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Welcoming Week Puts Immigration Politics on Back Burner

This is National Welcoming Week. In Suffolk County it will be celebrated today at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Itís aimed at bringing native-born New Yorkers and recent immigrants closer together. Courtesy Suffolk County.
This is National Welcoming Week. In Suffolk County it will be celebrated today at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Itís aimed at bringing native-born New Yorkers and recent immigrants closer together. Courtesy Suffolk County.
September 19, 2013

HAUPPAGE, N.Y. - Several new projects for Suffolk County communities are being unveiled as Welcoming Long Island celebrates the second annual National Welcoming Week on Thursday in the county seat. The week has the goal of making meaningful connections and a spirit of unity between U.S.- and foreign-born Americans.

Hendel Leiva, one of the organizers, said they will turn away from the immigration-reform effort - temporarily slowed in Washington - for a day, at least.

"I believe because the welcoming initiative doesn't focus on the politics around immigration and simply focuses around building stronger communities," Leiva said. "That's the positive part of it."

Leiva and other area advocates said they are glad that County Executive Steve Bellone embraced the Welcoming Week last year and has done so again this year, something that would not have been likely under previous administrations.

A couple of initiatives will be launched, Leiva said. One includes a documentary film, "I Learn America," about New York students adjusting to their new homeland. In the other, people share their family stories online.

"Once you create and share your story, it will plot your story on a timeline," Leiva noted, "and you can see it play out like a movie."

All of this is not just for recent immigrants, Leiva emphasized. He said it is aimed at involving native-born New Yorkers, as well.

"It's all about the human experience - just getting to know one another on a personal basis and developing strong communities in that regard," he explained.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY