Know Your Rights workshop opens doors for Spanish speakers in LIC

Immigrants rights advocates demonstrate in Corona Plaza in July. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer.

Immigrants rights advocates demonstrate in Corona Plaza in July. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer.

By Rachel Vick

Queens Law Associates and the organization Hour Working Women Program will host a Know Your Rights training session in Spanish on Aug. 19 from 4-6 p.m. Hour Working Women is a job training and placement program that previously focused on assisting formerly incarcerated women with reintegration. The organization now provides an array of services

The interactive workshop will take place at Hour Working Children Inc.’s Long Island City headquarters on 37th Avenue, near the Queens Public Library’s LIC branch. The event will educate participants in encounters with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

QLA Immigration Advocate Susana Vaca said the program will detail which applications for benefits may or may not impact immigration status under the new federal "public charge" rule, which says that extended use of certain entitlement programs, like Medicaid and SNAP could jeopardize an immigrant’s ability to attain U.S. citizenship. The recent change has confused many noncitizens and service providers, Vaca said.

She said that the QLA wanted to host the session in the Hour Working Women Program office because many local immigrants are familiar with the organization and its work. The program fosters familiarity and alleviates the pressure that would result from entering another public space.

For many Queens residents, language barriers limits their access to official information or opportunities to participate in Know Your Rights trainings. U.S. Census data shows that more than half of Queens residents speak a language other than English at home.

“Most of the information I’ve seen is in English, and for the Hispanic community in Queens there is a lack of translation and access to information so [providing that and] having a safe environment for them to go to ask their questions is very important, especially now,” Vaca said.

Advocates for Know Your Right trainings emphasize the importance of understanding the difference between facts and rumors. Hour Working Women Program Coordinator Johanna Flores participated in the organization’s July workshop and said that she came away feeling empowered to help others in the community through knowledge and communication that builds trust.

“It’s important to educate the community in terms of what’s going on with immigration, to educate them to advocate for themselves,” Flores said.  “It’s important to educate so we can make a difference in the community — it starts with us.”

The workshop is open to the public.