Tag: New York

AsianImmigration NewsLatinoQueens

Two Bangladeshis and An Argentinean Walk Into A Polling Place …

JACKSON HEIGHTS, NY – Aswini Anburajan, FI2W reporter

Only in New York City, and especially only in Queens, would this reporter find herself surrounded by three loqacious voters of such different origins — two Bangladeshi men and one Argentinean woman — all eager to break down the reasons why they were voting for Barack Obama.

Mohammed Rahamatullah and Khandkar Haque are good friends and six-year residents of Jackson Heights. They list healthcare and changing world opinion about the U.S. as their top reasons to vote. Haque says that this is his first presidential election. He’s been a U.S. citizen for less than a year.

Rahamatullah joked that the world cares so much about this election that his brother called him from Bangladesh last night to remind him to go to the polls.

Sandra Hidalgo, originally from Argentina, is a 35-year resident of Jackson Heights. She calls McCain “ugly,” says she’s sick of the Republican Party and declares that Obama is the best choice for Latinos. She raised the issue of immigration and questioned –like a Polish voter in Harlem did earlier today– why some people who had been in the country for years couldn’t apply for legal residency.

All three voters talked with passion about the Democratic presidential candidate, declaring adamantly that voting for a Republican would just continue the current administration’s policies.

They also spoke with first hand knowledge of the recent economic crisis, saying that friends’ businesses had suffered tremendously.

Stores have closed in Jackson Heights and the ethnic restaurants that made the area famous in New York have seen their customer-flow dwindle to a trickle. Undocumented immigrants are the first to be hit, said Hidalgo, and she argued that problems in the economy ripple upward.

Polls are open for a few more hours in New York, and the lines are long and getting longer. Though the election hasn’t come to an end, and the votes haven’t been counted, at least in this part of New York people already seem to be celebrating.

Immigration News

More Reports of New York Election Law Violations Against Immigrants

NEW YORK – Aswini Anburajan, FI2W reporter

Throughout New York City there have been reports that voters have been asked to show identification, in violation of New York election law.

Laura Matthews, a second year law student at the City University of New York, said that voters in Jackson Heights were asked to show ID and were told it was because of the difficulty of understanding their names.

Matthews said the other main problem in immigrant neighborhoods was the lack of interpreters, and that voters for whom English is a second language felt pressured at the polls to try and get through the materials quickly.

Unlike in Harlem, however, poll watchers are thronging the election sites checking to see that voters’ rights weren’t violated.

Students like Laura are volunteering through the Asian American Legal Defense Fund.

AsianImmigration NewsLatinoQueens

Jackson Heights, Queens: A Babel Tower of Electoral Activity

JACKSON HEIGHTS, NY – Aswini Anburajan, FI2W reporter

Coming from Manhattan, you can feel the difference as you step off the subway platform at 72nd St. and Broadway in Queens.

A primarily ethnic community, Jackson Heights is home to, among many others, Colombian, Asian and South Asian immigrants.

Outside the polling place at P.S. 69, Spanish-language TV stations are interviewing voters. There are signs posted everywhere to let voters know interpreters are available, and the soundtrack of the street is a mix of languages.

Voters stream in and out of the polling site, pausing to talk to neighbors and the occasional reporter. Some people are just hanging out by parked cars, immigrants who can’t vote but are fascinated by the unfolding process of American democracy.

AsianImmigration News

High Turnout: First-Time and Immigrant Voters Come Out to Vote in New York’s Chinatown

NEW YORK – Yan Tai, World Journal reporter

On this Election Day, Chinatown in Manhattan is not hustle-and-bustle as usual. Stores see smaller crowds due to the closure of government offices and schools. The unlikely busy places turned out to be the polling sites where a higher-than-ever turnout rate is observed.

There were no long lines at polling sites in Chinatown this morning. Voters were evenly spread throughout the morning. Voters reported they had no problems with the voting machines or language service at the sites. The local Board of Elections had allocated about 700 Chinese translators across the city.

At one of the rich pockets of votes in Chinatown, Confucius Plaza housing complex, poll workers said they saw more people coming out to vote. Stephen Chan, a translator on the site, told me that there were probably 30 percent more voters in the morning session than at comparable times in previous presidential elections.

Eddie Chao, a community advocate, has been watching the election since 6 AM. He estimated over 500 votes had been cast by 11 AM. He said this site recorded about 1,080 votes in the 2004 presidential election. “It should well exceed this record today,” Chao said.

Retirees and stay-at-home moms constituted the majority of people who voted during the day. I saw seniors in wheelchairs and housewives holding grocery bags come in to vote.

Justin Yu, president of Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, also a resident of Confucius Plaza, estimated there is a 50-50 percent split between Barack Obama and John McCain supporters among local voters. The site home to most of Chinatown’s Republicans.

On the other side of Chinatown at P.S. 1, there were many first-time voters – new immigrants from Fukien province. Most voters here were concerned about the economy. Obama seemed to be better received among them.

Fukienese immigrant Ms. Chen, who declined to give her first name, voted while her 11-year-old daughter observed. She told me she believes the Democratic Party is more democratic and friendly to new immigrants and that’s why she voted for Obama.

“I want to give him a chance,” she said. “I certainly want him to fix the economy.”

Ellen Liu, 19, also voted for the first time. She never hesitated to vote for Obama. Asked how it felt to cast her first vote, she said: “Not what I expected, I thought at least the voting machine should be more high-tech than this.” New York State uses old-style voting machines.

Liu also said she was disappointed that the high publicity of the presidential election overshadowed the rest of the race.

AsianImmigration NewsQueens

Voting Barriers Encountered at a Diverse Poll Site in Queens, NY

ASTORIA, NY – By Suman Ragunathan, FI2W Consultant

In Astoria, Queens, an ethnically diverse immigrant neighborhood just minutes away from Midtown Manhattan, Saeeda Nadeem was on her way to vote for the first time after 15 years in the U.S.Saeeda, a housewife originally from Pakistan, became a citizen two years ago in 2006, and was excited to vote this year.She pointed to the differences between the candidates — a difference she described as “black and white.”

Saeeda’s husband, Mohammad, a hotel concierge –also originally from Pakistan– has been in the U.S. for 21 years and has been voting for twelve years. He said he was casting his vote because he wanted change:”The economy is going down — it’s very hard to live here, and we want hope.”He noted that he and Saeeda, who have three children born in the U.S., had been paying attention to election issues and the debates.Mohammad said he was voting for Barack Obama “because he said he would work on immigration policy.”

Saeeda and Mohammad went to P.S. 234 in Astoria, where they were told that they were at the wrong polling site. They were sent to another polling site across the street, P.S. 17.They later returned to P.S. 234, their first stop, where –though they both live at the same address– Mohammad voted. He then accompanied his wife back to P.S. 17 to vote.

Exit pollsters surveying Asian American voters at P.S. 234 reported helpful poll workers, a variety of interpreters available to assist voters in languages other than English, and very few voters being asked for identification in order to be able to vote.

Across the street, P.S. 17 was a different scene.Lines at times extended beyond the door of the Henry David Thoreau School as residents filed in to vote. Unfortunately, widespread voting barriers accompanied the long lines.


Immigration News

New York Buzzing With Excitement: T-Shirt Vendors Proclaim Obama The Winner

NEW YORK – Aswini Anburajan, FI2W reporter

Union Square is buzzing with vendors and election volunteers. There are even people from Comedy Central who are handing out buttons for the cable channel’s “Indecision 2008.” Some of the vendors have proclaimed an early victory for Obama, selling T-shirts that proclaim him the winner of today’s election.

Though it wasn’t St. Patrick’s day, one vendor sold bright green t-shirts with shamrocks in the place of a heart to show support for Obama.

I’ve yet to see a McCain sign or meet a voter who is voting for him.

Lorraine Guest stands near the subway entrance in Union Square handing out fliers about Obama. She’s the president of her local AFSCME union and has been knocking doors for the senator from Illinois in Pennsylvania.

Guest said that she hit the polls early this morning, but the line was three blocks long near her home on 92nd street between Amsterdam and Columbus.

Up in Harlem, long lines continued until noon, as people came during their lunch breaks to vote. Those who came out of the polls shouted encouragement to those waiting, telling them to hold on and not give up and go home.

Immigration News

Morning in Spanish Harlem: A Fifty-Something, Voting for the First Time

Voting, by elisbrown

Voting in Brooklyn, by Elisbrown/Flickr.

NEW YORK, By Aswini Anburajan, FI2W Reporter

Lexington Ave. Running through Spanish Harlem is pretty quiet this morning, it looks like almost any other day. But voters are lined halfway down the block at the community center on 120th and Lexington. Small signs saying “vote aqui” and “vote here” line the wrought iron fences around the apartment buildings to guide the crowd.

Many here have voted before, but among the first timers there are a number of older African Americans.  Carl Duck is in his fifties and says “it’s time to make a change.”

Originally from North Carolina, Duck said he was one of the few in his family that hadn’t voted before. When his relatives heard he was headed to the polls today, they told him, “it was about time.”

To Duck, the economy is issue number one.  A homecare worker, he was recently laid off.

Tamar Owens and her rambunctious seven-year old daughter Oprie were also at the polls. Oprie shouted into the mic that “Obama!” was who she told her mom to vote for. Mrs. Owens only started voting in the past three years. She says its time to vote for change and that Obama represents it.  Though she’s African American she’s quick to stress that’s not the reason she’s voting for Obama.

“Its exciting to vote for a person that’s real. That’s real by heart by soul,” she said.

First-time or old-time, all the voters here seem to share a desire for “change.”

BrooklynImmigration NewsPolish

From One-Party Rule to the Two-Party System: Polish, Russian Immigrants Cautious as they Register to Vote

Chris Rybkiewicz (left) of the Polish American Congress signs up new voters from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Chris Rybkiewicz (left) of the Polish American Congress signs up new voters from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

It took Ryszard Klimek seven years to register to vote.

Since he became a citizen in 2001, American politics was not a subject of his interest. “Politics in my country is a parody. So I lost interest in it and I didn’t feel like getting involved here either,” says Ryszard, 35, who came to America in 1995 and works as an electrician. When he was 16, the Communist regime that ruled Poland for decades tumbled. Since then the newly-created Polish democracy has turned into a rampant form of pluralism where parties easily come into being, merge or cease to exist, amidst divisions and disagreements.

To Ryszard, American politics seemed very different than what he knew from his home country, and not being proficient in English, it was very difficult for him to understand it. But this year he decided to finally register and vote.

“The candidates are more interesting and the issues are important,” said Ryszard, pointing out the war in Iraq, immigration reform, and the declining economy.

This year’s election ignites excitement across American society, including immigrant voters who hope to see the issues they care about addressed by the candidates.