Changing The Debate On Immigration, Starting In Westchester

Mount Kisco-based Neighbors Link hosts two media figures who want to bring a more personal focus to ongoing immigration issues.

A large audience came out for ‘Women, the Immigrant Experience, and the Media’, an event funded by The Friends of Neighbors Link to discuss immigration, the media, and the relationship between the two and why it needs to change.

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The event, which took place on October 8 at the Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, was led by Barbara Fedida, the senior vice president for talent and business at ABC news and Alicia Menendez, anchor of Alicia Menendez Tonight on the Hispanic and Latino-centered news, satire, and pop culture network Fusion.

“We need to be honest in that we are all touched by a broken immigration system… we see immigration as an American issue,” Fedida said. Menendez said that many people focus on the immigrant experience with a deteched perspective, not realizing that they might know people who are undocumented. Menendez, who grew up in the very densely populated Union City, NJ, did not realize that outside of her immigrant-friendly community, there were many people who did not feel the same.

“It had never occurred to me that there were negative portrayals of immigrants in the world, in media worldwide,” she said.

Both she and Fedida are using their media platforms to explore the current state of immigration and how people can understand the issue—one often discussed using an impersonal angle relying statistics and policy analyses—with a humanistic approach.

“Once you tell a story about a person, it is better than telling a story about an issue,” Fedida said.

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The goal of the luncheon was to get people talking about immigration using more personal terms instead of dehumanizing immigrants who are now more than ever seeking refugee from violence in their home countries—according to the UN, new asylum applications from countries like Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and others have risen over 700% since 2009. Menendez and Fedida said they hoped American immigration reform would happen sooner rather than later, and that the conversation would shift into a more positive light.

The presentation was hosted by Neighbors Link, a not-for-profit whose mission is to “strengthen the whole community by actively enhancing the healthy integration of immigrants.” The organization provides English classes and various other classes to teach immigrant effective ways to get involved in their communities and with their children’s schools.

Alicia Menendez, left, and Barbara Fedida are using media platforms to bring a humanistic approach to the immigration debate.

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