Local
10:36 am
Mon July 29, 2013

State program boosts immigrant prospects

A new statewide program to help immigrants become contributing members of the community is meeting or exceeding its goals. The recently-opened Buffalo location of the Office for New Americans has reportedly helped hundreds of residents.

Iman Gatur is from Ethiopia. She operates a restaurant on Allen Street near Franklin.
Iman Gatur is from Ethiopia. She operates a restaurant on Allen Street near Franklin.
Credit WBFO News file photo

Up until five months ago there had never been a statewide office fully dedicated to helping immigrants succeed, according to Jorge Montalvo,  the Director of New York State's Office for New Americans.  

"So we thought that it was important to create this office," Montalvo said. 

"It was around the time when we'd seen that other states had decided to build walls, separating people out. And we needed to, as the progressive capital of the nation, really show how you embrace people. It's our heritage. It's our history as a country. And especially as New York."
 
Montalvo spoke to WBFO News during a recent visit to the ONA Opportunity Center run by Catholic Charities on the city's west side. 

Since March, more than 200 students have enrolled in English classes. In August, the Center will conduct its fourth Naturalization workshop.

There i's also help available for entrepreneurs looking to start their own business. Montalvo says the program is expected to help about a 100,000 new arrivals across the state.

"At the beginning of the process I think sometimes folks have these preconceived notions that immigrants don't want to be a part of the community. What they need is just that little help to learn the language so they can get that job," Montalvo said.

"As they succeed, the state does succeed."