A new county commission will work to bridge the gap that can often exist for new immigrants, especially those who are learning English, as they adjust to life in their new country.

The Bucks County commissioners created a New American Advisory Commission on Wednesday and established its bylaws and named founding members during their meeting in the county administration building Wednesday.

Dr. Umar Farooq, a specialist in internal medicine with Knights Medical Associates in Bensalem, will serve as chairman. He immigrated to the United States in 1991 from Pakistan and started his medical practice in 1999.

Farooq thanked the board for his appointment. He said the mission of the commission is to “build bridges between the communities…being part of civic engagement, advising new immigrants on the path to success and guiding them in this land of opportunity.”

He said the commission wanted to “enhance interracial and inter-ethnic dialog” as well as to help immigrants address their education, economic, health and legal concerns and to ease their way to citizenship.

Commissioner Bob Harvie said the county has several commissions of volunteers who help county officials know about different issues but didn’t have its ear to the ground when it came to concerns for “people who are first and second-generation immigrants.”

He said the county wanted to make sure it was hearing of their needs so his administrative assistant Stephen Seufert worked on establishing the commission with the help of solicitor Joseph Khan. In addition to new immigrants, they included members of organizations that seek to help those communities.

Other new commission members are

  • Stephanie A. Gonzalez Ferrandez of Bensalem, a family law attorney and member of the Bensalem School Board who has worked with immigrant communities for 25 years;.
  • Lois Heist of Lower Makefield, a board member and English instructor for Welcoming the Stranger, a Langhorne nonprofit offering free English, computer and citizenship preparation classes for area immigrants and refugees;.
  • Razin Karu of Bensalem, former student body president and Muslim Students Association president of Bucks County Community College and current Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for ICNA Relief USA;
  • Eugene Potakh, of Lower Southampton, a Ukraine-born consultant and senior programmer for New York Technology Partners;
  • Patrice Tisdale, of Warrington, an attorney and co-chair of the Criminal Justice and Education Committee of the Bucks County NAACP;
  • Duke Wu, of Northampton, a Temple University business student;
  • Seufert, who will serve as the county commissioners’ representative on the board.

While it currently has eight members, its bylaws allow for up to 15 members and seeks appointments with a preference for racial and ethnic diversity “with an emphasis on immigrants and first- and second-generation Americans, preferably from communities that have historically been marginalized or underserved by county government,” said county spokesman Larry King.

It also strives to include members with diverse career experiences.  All are appointed for four-year terms.

Article Courtesy: buckscountycouriertimes.com

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