Sept. 14, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
The New York City Immigration Coalition partnered with Queens Council member Shekar Krishnan to hold a back-to-school family resource fair Sept. 9 at Paseo Park in Jackson Heights. The family resource fair was meant to assist immigrant families within Queens, helping to provide services and information for families and assist in preparing the kids for school.
Kids there benefited from a backpack and school supply giveaway. The adults had the opportunity to take advantage of the resources offered by the local community-based organizations on hand. Among the resources offered were health care, school enrollment, financial literacy, legal consultations and more.
“We are a city of immigrants,” Krishnan said. “My district of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst is the most diverse immigrant community in the world. Key to the City, which we do every year with the New York Immigration Coalition, is exactly that, providing quite literally a key to the city through resources. Through legal services, educational resources, clothes and food for our immigrant communities, especially the migrants coming here, who are in desperate need of help. In this moment, when we’re hearing so much divisive, xenophobic and hateful rhetoric about immigrant communities, Key to the City stands as a shining example of what our communities should be doing.”
Krishnan emphasized the importance of embracing these immigrants rather than trying to push them away. This includes providing language-accessible services. According to Krishnan, hundreds of immigrants attend these annual events each year from all across New York City.
“It just goes to show you how vital Key to the City is,” Krishnan said. “It’s filling a void that exists, which is making sure that our government programs and services are not just up there on paper, but are brought here to the communities where our immigrants live. To see how high in demand this fair is gives you a sense of the need that it’s serving and why I and the City Council will always support Key to the City. This event is an example of what every New York City community can be doing to support our migrant families.”
ImmSchools provided resources to families and students about knowing their rights within schools. This includes translation services, interpreters and other community resources offered to people, regardless of immigration status.
“A lot of different languages are being highlighted,” Maria Rocha of ImmSchools said. “[The Key to the City family resource fair] provides information to families who may have been misled or not informed about the resources that the city does provide for our communities. It’s important for them to know they have rights as immigrants.”
According to Charles Wang Community Health Center community outreach associate Melissa Jimenez, the health center was on hand to answer any inquiries those in attendance may have. This included medical and insurance questions and information about services. She emphasized the diverse backgrounds of those she has assisted, including Mandarin, Spanish and Bengali people. She also helped people enroll for dental insurance while providing them with a place to get service at the health center’s new dental facility.
Other organizations with representatives present at the family resource fair included the Fresh Air Fund, Diligently Serving Immigrants International and the New York Legal Assistance Group, which was offering free legal clinics to inform people what routes they need to take in order to fulfill their immigration needs.
“Folks can come here and get basically any of the wraparound services that they need to thrive,” New York Immigration Coalition Vice President of Policy and Programs Theodore Moore said. “This helps immigrants, whether they’ve been here for 50 years or 50 days.”
According to Moore, many were many asylum seekers present at the family resource fair. This included people from countries like Senegal, Venezuela and Nepal.
“We really like to target locations with large immigrant populations [for these family resource fairs],” Moore said. “Over the last year, we’ve been trying to target newcomer asylum seekers in the neighborhoods where people are just naturally resettling in, that have a large population and/or the most shelters.”
The New York Immigration Coalition has a full calendar available on their website for upcoming Key to the City family resource fairs. Those interested in attending a future family resource fair can go to nyic.org.