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5:27 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

NY Office for New Americans Opens Center In Rochester

Credit New York State Office for New Americans

Rochester is part of a network of 27 communities across New York helping immigrants and refugees to contribute to the state's economy and become a part of the "family of New York".

Governor Cuomo launched the Office for New Americans Monday to help newcomers learn the English language, prep for the citizenship exam as well as harnessing their entrepreneurial spirit to start and grow businesses. According to the Governor's Office, 29% of small businesses in New York are owned by people born in other counties.

"One of the stories of the American immigrant journey is they come here to rebuild cities,"says Jim Morris, the director of refugee, immigration, language services at the Family Catholic Center. "They rebuilt it through their spirit of being an entrepreneur and starting small business, markets, shops. We want to foster that."

The local hub, funded through a state grant, is called the Rochester Collaborative for New Americans. It's a partnership between the Catholic Family Center, Somali Community center of Western, New York and the Rochester Public Library.

Morris says up to 750 refugees are coming into the Rochester community every year.

"There's sort of a gap here in Rochester,"Morris says. "We don't have too many immigration assistance services here. English language services are something we're always in need of. So these are important services."

Morris says the Public Library and the Somali Center are providing English Language services for immigrants. The Catholic Family Center is helping with consultations and the neutralization process - the process by which eligible permanent residents apply for citizenship.

"We can answer some of their questions for any new sort of laws that are devised by the federal government," Morris says.

The Rochester Collaborative for New Americans also encourages legal immigrants to engage in civic and economic opportunities in their communities.

The program began offering services at the beginning of the year.

Offices for New Americans are also in Buffalo and Syracuse.