Richards launches Immigrant Welcome Center

Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards (fourth from left) at ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Office of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards

Flanked by elected officials, advocates and leading immigration service providers, Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards, Jr. on Tuesday, June 15 cut the ribbon for Queens Borough Hall’s new Immigrant Welcome Center.

“There’s a reason why we’re called ‘The World’s Borough.’ Every day, families from all corners of the globe come here to Queens to start businesses in our neighborhoods, send their children to our schools and be integral parts of our thriving communities,” Richards said.

“We could not be prouder to open the first-ever Immigrant Welcome Center at Queens Borough Hall to better serve our immigrant families and provide a vast array of critical services,” he added.

Richards said more than one-third of New York City’s three million immigrants reside in Queens, with nearly 50 percent of the borough’s 2.4 million residents born abroad.

Beginning with the Jun. 15 “soft launch” of the Immigrant Welcome Center and continuing into the future as capacity and the variety of available services expands, Richards said families contacting or visiting Queens Borough Hall will be connected with comprehensive, multilingual services, such as legal assistance and referrals to community-based organizations and city services.

The Immigrant Welcome Center will be staffed by a full-time coordinator.

Richards said the coordinator and his director of immigrant affairs — both of whom are immigrants themselves and as fluent in Mandarin and Spanish, respectively — will assist in case management.

CUNY Citizenship Now!, the largest university legal assistance program in the nation providing free and confidential citizenship and immigration law services, will partner with the Queens Borough President’s Office to help assist with legal consultations.

Additional partnerships with other service providers, as well as city and state agencies, are expected as the center’s operations expand in the future, Richards said.

Coinciding with the “soft launch” of the center is the Queens Borough President’s Office’s first-ever language access phone line.

Non-English speakers calling the office in search of services facilitated by the center will be simultaneously connected to an office staff member and a third-party translator, “breaking down any potential language barriers between the staff member and the caller,” Richards said.

“We applaud Borough President Richards for his commitment and efforts to create an Immigrant Welcome Center, bringing much needed services to Queens’ immigrants,” said CUNY Citizenship Now! Director Allan Wernick. “We are pleased that CUNY Citizenship Now! will be providing free, high-quality immigration assistance at the center.”

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Deputy Commissioner, May Malik said “immigrant New Yorkers have been resilient leaders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be key to New York City’s recovery.

“As we celebrate their contributions this Immigrant Heritage Month, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is thrilled by the opening of the Queens Borough President’s Immigrant Welcome Center, a resource that will help address needs within immigrant communities,” Malik said. “By focusing on language access and connecting visitors to city and community-based programs, the center signals that further supporting our immigrant neighbors is critical to the city’s future. We look forward to partnering with the Center to empower and advocate for immigrant communities across Queens.”

Open on weekdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, the Immigrant Welcome Center can be contacted via phone at 718-286-0644 and via email at [email protected] In-person visits are by appointment only.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Immigrant Welcome Center is currently not accepting walk-ins.

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