Manchester Interfaith Council welcomes speaker on Immigration

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MANCHESTER — Immigration is a divisive issue nationally, but few are aware of the struggles faced by immigrant workers in our area.

Manchester's Interfaith Council will address local connections to immigration issues at an event on Oct. 10 featuring social worker and photographer Lisa Catalfimo.

"Most people don't know about these folks, or know the difficulty of living here as an immigrant with or without a visa," said organizer Sarah Rath, who is active in a group assisting immigrant workers in both New York and Vermont alongside Catalfimo. "There are a lot more people living and working in both Vermont and New York than most people would imagine."

In her talk, to be held at Manchester's First Congregational Church at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10, Catalfimo will discuss the issues surrounding undocumented workers and share stories of their experiences, contributions, and problems.

"She's very plugged into the immigrant community in the Hudson Falls area," said Rath. "There are families whose kids were born here, who have been here 10 or 15 years, and they have few resources to call on should they have an issue or get checked on by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]."

The informal group, primarily consisting of Spanish teachers and social workers, collaborates to support local immigrant communities in a variety of ways. One of the group's largest initiatives is to provide more English language instruction and classes in the areas where they work.

Catalfimo's presentation will be based off of intensive study and personal experience, as she has been involved with immigration issues for the past 20 years. Through her photography, Catalfimo hopes to shed light on the hidden lives of area immigrants working on farms, in quarries, and in restaraunts within our local economy.

"People should come with a lot of questions, and hopefully they can learn something about immigration rules," said Rath. "We don't have all of the answers, but we've learned a lot about the system and the need for reform in immigration law."

According to Rath, there are some rampant misconceptions about the reality of immigration that the group hopes to address.

"People are under the impression that they should just go home and wait, but that virtually doesn't work for anyone from Mexico," said Rath. "Most of these folks are either Mexican or Guatemalan, and there are really no legal venues for them to come to the United States for a full-time job."

Organizers hope that the discussion can shed some light on the risks that immigrant workers and their families face. The Interfaith Council also hopes to host another immigration presentation in the near future, focusing on the repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.)

"We want to inform people and encourage people to participate in helping if they're interested," said Rath. "People need to be contacting their Representatives in Congress, that's the only way things are going to change."

Catalfimo's talk is free and open to the public, and will be hosted by the Interfaith Council on October 10 at 7 p.m. in Manchester's First Congregational Church.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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