Guyanese discuss immigration, food insecurity

Consul General of Guyana to New York, Barbara Atherly.   Guyana Consulate
Consul General of Guyana to New York, Barbara Atherly.
Guyana Consulate

The Consulate General of Guyana, New York and Guyanese in the Diaspora Inc. (GID) combined the services of experts to expedite information and resources needed in the Guyanese communities to help expatriates cope, amid these challenging times of the coronavirus pandemic.

The first, in a series of forum was held on May 15, via a virtual platform to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on immigration and food insecurity in the Guyanese community in New York city.

Senior Advisor for Legal Initiatives NYC Mayor’s office, Attorney, Yasmine Farhang, gave a comprehensive report on the services available to residents in many languages available on the Mayor’s office website.

She said one of the greatest concerns was the Public Charge Rule.  The Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs, (MOIA) and its shared programs regarding COVID-19 testing and treatment will not make anyone seeking these services a public charge.

Immigration is the biggest issue, especially for undocumented immigrants. The policy, however says migrants should not fear seeking healthcare during this time and all immigrants should be able to access emergency medical services.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should suspend all immigration enforcement actions near hospitals and other healthcare facilities, according to MOIA. A pull-down menu with all relevant information could be found on this website

According to Immigration Attorney, Melnia Cordis, minor immigration violations are not a priority for ICE. She advised on the options students, visitors and other visa holders have for renewal fees and all related documentation, needed during this COVID-19 crisis. Further information is accessible via the USCIS website

Rohan Narine, senior community liaison at the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, shared links to NYC Well available by Call, Text, & Chat. Trained counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in more than 200 languages via by calling: 1888-692-9355 or Text: “Well” to 65173

Three meals a day are available at 400 meal hubs citywide. They operate Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 11:30 am for children and families, and from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm for adults, in addition to services that are found by logging on to or text Food to 877-877.

New York State Senator Roxanne Persaud who represents the 19th Senate District in Brooklyn, home to a large Guyanese population, created feeding programs during the COVID-19 crisis, which she said has magnified food insecurity. “Families are desperately in need. The elderly, who are accustomed to going to senior centers for a daily meal, are not able to do so.”

Guyanese-born Persaud has partnered with non-profits and city and state organizations to feed constituents, and helped many others to qualify for SNAP benefits. She also shared 400 meals in NYCHA developments, 19 of which she represents.

Calvary’s Mission Food pantry in Richmond Hill has been feeding approximately 1500 families weekly. Founder, Tony Singh said the struggles of undocumented immigrant families have become more difficult since they do not qualify for government benefits.

The pantry is expected to share an estimated 3.7 million pounds of food this year since more people are joining the food line due to the Pandemic. Food comes from the New York Food Bank, and private donors. The pantry also delivers food packages to homebound seniors.

Consul General Barbara Atherly said the diplomatic office suspended all in-person services since mid-March in accordance with the order in effect that requires all non-essential workers to work from home, and called on Guyanese to adhere to mandates that would keep them safe.

She thanked expats for their understanding during the lockdown, noting that the consulate continues to monitor the situation and will be guided by officials of the State for safely reopening operations.

The Consulate remains accessible by social media, and telephone, she said, adding that it is absolutely important for persons to practice social distances, as the city continues its fight against COVID-19.

Ambassador Riyad Insanally thanked (GID), and CG Atherly for hosting the forum, noting that the attendance was testimony of the impact the crisis had on the community.

“I hope this pandemic is over soon. I miss seeing my people, and having human contact,” said the diplomat, who expressed condolences to families who lost loved ones to the virus.

Karen Wharton moderated the forum with Jonathon Locke, while Rev. Carl Stuart, Arsalan Mohamed, and Pratima Doobay, blessed the gathering.

Some of those in attendance, were Antoine Craigwell, Michelle Nicholas, Lorraine Croft-Farnell, Usha Raghunath, Rob Bobb-Semple, Dr. Terrance Blackman. Lourdeth Ferguson issued the vote of thanks.

Visit the Guyana Consulate Facebook page for more information.

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