WJCNY’s Immigrant Community Engagement Program aims to equip low-wage immigrant workers with the necessary skills, knowledge, and support system to meaningfully sustain and strengthen their involvement in broader movements for worker and immigrant justice. Low-wage immigrant workers in rural and semi-urban areas of Upstate New York encounter many barriers to participation in workers’ and immigrants’ rights movements, including geographic and social isolation, limited access to public transportation and basic services, lack of economic security, increased vulnerability to immigration enforcement, subjugation to exploitative guestworker programs, and lack of linguistically and culturally appropriate opportunities for community involvement. We respond to these challenges by providing opportunities for marginalized and vulnerable immigrant communities to become educated about their legal rights and about the public policies that impact their daily lives. Moreover, we provide support for immigrant workers to become directly involved in policy reform campaigns such as federal immigration reform and the extension of basic labor protections to New York State farmworkers.
Community Identification Initiative
The program also focuses on developing local immigrant-friendly policies and practices at the municipal and county level. Our Community Identification Initiative provides those who live and work in Kingston, NY with an accessible form of photo identification which includes basic personal identifying information, medical risk factors, and emergency contact information. All members of the Kingston community are eligible to obtain a Community ID card, however, the card is most beneficial for residents that may find it difficult to obtain other official forms of local photo identification. With the Community ID card, law enforcement agencies and emergency responders can obtain critical information for anyone in need of assistance, including those who may be incapacitated or unable to communicate due to a language barrier. Besides relying on the ID card in an emergency situation, a cardholder can use their Community ID to more easily access services for which they are eligible. A Community ID card is particularly helpful for new immigrants, as well as the homeless, teenagers, elderly residents, low-income individuals, and other marginalized groups.
Immigrant women leaders from Ontario county have joined together to launch a women’s leadership group “Women Growing the Future.” The immigrant women-led steering committee is committed to seeking educational opportunities for women in their community and creating spaces in which women can come together to network, support each other, and learn new skills. Their first endeavor is a 3-month nutrition class in partnership with Finger Lakes Community Health and the Cornell Cooperative Extension. In the future they hope to sponsor vocational trainings, participate in community workshops, learn more about parents’ rights in school, and seek funding opportunities to support immigrant women’s leadership in their community.
The Worker Justice Center of NY is partnering with Canandaigua and Rochester’s Unitarian/Universalist Church’s Social Justice project and Literacy Volunteers of Ontario/Yates Counties to create opportunities for farmworkers to learn English. With interest in reaching out to often excluded or invisible groups, volunteer tutors from the UU Church are becoming trained to tutor in English and setting up one-on-one tutoring sessions with dairy farmworkers at their workplace. Dairy farmworker leaders have played an important role of organizing the students and coordinating the sessions.