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Three major city groups will honor immigration advocates for their contributions -NY Daily News

Albor Ruiz – Ny Local

Sunday, November 22nd 2009, 4:00 AM

This year Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, comes early in New York, the quintessential immigrant city.

Monday, the American Jewish Committee joins the New York Immigration Coalition and the New York Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform to honor the many contributions of immigrants to the city and to the nation.

“As we approach Thanksgiving, we have to commit ourselves to make America better,” said Diane Steinman, director of the American Jewish Committee and co-chairwoman of the state Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform.

“[That’s why] we support immigration reform that keeps families together and enables 12 million people to come out of the shadows while at the same time addressing America’s security needs. And that’s what we are coming together to do on Nov. 23.”

It is a tall order, but a worthy one.

Just last Thursday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) – two of the most rabidly anti-immigration members of Congress – joined forces with the controversial Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA to demand hard-line action against undocumented immigrants.

It was part of a recent pattern of increased efforts by the anti-immigration crowd to prevent the passing of a fair and humane immigration law. The reason, says Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-reform America’s Voice, is these groups are worried that comprehensive immigration reform appears to be gaining momentum.

“Americans support immigration reform that will strengthen the rule of law, create more taxpayers, replace ineffective enforcement strategies with smart and effective policies, and level the playing field for all,” Sharry said.

For Steinman, the immigration crisis needs to be resolved not only for the practical reasons Sharry enumerated, but for much more profound ethical ones.

“We must work together to fix America’s moral compass,” Steinman said. “We must fix immigration and celebrate the contributions of those who work for their communities and the city at large.”

The contributions of the City University of New York Citizenship and Immigration Project headed by Allan Wernick, a Daily News columnist, will be honored.

“CUNY and its Citizenship and Immigration Project are being recognized because they have been very successful in educating and empowering immigrant and other diverse communities,” Steinman said.

Elected officials committed to help make comprehensive reform the law of the land will also be celebrated. Among them are city Controller-elect John Liu as well as Council members-elect Margaret Chin (D-Flushing) and Ydanis Rodríguez (D-Washington Heights).

Also honored at the event will be Sen.Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Yvette Clark, Charles Rangel, and Nydia Velázquez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“The CHC and its allies are working to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform finally becomes a reality,” Velázquez said. “We have a President who, I think, understands that. We have Democratic majorities in the Congress, and we have a few Republicans who want to work with us to get this done.”

The event at the New York Historical Society in Manhattan also will mark the beginning of a holiday postcard campaign to rally support for comprehensive immigration reform and encourage Congress to pass legislation in early 2010.