FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2017
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During Immigrant Heritage Week, City recognizes IRAP's pro-bono legal work and Yemeni American Merchants Association organizing and advocacy
NEW YORK—On Friday, April 21, coinciding with the 14th annual Immigrant Heritage Week, Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs presented certificates of recognition to the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and the Yemeni American Merchants Association. Joined by Senior Advisor Sarah Sayeed of the Mayor's Community Affairs Unit, the ceremony took place in the Governor's Room at City Hall. Commissioner Agarwal spoke about the critical and immediate pro-bono legal assistance IRAP offered to people affected by the travel ban at John F. Kennedy Airport. In acceptance of the certificate, Becca Heller, Director and co-Founder of IRAP, thanked the Mayor's Office for their recognition of IRAP and the work of local community-based organizations in New York City. Commissioner Agarwal also praised the Yemeni American Merchants Association successful effort to organize the mass Yemeni bodega strike in the days after the travel ban. On behalf of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, Dr. Debbie Almontaser thanked Mayor de Blasio for recognizing their work and spoke about how important the strike was in the history of Yemeni Americans in New York City, organizing as one community to use their economic and civic power to affect change. Also representing the Yemeni American Merchants Association, Zaid Naji thanked the Mayor for his support of the Yemeni community and recognized how important it was that the Yemeni American community was fully and collectively engaged in the strike.
"Immigrant Heritage Week is about upholding our values as an inclusive and welcoming city of immigrants. This message is especially important today, as many immigrant communities face increased attacks on their character and their contributions to this country. In NYC, we know how essential our immigrant communities are to our collective success," said Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal. "IRAP and the Yemeni American Merchant's Association exemplify the advocacy we must do on behalf of and with our immigrant communities in this difficult and uncertain political climate. In the immediate aftermath of the President's first travel ban, IRAP was on-the-ground providing essential legal support to those who were unable to enter the country they call home, or welcome their loved ones to the U.S. On February 2nd, the Yemeni American Merchants Association made their contributions to this economy very clear by closing their stores and shedding light on immigrants' critical contributions to our local and national economy. I could not be more proud to stand with these organizations during Immigrant Heritage Week to affirm that immigrant New Yorkers are valuable members of our city, and they are here to stay."
"IRAP is honored to receive this award, particularly side by side with the Yemeni American Merchant Association, organizers of the bodega strike, in honor of the work that so many diverse coalitions did together to fight the Muslim ban," said Becca Heller, Director and co-Founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project. "We are grateful to the Mayor's office for all their support and we are proud to be residents of New York City."
"As a member of the Yemeni bodega strike collective, I am so proud to receive this certificate of recognition, in recognition of our historical bodega strike and rally on February 2," said Dr. Debbie Almontaser, co-Founder of the Yemeni American Merchants Association. "Once again, Mayor de Blasio truly emulates the values of inclusiveness where everyone is welcome here."