NY Town Hall with Representative James Walsh a Success

Walsh tackles immigration

Friday, June 01, 2007By Maureen Sieh

Staff writer

Immigration dominated much of Thursday's town hall meeting at St. Lucy Church in Syracuse organized by Rep. James Walsh.

People wore "I Love Immigrant New York" buttons provided by The New York Immigration Coalition.

"I have nephews and cousins who are working 13 hours in the fields, they'd like to become citizens," Guadalupe Matthews, of Syracuse, said after the meeting. "They're suffering a lot. They can't have insurance. They are afraid."

Here's a look at Walsh's responses on that concern, as well as housing and unemployment.

Immigration Matthews asked Walsh if he supported the principle of path to citizenship for immigrant families like hers.

Walsh: He said his office has helped reunite hundreds of families, but the process is long and tedious. He told the story of a Vietnamese man who came with no family to the United States when he was 14. Walsh said he's working to bring some of the man's family members here.

"I understand the desire to prioritize family. That will be an essential part of my consideration to support this legislation."

Julio Urrutia, a board member of the Spanish Action League, asked Walsh to put aside the Senate's proposed immigration legislation and formulate his ideal legislation.

Walsh: "We have a lot of ideas about this. There's a need for guest workers. There's a need for strong secured borders. We need to find a way to deal with people out of (visa) status. There's no consensus. I want to see what the Senate passes."

Unemployment Rosemary Arroyo Perez, a board member of Syracuse Area Latinos United Against Disparities, was concerned about high unemployment among Latinos.

Latinos have a strong work ethic, but there are obstacles to employment, she said. She asked Walsh to help unemployed Latinos.

Walsh: If companies aren't hiring Latinos, he wants to know so can he can intervene. He said he has supported a number of businesses with government contracts.

"I can't promise you everyone will get a job, but I will try to help," he said.

Housing Rita Paniagua, acting director of the Spanish Action League, wants the Latino community involved in deciding how the $2.25 million awarded through the Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative will be spent.

Edwin Rodriguez, housing specialist at the Spanish Action League, was concerned about high poverty and poor housing on the Near West Side. He asked Walsh to secure funds so skilled Latinos can fix some of the vacant houses in the neighborhood and live in them.

Walsh: The $2.25 million is geared toward home ownership. "We want as many of you to own your homes as possible," he said.

The Latino community can help decide how the money is spent by getting involved through the Tomorrow's Neighborhoods Today program. He said money will be used to counsel potential homeowners, subsidize down payments and reduce mortgage payments. It will also be used to rehabilitate houses and demolish those beyond repair.

Maureen Sieh can be reached at msieh@syracuse.com or 470-2159.