BUFFALO Jorge Montalvo, director of the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA), recently visited the ONA Opportunity Center in Buffalo, located within the Immigration and Refugee Assistance Program of Catholic Charities at 228 Albany St.
Montalvo thanked staff, toured the center and briefed reporters on the work of the Office for New Americans, the first statewide office with a sole focus to assist New York State's immigrants in their efforts to contribute to the economy and become a part of the family of New York. He also sat in on an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class, introduced himself to each student and participated in activities with them.
Montalvo talked about the program's creation and the misconceptions some people have about immigrants.
He said, "We needed to, as the progressive capital of the nation, really show how you embrace people. It's our heritage, our history as a country and especially as New York state. I think sometimes folks have the preconceived notion that immigrants don't want to be a part of the community; they want to be here. What they need is that little help to learn the language, so then they can get that job. They want their community to succeed, they want their state to succeed, and as they succeed, the state does succeed."
Among those who shared the local center's progress with the ONA director were Dennis C. Walczyk, Catholic Charities chief executive officer, and Ann H. Brittain, Immigration and Refugee Assistance program director at Catholic Charities.
Walczyk said, "As an agency that has welcomed and resettled tens of thousands of immigrants and refugees through the years here in Buffalo since Catholic Charities was founded in 1923, joining in this endeavor by the State to enhance and encourage success by our newest Americans is a natural fit."
ONA was unveiled by Governor Cuomo this past March. The Opportunity Center in Buffalo is one of 27 neighborhood centers established across New York State designed to help New Americans in the area learn English, prepare them for the U.S. citizenship exam, and help them start and grow businesses so they can fully participate in Buffalo's civic and economic life and support their local community.
In a few short months, Opportunity Center at Catholic Charities conducted three naturalization workshops, provided visits for 31 clients with an Office for New Americans attorney, enrolled more than 200 clients in ESOL classes, and assisted with the completion of 189 forms related to citizenship or naturalization.
The New York State Office for New Americans, a network of 27 neighborhood-based Opportunity Centers throughout the State, is supported by the New York State New Americans hotline, a toll-free, multi-lingual information center, as well as by an ONA-dedicated website to guide New Americans to available resources. The hotline number is 800-566-7636 and the website is www.newamericans.ny.gov.
Catholic Charities' Immigration and Refugee Assistance Program has been serving Western New York's immigrant and refugee populations since Catholic Charities was founded in 1923. Catholic Charities is the most comprehensive human service provider serving more than 130,000 people in all eight counties of Western New York, with 70 programs and 61 locations. We receive highest ratings for quality of service and financial health/accountability as rated, respectively, by the Council on Accreditation and Charity Navigator. For more information, go to ccwny.org.