Author Archives | smp2182

Sonia Paul’s Local Newscast

Listen to the full piece

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

For Columbia Radio News in New York, I’m Sonia Paul.

State and federal officials announced a 1.7 billion dollar relief plan today. It’s to assist New Yorkers whose homes and businesses were devastated by storms Sandy, Irene and Lee. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the government had no choice but to help.

ACT: Cuomo_Act

Either government is going to work to help rebuild these communities and do it quickly, get people help, get them back in their homes, get businesses up…or you’re going to see long-term suffering.. It’s



A man charged with planning to attack New York synagogues in a 2011 police sting was sentenced to five years in prison today in a Manhattan state court. Authorities say Mohamed Mamdouh (mam-DOO) and his co-defendant wanted to avenge what they viewed as mistreatment of Muslims around the world. Mamdouh’s (mam-DOO’s) co-defendent was sentenced to ten years in prison last month.


Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Times Square today to signal to New Yorkers the area is safe. The visit came the day after city officials announced the Boston bombing suspects were planning attacks on the neighborhood. Investigations are ongoing.


The former head of the NYPD police academy is testifying at a federal trial challenging the legality of so-called “stop and frisk” police stops. Around five million stops took place in the past decade. The Deputy Chief’s testimony will continue on Monday.


The Smith-9th Street Subway Station in Brooklyn reopened this morning. The stop is on the F and G lines, and serves residents in Red Hook, Gowanus and Carroll Gardens. The station had been under renovation for the past two years.


Nearly two dozen street vendors gathered near Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan today to protest the growing number of city bike share stations in the city. The vendors say the bike stations are encroaching on their areas of operation.


The city of Long Beach on Long Island will host a ground-breaking ceremony tomorrow morning for its boardwalk devastated by Superstorm Sandy. The ceremony will kick-off a forty-four million dollar project to repair the tourist attraction. Renovations are expected to be completed in November.


It’s 56 degrees in New York, with clear and sunny skies.

(The weekend is expected to remain clear and sunny.)


For Columbia Radio News in New York, I’m Sonia Paul.

Posted in Newscasts0 Comments

Latino Evangelicals Reshape Immigration Views

Latino Evangelicals Reshape Immigration Views


Teachers lead a music class at the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church in the Bronx, Apr. 20, 2013. Some observers say growing Latino churches are the future of Evangelical Christianity. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST: Some Evangelical Christians have embraced comprehensive immigration reform in recent months. It’s a huge shift for the group, usually conservative in its politics. An influx of Latino congregants has pushed the church into changing its stance. Sonia Paul reports.

It was a week and a half ago, the day the Senate released its eight hundred and forty-four page draft bill for comprehensive immigration reform.

[AMBI: Rev. Salguero singing at the worship service in DC. [Let rise and play for seven seconds, then fade under and float under narration.]

Just blocks away from the Capital, at the Church of Reformation, an audience was singing a closing hymn . A giant screen at the front showed the people who came to preach and perform. They were clapping their hands and stomping their feet.

[Bring up more ambi.]

Latinos, Blacks, and a few Asians. But most of them appeared to be white.

They were Evangelical Christians. And they came here from all over the country to lobby Congress on immigration reform.


They were calling the day a National Day of Prayer and Action on immigration. A group that calls itself the Evangelical Immigration Table organized the event.

[Fade out AMBI HERE]

Evangelicals aren’t the most likely supporters of immigration reform. Take Southern Baptist Mike Huckabee. In the Republican presidential primaries in 2008, he advocated strict controls.


What we need to do is have a border that is sealed, and the same kind of process that we have if we go through a stadium — we go in one at a time, and we have a ticket.

His views were mainstream Republican at the time. Pew research Center reports show white Evangelicals overwhelmingly supported the Republican party in the last three presidential elections. But now, residents in North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Florida — all conservative states — can hear ads like this one coming through their airwaves.


But our dysfunctional immigration system breaks up families and causes suffering. Christ calls all of us to compassion and justice.

That focus on compassion and justice is the selling point of the two-year-old Evangelical Immigration Table. It’s an umbrella organization for several Evangelical and social justice groups in support of immigration reform.

Evangelical pastor Gabriel Salguero chairs the group. He’s the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. In January, under his leadership, the Evangelical Immigration Table developed a bold message on immigration.


We worked on a campaign called I was a Stranger. And we engaged just hundreds of Evangelical churches and tens of thousands of Evangelical Christians to read the bible and pray.

The Table put out radio ads in areas with large Evangelical populations — and released YouTube ads, like this one, of prominent Evangelical leaders reciting a well-known verse from the Book of Michael.


For I was a stranger, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.

I was a stranger.

I was a stranger.

I was a stranger.

(In Spanish)

I was a stranger. And you invited me in.

I needed clothes, and you clothed me.


Back in Washington, people outside the Church of Reformation are saying their goodbyes after a long day of lobbying on immigration. Others inside the church are still singing.

David Beckmann is a white Lutheran pastor and economist. He says it’s about time Christians unite for immigration reform — because the connection between the bible and the public policy issue is clear.


Cause the bible over and over again talks about doing right, being kind to widows, orphans and immigrants. Duh! (laughs). Cause immigrants are always kind of shuddered aside, they don’t ever have full rights.

But it’s not just biblical passages reminding Evangelicals of their call to duty. Reports indicate there are now nearly eight million Hispanic Evangelicals in the United States. That’s about 15 percent of the overall Evangelical population.


At the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church in New York, Latinos are the majority of students at the church’s weekend music class. They make up practically the entire church population.


There are people Dominican, Puerto Rican, from Hondorus, Ecuadorian…

That’s eighteen year old Morelba Fernandez. She’s at her church in the Bronx most days of the week, leading the youth ministry or assisting the music classes.


Or, advocating for immigration reform.


We also go to marches about immigration, like the Dream Act. A lot of teenagers, we go, because that’s very important for us.

Some observers say growing all-Latino churches like Fernandez’s are the future of Evangelical Christianity. Their support of immigration reform is hardly surprising.


Pew research polls show over 85 percent of Hispanic evangelicals support immigration reform. In comparison, just over half of white Evangelicals support the cause.

But that’s still a big change for the white Evangelical community. A few years ago, only a quarter of them polled supported immigration.


Hi, I’m Samuel Cruz.

Samuel Cruz is a sociologist of religion at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. He says the Latino Evangelical influence is the biggest reason Evangelicals are now embracing immigration.


In fact, Focus on the Family, which is one of the big conservative right-wing organizations in this country, is supporting immigration reform. And they know why they’re doing it. They’re catering to their huge constituency of Latinos within the Evangelical community.

The Senate is expected to debate the provisions of the immigration bill in coming weeks. Observers say that if Evangelicals maintain unity, they just might help tip the scale on passing immigration reform.

Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in Culture, Featured, Money and Politics0 Comments

How Not To Travel In Mongolia

How Not To Travel In Mongolia

Train in Ulaanbaatar

: The train at the Ulaanbaatar station in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Commentator Sonia Paul should have ridden it Orkhon her first day in Mongolia, Aug. 2010. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST: Traveling has its ups and downs. When commentator Sonia Paul took a three-week trip to Mongolia to discover the country’s natural beauty, she found that sometimes all you can do is count on the kindness of strangers — even if it leads you astray.

PAUL: It was the summer of 2010, and I was traveling by myself in Mongolia — my first big solo traveling trip. I was in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, and on my way to a ranch in a place called Orkhon. I showed the woman supervising the platform at the train station my ticket. She shook her head. No, no, not this train.

Are you sure? I asked. I had planned the trip fairly meticulously. But she waved me off.

The sun set and departure time neared. I went back to the train woman. I pointed at the train’s name on the ticket, gestured toward the green train in front of us, gave the thumbs up sign and nodded. And of course I flashed my pearly whites.

She glared back at me and shook her head. Next one.

I heard someone hollering in English and discovered it was a boy selling peanuts on the platform. I made my way over, bought a bag and made small talk with him about my travels to Orkhon.

Orkhon? His ears perked up. No, no! he said. That’s your train! And he pointed to the train just as it was pulling away.

I nearly dropped my bag of peanuts. It was the last train of the day to my destination. And it was only my first day in Mongolia. How was I ever supposed to survive three weeks by myself?

Before I knew it, a few tears rolled down my cheeks.

I got a room for the night at a hostel near the station, and asked a girl who worked there to buy me my seven-dollar replacement ticket to Orkhon. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get lost.

Don’t worry, Sonia, she said when I finally got on the train the next day. She promised to call the ranch owner in Orkhon to tell him I was coming.

On the train, I sat next to a Mongolian woman who spoke English with a Russian accent. She nodded encouragingly when I showed her my ticket — Orkhon. My stop too, she said. Her smile was comforting.

When we arrived in Orkhon, she quickly disappeared. I started searching for a call center where I could dial the ranch owner. But then a girl about my age wearing Dior sunglasses called out to me.

You lost? Her English had a Russian accent too. I have a cellphone, she said.

I was grateful for the offer and quickly dialed the ranch owner.

You’re where? he said when he answered the phone.


And you just got off?


Do you realize you’re four and a half hours away from where you should be?!


It turns out Mongolia has many locations that share the same name. And there are at least two places called Orkhon. The girl from the hostel had bought me a ticket to the wrong Orkhon.

What I needed to do was get to the right Orkhon. I had no time to feel sorry for myself. The Dior girl was getting in a cab with her brothers. I quickly explained my situation. With her sunglasses, English skills and cellphone, she had become my bodyguard in a span of five minutes.

She nodded intently and told me to join them in the cab. They could get me where I needed to go.

What else could I do? I squished in the backseat. I decided things just had to turn out fine. We peeled away from the station, and I let myself marvel at the vast land and open sky surrounding me.

HOST: Sonia eventually got herself to the ranch at the right Orkhon. She still gets lost sometimes, but she always manages to find her way back.

Posted in Commentaries, Featured, The Globe0 Comments

Evangelical Christians Rally For An Unlikely Cause

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

On Wednesday, the Senate released its draft bill for comprehensive immigration form. That same day, Evangelicals from across the country gathered at the Capitol. They came for a national day of prayer and action on immigration.

Reporter Sonia Paul went to Washington and visited the Evangelicals’ evening worship. She spoke with the Reverend David Beckman about the day’s events. He’s the president of the Christian poverty relief program Bread for the World.

Posted in Voices of New York0 Comments

More Than A Million State Department Files Released By WikiLeaks

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


WikiLeaks has announced its latest release of information. It’s a collection of more than a million State Department files from the 1970s. WikiLeaks calls it the “Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy,” or Plus D.  Sonia Paul spoke with Jeff Stein. He’s a national security reporter and founder of the blog SpyTalk. He says this new collection of documents marks a new direction for Wikileaks.

SpyTalk Blog:

WikiLeaks “Plus D” Project

Posted in City Life, Interviews, The Globe0 Comments

Visa Showdown Hits As International Workers Look For Jobs

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


For many university students, graduation is fast approaching. But for international students who want to stay in the United States, getting a visa is harder than ever. Sonia Paul reports.

There’s an alphabet soup of visa options for international students who want to work here. Some skilled workers go through employer sponsored H-1B visas. Others in academia get J-1 visas. It can be really confusing.


Valia Mitsou is Greek. She and her fiance met as students in Athens. Both computer scientists, they came to New York five years ago to get their PhDs.


It was basically a common decision to come to the U.S., and CUNY was an institution that accepted us both, so that’s why we ended up here.


Their field is theoretical computer science. That means they design the ideas and procedures other computer scientists use to solve problems.

Mitsou has one more year until she gets her PhD. Her fiance finished his early. But when he started looking around for a university job here, he couldn’t find one.


So he decided to go to Europe, to Sweden. Because the situation, finding work in Sweden, is much easier than in the U.S.


Competition for visas is fierce in the United States. Each year, 85,000 H1-B visas are reserved for foreign nationals. Employers must apply to sponsor these potential employees for visas. The application process just started this past Monday, April 1st.

Eleanor Pelta is an immigration attorney based in Washington, D.C. She says demand for these visas has increased sharply in the past few years.


Three years ago, when the quota opened up for applications on April 1st, it wasn’t exhausted until January of the following year.

Then two years ago, it was exhausted in November. Then last year, it was exhausted in June.

And this year?


It looking like it’s going to be exhausted in the very first week of filing.


That’s this coming Monday, April 7th. As the U.S. economy recovers, more companies   want to hire these high-skilled workers.

And H1-B visas aren’t the only ones in demand. For Mitsou to stay in the United States to do post-doctoral work, she needs a J-1 visa. It’s not subject to the quota system like H1-B. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get – and the whole process is hard to understand.


At CUNY’s International Students Office, Mitsou runs into another student, Wen Ju from Taiwan. They soon start talking about their work plans. They even discuss the longest of longshots — getting a green card through the annual lottery.


I enter every year.

VALIA MITSOU: Michael applied every year too. Well I didn’t apply this year. I feel it’s worthless…It’s like the game of the chicken and the egg, I guess. If you want to get a job, you need to have the proper job status. And if you want to get the proper job status, then you need to get the job! (laughing). So it’s easier if you can get a green card.


U.S. companies and universities need people like Mitsou and Wen Ju to stimulate economic development. That’s according to Jeremy Robbins. He leads Mayor Bloomberg’s national coalition for immigration reform.


The question is not should this job go to an American, or should it go to someone who is foreign-born. The question is, how do we get the right worker to make a company more competitive, so that it can grow and create more jobs.


Robbins says it’s especially important to retain students in the most sought after areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — also known as STEM.


STEM jobs grew three times faster than the rest of the economy in the last ten years. But the problem is that not enough Americans are studying STEM.


Mitsou is a prime example of the type of person Robbins is advocating to stay. As an aspiring professor, she’d likely teach STEM classes. But she has to do her post-doctoral work before she can become a professor. And she has the additional problem of trying to find positions for herself and her fiance.


I think that the most important for me and Michael right now is to get a position in some place in the world, anywhere — literally (chuckles).

With this year’s expected record number of people applying for H-1B visas, the fate of the high-skilled foreign worker may boil down to old-fashioned luck. Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in The Globe, Uncategorized0 Comments

City Lawmakers Pass Bill Granting Paid Sick Leave

City Lawmakers Pass Bill Granting Paid Sick Leave


Christine Quinn

New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn announces the new compromise to allow all New Yorkers to take sick leave, Mar. 29, 2013. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

HOST INTRO: Lawmakers came to a compromise last night on a bill that could expand paid sick leave to as many as a million New Yorkers. The legislation still needs a vote by the City Council. But as Sonia Paul reports, some activists are already celebrating what they call a major victory for workers’ rights.


Council members and advocacy groups reached the compromise last night. Quinn says the pending bill will be revolutionary for New York City.


This law guarantees that all New Yorkers, all New Yorkers, can take time off to care for themselves and their families when they’re sick, without fear of threat of losing their job.



Under the bill, businesses with 20 or more full-time employees must provide five paid sick days to their workers every year.

Right now more than one million New Yorkers don’t receive those benefits. Alison Hirsch of service employees international union local 32BJ says that the law will help the most vulnerable workers in New York:


A lot of low-wage workers, largely people of color, women, young workers, fast food workers, people of color, car wash employees…folks who work every day to make a minimum wage or a living wage, something to support their families, and now no longer have to choose between taking a day off and losing their job.



There are some exemptions. Workers employed at some businesses will be allowed to take sick leave, but they won’t get paid for it. That’s so smaller businesses that might otherwise struggle to pay their employees won’t be burdened under the new law.

And Quinn says the City Council can prevent the law from going into effect under poor economic conditions.


So if a major downturn occurs, we would put off implementation of the legislation.


That may not be enough to satisy Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He’s opposed mandatory sick leave because he think it’ll hurt New York City businesses. And Bloomberg has promised to veto the bill. But the new compromise means there are enough votes in the city council to override that veto.


The announcement at City Hall today attracted dozens of supporters.

AMBI (play for 5 seconds and the float under following narration for 5 more seconds)

“Si se puedo”


22 year old Joseph Barrara was one of them.. He’s been working full-time at a KFC in Brooklyn for nearly a year.he and his coworkers are all too familiar with the idea of coming into work sick. Berrara says he’s glad for this bill because it’ll finally force his employer to come through with promises:


Um, well they always tell us benefits are coming soon. Um, but I’ve been there about ten months now, going on a year. And I don’t want to keep hearing soon, coming soon. I’m actually glad that now I have a definite answer on what I’m going to get.



The bill on paid sick leave will go into effect next spring. Although it’ll initially apply to businesses with 20 or more employees, the law will extend to businesses with 15 or more workers in the fall of 2014.

Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Featured, Health0 Comments

Obama Prepares For First Visit To Israel As President

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO: Next week President Obama will visit Israel for the first time in his presidency. Many observers say the relations between Israel and the US have become more tense under his administration. I spoke with Ariel Ilan Roth, the executive director of the Israel Institute in Washington, D.C. He says there is not a lot of consensus within the foreign policy community over what the president is trying to achieve with this trip.

Posted in The Globe0 Comments

“Joyous” Atmosphere In Rome After Papal Election

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

HOST INTRO: Uptown Radio’s religion reporter Jeff Tyson landed in Rome early this morning and went directly to St. Peter’s Square. Lavinia, a young woman from Rome, was among those celebrating.

Posted in Interviews, The Globe0 Comments

Budget Crunch Sparks Debate Over Immigrants Behind Bars

Budget Crunch Sparks Debate Over Immigrants Behind Bars

Families wait to visit their loved ones at the Elizabeth Detention Center waiting room in New Jersey, Mar. 2, 2013. The detention center has about 300 beds for non-U.S. citizens in violation of federal law. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Another outcome of Congress’ sequester, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced last week it released thousands of immigrants from detention centers across the country. The agency can’t afford to detain them. Many of those released were being detained for relatively minor criminal violations. It’s raised a debate about whether it’s time to reclassify some of the reason immigrants are detained. Sonia Paul reports.

On a Sunday afternoon at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey, several families are waiting to visit their loved ones. The center has room for about 300 detainees. The waiting room for families has rows of chairs, a few vending machines and, a small tv and a window for people to check in. And in the corner, there are coin lockers for people to put their belongings while the visit.

AMBI OF INSIDE THE DETENTION CENTER [fade up and let it run under until “undocumented immigrants”]Most of the people detained here are undocumented immigrants. Some are seeking political asylum. But even immigrants who are in the United States legally can end up here.

Janice Maynard’s husband is one of those people. Janice is from the Bronx. She came here to visit her husband, Andre Harwood.

We’re here with Riley Harwood, my daughter. Say hi Riley.



Maynard’s husband has been at the Elizabeth center for about a month. He’s from Jamaica and has a green card that’s allowed him to live and work in New York for the past ten years. A few years ago, he was charged with possession of marijuana, and sentenced to five years probation. And Janice says that criminal conviction didn’t seem to affect his immigration status until last month.

So he’s on his way to see a probation officer when they held him, and told him he’s violating an immigration law. And that’s why they’re detaining him.


Maynard says immigration officials haven’t told her husband what exactly the law is he’s violating. She’s worried he could be deported.


We really would like to know what’s going on, I believe that every family wants to know what’s going on…It’s been one month out of his life, out of our lives…of just sitting there, waiting!


Maynard’s husband’s case is not uncommon in New York.

Alina Das is a lawyer and a professor at New York University’s immigration law clinic. According to the law, committing a crime is a reason to be deported. But she says not every crime is equal.

A lot of people who are picked up for relatively minor misdemeanors, anything from shoplifting to marijuana, to other types of crimes where they may not receive a very serious sentence under state law because they’re recognized to be very minor crimes – if those individuals aren’t citizens, they may find themselves in deportation hearings.


She says that in many cases, deportation is a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime.

If those people aren’t citizens, they may find themselves in deportation proceedings, and facing one of the harshest penalties that one can imagine, which is separation from their homes and families here in the U.S.


Most of the detainees released last week had relatively minor criminal offenses. It’s given immigration advocates hope that not all crimes will equally jeopardize an immigrant’s chance at citizenship.

Abraham Paulos is an immigrant and the executive director of the immigration advocacy group Families for Freedom. His organization studied connection between the criminal justice system and the immigration system last year.

What we had found out is that between 2005 and 2010, at least eighty percent of New Yorkers who were deported from the city went through the criminal legal system. And so eighty percent of them had what is known as a detainer or an immigration hold.


But Paulos says releasing people with low-level criminal histories points to a more systemic problem with the detention system.

We shouldn’t be detained anyways, and so now we’re getting released, and it just proves we shouldn’t have been in there anyways.


Paulos says that just being detained makes the already long path toward citizenship that much harder. Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in Featured, The Globe0 Comments

Read Across America Day Helps Kids Get Away

Listen to the full piece:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Dr. Seuss would have turned 109 years old this year. Today more than 250 Manhattan school children went on a field trip to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue to celebrate his work. The National Education Association sponsors the annual Read Across America Day as part of a nationwide literacy campaign. Sonia Paul reports.

First and second graders in New York became Dr. Seuss impersonators today at the library. As they wear the beloved Cat in the Hat’s famous red and white striped hats and wait for readings from Dr. Seuss books to begin, teachers and students talk about their favorite Dr. Seuss books.


What do you think about the Cat in the Hat, Isaiah?

I think about the Cat in the Hat, that, it’s like, fun, funny, and

It’s fun, yeah, and what else?

And like, awesome. Because you get to – you get to see Thing One and Thing Two. (0:23)

Characters like Thing 1 and Thing 2 came to life. They were walking around and talking with students like Isaiah during the event. The National Education Association uses the writer’s magnetic attraction as a way to get children excited about reading. Kids can’t get enough of his books, or his characters. Isaiah and his classmates got into a heated conversation with Thing 1 from the Cat in the Hat.


You guys are going to have so much fun today!

What’s your real name?

My real name is Thing 1!

But your real name is not the Cat in the Hat.

How do you know?!

Are you the real Thing 1?

Look at my blue locks! Don’t you like my hair? It’s always like this! (0:22)

Actors Uma Thurman and Jake T. Austin were on call to read The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. But eight-year-old Isaiah kept squirming during the readings. He wasn’t paying attention like the other kids from P.S. 51, the school he’s here with today. But he’s also not a typical P.S. 51 student.


I live in Times Square. I live in a hotel.

Wait, you live in a hotel? (0:05)

Isaiah and his family are originally from Far Rockaway. They’ve been living at the DoubleTree Hotel in Times Square since Hurricane Sandy. And Isaiah has been attending P.S. 51 while his family is in transition.


Tell my mom I like green eggs – green eggs and ham. My mom is over there. (0:06)

Tonia Davis sits at the sidelines listening to “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham” alongside the children. Today is the first time Tonia has ever participated in Read Across America. It has added significance for her because events like these are part of her plan to bring normalcy back to her family.


We’re stable, you know, I’m trying to spend most of my time, most of my free time, participating in school events, stuff like that. (0:07)

Tonia is especially glad Read Across America Day took her son and his classmates out of school and into a New York landmark.


I love it, I’m glad I came here, you know, to participate. As I was growing up, I went to performing arts school, and I experienced going to different museums and stuff like that. And I like to see that with my children, and also the kids they grow up with. (0:20)

For Tonia, Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’s birthday are not just ways to get kids to read. It’s part of a bigger way to escape troubles and become immersed in New York City’s culture. Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

Posted in City Life, Education0 Comments

Obama Proposal May Not Fix Immigration Headaches

Obama Proposal May Not Fix Immigration Headaches

Lamina Kaba

Immigrants like Lamina Kaba of Guinea take English classes in New York to strengthen their language and job readiness skills. The Obama administration has proposed an electronic employment verification system as part of his immigration reform plan.
(Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

 Listen to the full piece: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

President Obama made overhauling immigration policy a cornerstone of his second term in office during Tuesday’s State of the Union Address. He urged Congressional leaders to deliver a bill.

“Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away, and America will be better for it,” Obama said.  

One of the administration’s goals is to streamline the employment verification process. As part of that, it’s proposing a national electronic verification system. Sonia Paul reports:

You’ve probably filled out an I-9 – that form you sign when you start a new job. It requires you to provide your social security card, passport or other items showing proof you can work in the United States. But the system doesn’t always work.

At the Harlem YMCA’s New Americans Welcome Center, immigrants study English to improve their language skills and job prospects.

48-year-old Lamine Kaba sits at the back of the classroom. He’s eligible to work now, but when he first came to New York from Guinea seventeen years ago, he didn’t have the right to work. So he found jobs with employers who didn’t require an I-9. And that’s how he was able to earn money. Under the table.

“My first five to six years here, I don’t have no papers…and I know a lot of people in the same position I was on before,” Kaba said.

Many immigrants get their first jobs with employers who aren’t strict about documentation. Kaba says that isn’t surprising because finding work is a matter of life or death.

“When the people don’t have paper, you have to do something to survive,” he said.

But even when people do present the work authorization papers, the system doesn’t always work. That’s according to Andrea Callan, an immigration advocate at the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“Because people have very real looking and legitimate fraudulent documents, they may be real issued social security numbers but applied to a different person,” she said.

The White House’s proposal would no longer leave it to employers to eyeball paperwork. Instead, employers would refer to a computer database.

A system like this already exists. Federal contractors have to use it, and a few states require it as well. It’s called E-Verify. But it’s no panacea. The Libertarian Cato Institute studied Arizona’s E-Verify system in 2010. It found that more than half of undocumented workers put through it weren’t caught because of these fake papers.

The NYCLU’s Callan says that expanding E-verify nationally probably won’t be any better.

“We continue to change these employment verification procedures, and how people will circumvent them will also continue to change as long as there is demand for these jobs in our economy,” she said.

Employers aren’t fans of E-Verify either. Tom Minnick, a human resources director at the New York State Chamber of Commerce, says E-Verify is inefficient.

“It’s a very, very significant piece of time and expense, going back to correct and re-verify — frankly, an expense of time and money that employers in general are not yet ready to commit to,” he said.

Immigration experts suspect that if an electronic system like E-Verify became nationally mandated, the underground economy for immigrants might just get a boost.

Posted in Featured, The Globe0 Comments