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Immigration discussed at SUNY Old Westbury

Jorge Alberto Ruiz (left), Horlin Bonilla, Francisco Varga,

Jorge Alberto Ruiz (left), Horlin Bonilla, Francisco Varga, along with, Omar Angel Perez, Executive Director, and Edwin Castillo talk at the The Workplace Project located in Hempstead. (April 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Suffolk County Legis. Vivian Viloria-Fisher remembered the young woman well.

They had met at a TV studio after the young woman had gone through a vocational training course. She confided that she could not attain licensure for work because she was an illegal immigrant.

Viloria-Fisher described the federal policy on immigrant students as a "miscarriage of justice."

Omar Angel Perez, executive director of a Latino-focused community organization in Hempstead, The Workplace Project, said Long Island needs comprehensive immigration policy reform, especially for the next generation. "It's huge -- they are going to be the future of the economy."

Perez and Viloria-Fisher were among the advocates, government officials and industry leaders who debated the New York State DREAM Act and visa reform issues Friday at an immigration conference at SUNY Old Westbury.

About 60 people attended the daylong Long Island Regional Immigrant Summit, a joint initiative of Long Island Wins and the Long Island Immigrant Alliance. Maryann Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, said she designed the event to spread more awareness about immigration issues and produce concrete results.

"We recognized immigration as closely tied to the economy, sustainability and prosperity of Long Island," she said.

Summit participants focused on two major topics: implementing the state DREAM Act, which provides financial assistance to immigrant children; and visa reform that would allow agriculture workers to travel freely to their home countries.

In his keynote address, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman described the national policy as dysfunctional and said immigration policies should be addressed at the state and local levels.

Last month, he filed an amicus brief with 11 other state attorneys general to oppose the controversial Arizona SB 1070 immigration laws that let law enforcement officials retain suspected undocumented immigrants until they can prove they have legal paperwork.

"Ours is a system that only functions if everyone understands that everyone has rights," Schneiderman said.

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