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Queens immigrants snared in fiscal crisis

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In the current economic climate, Queens immigrants are facing tough times finding jobs while those already employed in the nation’s most ethnically diverse borough are seeing their wages cut, immigrant advocates said.

“It’s having a lot of impact on our members,” said Andrew Friedman, the co−executive director of Make the Road New York, which has offices in Queens. “It’s limiting access to jobs.”

Friedman said his organization is hearing immigrants complain of being paid below minimum wage in the wake of the economic crisis.

“Folks are struggling just to get by,” he said.

Immigrants are cutting back on both buying new clothes and sending clothes back home, Friedman said. Money sent to their native countries is also declining, he said.

“Things are tight and folks are fearful. People tend to send back home what they can and that’s decreasing. They’re earning less.”

Of the immigrants who are looking for jobs, finding one is getting harder, according to Siobhan Dennehy, the executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Woodside.

“People are coming to us saying they’re finding difficulty in the labor markets,” she said.

Anthony Maloney, the executive director of Immigration Advocacy Services in Astoria, said immigrants on the path to citizenship may delay those plans until the economy improves.

But he said such immigrants will never give up the goal of becoming a citizen or of attaining a green card through marriage.

“They’re not going to give up only because it’s much more important to get a green card than to save a little money,” Maloney said. “Getting a permanent residency trumps any economic downturn.”

Friedman said immigrants are also fearing cuts to government−funded programs, such as English as a Second Language courses and adult literacy classes.

He said such cuts “are just starting to happen as the city and state go through the next round of [budget] cuts.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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