, African, Caribbean, and Afro-Latino communities announced a new collaboration to engage and uplift black immigrants called the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative (BIEI). This initiative will support black immigrant-led community-based organizations and legal service providers throughout the city to engage African, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latino community members through outreach and direct legal services, as well as advocacy and mobilization efforts that integrate the black immigrant experience into the greater immigrant rights movement and inter-sectional movements such as Black Lives Matter.

BIEI is composed of 7 member organizations. They include Black Alliance for Just Immigration, African Services Committee, CAMBA, African Communities Together, The Black Institute, The New Sanctuary Coalition, Sauti Yetu, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees. BIEI aims to provide legal aide to 300+ Black immigrant community members and mobilize 85+ community members throughout the grant period.

New York has the largest black immigrant population in the country, with 910,000 black immigrants in New York - nearly a quarter of the country’s entire black immigrant population. BIEI will build an immigrant movement in New York that is truly representative of our communities and will help recognize these communities’ experiences and contributions to the broader immigrant rights movement and to our city.

Members of the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative at the May 2nd launch at the New York Immigration Coalition office. 

State Assembly Members Michaelle Solages and Rodneyse Bichotte, as well as New York City Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson attended the launch.

“Black African immigrants represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. immigrant population. Many are highly educated and unfortunately underemployed,” said State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages. “New York State must act now to ensure that these communities are supported with the necessary educational, legal and mental health services needed to foster their development into fulfilled and productive members of society. As an elected official and first-generation American of Haitian descent, I applaud New York Immigration Coalition for their leadership in uplifting Black immigrants”

"The narrative around immigrants should be inclusive of all those migrated to the United States” said Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte. "The contributions and struggles of African, Afro-Latino, and Afro-Caribbean immigrants have essentially been invisible in the conversation around immigration reform. We need to acknowledge that there is a bigger universe of immigrants of whose lives also matter.‎"

[Photo left] Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte; [Photo center] Assembly Member Michaelle Solages; [Photo right] Council Member Vanessa Gibson

Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson attended the launch, saying, “The immigrant experience itself is as diverse as the nationalities and ethnicities that make up the fabric of New York City. African, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latino immigrants have a unique set of needs that must be incorporated into the conversation surrounding the rights of immigrants. I am proud to support The Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative and stand behind efforts to provide increased outreach and services to the black immigrant community. I applaud the New York Immigration Coalition for their leadership and thank the many service providers, advocates, and stakeholders here today for their support of black immigrant community.”

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs also showed their support.

“We applaud the formation of the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative (BIEI),” said Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA). “New York City’s immigrant community is diverse and has diverse needs. Black immigrants, like other immigrant communities, have specific needs. BIEI will be an important platform in lifting the voices of New York City’s Black immigrant communities.”

BIEI was crafted in collaboration with key partners African Communities Together, African Services Committee, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the New York Immigration Coalition.

Amaha Kassa, African Communities Together founder & executive director said, “The reality is that New York's African immigrants are underserved when it comes to immigration assistance, and overlooked when it comes to making policy that affects their lives. As an organization of African immigrants, African Communities Together is proud to come together with our black immigrant brothers and sisters to change that reality. On issues that affect our community, like Temporary Protected Status for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, we are showing that when it comes to immigrant rights, black voices matter."

Amaha Kassa, African Communities Together founder & executive director moderates the launch of the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative. 

“The Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative (BIEI) builds collaboration between different black immigrant- led community groups to provide support and services to the black immigrant community,” said Niat Amare, African Services Committee BIEI coordinator & BIA accredited representative. “I am excited about this initiative as it seeks to develop strong partnerships among these community organizations. It will promote a sense of oneness and belonging in the black community, serving Africans, Afro Caribbeans, Afro Latinos and all those who identify as black.”

Niat Amare, African Services Committee BIEI coordinator & BIA accredited representative Carl Lipscombe, policy and legal manager at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration

"This is the first comprehensive effort to provide culturally competent legal services to black immigrant communities citywide," says Carl Lipscombe, policy and legal manager at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. "Our goal is to ensure that each of the hundreds of thousands of Black immigrants in NYC get the counsel that they need."

“In a city with close to 1 million black immigrants, it is our obligation to ensure that we provide these communities with the utmost support,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “We are proud to have worked with our partners to craft the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative and look forward to supporting advocacy and legal services that uplift African, Caribbean, and Afro-Latino communities across the five boroughs.”

New York City-based organizations working with black immigrant communities also joined the launch.

“CAMBA is honored to be a part of the Black Immigrant Engagement Initiative and the opportunity to deepen our impact, especially within the Caribbean communities of Flatbush and East Flatbush,” said Joanne M. Oplustil, president and CEO of CAMBA. “Since 1995, CAMBA has been providing immigration legal services in these neighborhoods, including more than 1,000 clients every year. We understand the unique challenges that black immigrants face, and CAMBA is well-prepared to expand our services in this area and to help strengthen Black immigrant communities and the organizations that support them.”

Mickhel Critchlow, a DREAMer with The Black Institute said, “The Black Immigrant Engagement initiative reiterates The Black Institute's commitment to the black immigrant community. It is a much needed resource to draw these communities out of the shadows to seek legal assistance. Often they are unaware of available services and are dejected due to the apparent lack of representation. The Black Institute has since its inception been a partner with the black immigrant community, organizing youth and workers to advocate for the reforms and social justice. The partnership with CAMBA is another step that TBI has taken to strengthen and support the black immigrant community.”

Trinh Tran, staff attorney at Sauti Yetu said, "Sauti Yetu is very excited to be part of the BIEI. African immigrant communities in New York are diverse, dynamic and growing. The BIEI provides us the opportunity to better reach communities and provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. This is critical because of the lack of African language speakers in other agencies and to protect communities from immigration fraud."

[Left to Right] Steven Choi, executive director, New York Immigration Coalition; Mouhamed Kaba, Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs; Niat Amare, African Services Committee BIEI coordinator & BIA accredited representative; Gregoria Flores, Garifuna Community Leader; Amaha Kassa, African Communities Together founder & executive director; Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte; Assembly Member Michaelle Solages; Council Member Vanessa Gibson; Carl Lipscombe, policy and legal manager at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

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The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees.The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.

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