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Queens Business Owner Worries About Short-Term Impacts Of Immigration Bill

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TWC News: Queens Business Owner Worries About Short-Term Impacts Of Immigration Bill
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Immigration advocates praised the Senate's passage of an immigration bill Thursday, but some called the legislation imperfect. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.

One area of Queens is referred to as a gateway to Jackson Heights and its south Asian immigrants.

"This is basically a living United Nations in New York," said Pakistani-American Agha Saleh, who wants to turn what he calls Diversity Plaza into a mini-Times Square. He hopes a path to citizenship helps.

"They would be paying taxes," he said.

He runs a business on the block that's he says is a cross between a copy center and a nonprofit, providing office support for people new to the country.

"We help students from these immigrant families, those who cannot afford to have computers in their homes," he said.

Saleh worries, though, that so many of them are taken advantage of by employers who overwork them.

"It is a kind of a slavery, modern slavery," he said.

They live in the shadows. He said they have no escape.

"I see these people every day," he said. "My hearts go bleed, what else I can do."

He thinks the immigration reform bill could actually make their struggle even worse in the short term. It would require that businesses check on the legal status of prospective employees and would be phased in over four years.

"It would be a very catastrophic situation, to be very honest, because when they need to look into the documented workers to hire and they have to lay off the people, at least they are bringing bread and butter to their families," he said.

Long-term of course he knows it would provide a path to citizenship for those people, and they could eventually even be better off.

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