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A Foreign Land

Rosaura first moved to the United States 29 years ago with a visa and a desire to study English. Leaving her home in the Dominican Republic, Rosaura worked in sewing factories and restaurants, eventually settling into a job in real estate. She married, raised two teenage daughters, divorced her husband, suffered through depression, found strength in her church, and built a life in a new land like many others before her. “This is my home, my children are here,” said Rosaura,48, through a translator. “That is where I came from.” Though the ups and downs of Rosaura’s story sounds similar to many American ones, the difference resides in her immigration status. For many of her 29 years in America, Fernandez has lived here illegally. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, there are an estimated 13 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. The 2010 Census pegged the foreign-born population at just under 40 million people. For roughly 53 million of the people living in the United States, the struggles of daily life are compounded by the difficulties a foreign land presents, leaving many at risk of predators and struggles that typical Americans will never face. In August 2011, the Corona-based advocacy group Make the Road NY released a report detailing a rising level of rent fraud affecting New York’s immigrant population. For many immigrants, housing costs take up a significant portion of income generated through already low wages. In a random survey of rent-stabilized apartments, the report indicated that 65 percent of apartments had at least one type of irregularity in the rental history. “This is a pattern that we have in many buildings here,” said Angel Vera, the Senior Environmental and Housing Justice Organizer for Make the Road NY. In New York, the Department of Housing and Community Renewal handles housing complaints. However, for immigrants lacking English proficiency the bureaucracy of the DHCR leaves many of them helpless. Official correspondence for the DHCR is only in English and often times no one answers the Spanish language phone line, according to the MTRNY report. “The DHRC can be useless,” Vera said. The DHRC leaves many immigrants at the mercy of landlords that take advantage of their tenants. “A former landlord was very bad,” said Elena Barrera,35, a Corona resident. “Six months passed and nothing happened, nothing was fixed.” For Rosaura, the difficulties of immigrant life presented itself in a different manner. When she lost her social security card in 2002, the Social Security Administration asked her for documents from Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, a bitter ex of her then husband left her fearful that her immigration status could be in jeopardy. Instead, Rosaura began to use the social security number of a friend. Each paycheck taxes were taken out, but she never attempted to reclaim any taxes every April. The fear of being caught and deported left Rosaura in an emotional tailspin. She says she suffered through depression that affected her job, leaving her at one point living in a shelter with her two daughters. “It’s very depressing, “ said Rosaura. “You come across so many different people from the streets. You get treated like a reject.” Today, Rosaura lives in her own apartment, working in real estate to support herself. But, still...

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A Mama’s Special

Peppered ham. Salami. Handmade-fresh mozzarella. Roasted-red peppers and mushrooms marinated in olive oil. Italian bread. No lettuce. No tomato. No extravagance. A simple construction.   This is a Mama’s Special.   Outside the corner shop in Corona, cow-shaped neon signs illuminate the storefront windows. Inside a refrigerated case displays rows of prosciutto and capicola. Cured meats and cheese dangle enticingly overhead. Wooden barrels filled with olives soaking in brine line the floors. Behind the counter, women in white shirts and blue aprons greet customers with friendly smiles.  Several pictures of celebrities and sports stars adorn on the walls. In the corner, a table with a photo of Nancy DeBenedittis, affectionately known as “Mama.”   This is Mama’s of Corona.   “Manhattan is a great town, but this here is New York,” said Anthony Yagovanie, 50, a limo driver from Connecticut, ferrying his passengers to the airport. “I bring them here once, they try the food, then they find Corona on their own.”   Once a stronghold for Italian immigrants, Corona now boasts a predominantly Latino population, according to the latest census numbers. Within the evolving neighborhood, Mama’s of Corona stands as an anchor to a bygone era, expanding with the growing population, yet holding onto the simple traditions that allowed the store to thrive even in these harsh economic times.   “[Corona] used to be very Italian, now it’s very mixed, a good mix,” said Irene DeBeneditti, one of the owners. “The Italians families used to cook a lot at home, then they started to move away. Now we make a lot more sandwiches.”   Opened in the 1930s, Leo’s Latticini (Italian for dairy), as it is officially known, started as a tiny cheese shop on 104th Street near 46th Avenue. Nancy DeBendittis, mother of current owners Irene and Marie DeBenedittis and Carmela Lamorgese, took over the store when her parents retired. Affectionately known as “Mama,” she held court at a small table inside the store, watching the business expand to include a bakery, a pasta shop, and the two outlets at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, until her passing in 2009.   Over the past few generations, Corona experienced an influx of Latino immigrants. Just blocks from the deli, the 7 train runs over a busy stretch of Roosevelt Ave, where most shops print their signs in Spanish. Mama’s Way, as the City of New York officially renamed it on July 31, 2011, remains a quiet enclave, with the Italy’s tri-colors painted on the street’s fire hydrants and telephone poles beside the store.   “When I came here 13 years ago,” said Scott C. Silver, an animal curator at the Queen’s Zoo. “ I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice Italian deli in an old-fashioned neighborhood.”   After ordering one of the specials of the day or a plate of raviolis and meatballs, customers take their food two doors down to the bakery. The smells of baking cookies mix with the aroma of freshly ground espresso. Opposite the cases of rainbow cookies and linzer tarts, tables and chairs for the deli line the walls. Out the back door, Mama’s backyard, a courtyard with wrought-iron furniture and a working fountain at its center, let families and workers enjoy the filling portions on sunny days....

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Ginger Love Dampens In Tough Economy

Ginger Love Dampens In Tough Economy

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s jobs speech, many Americans face grim prospects in the employment market. Last month’s labor statistics showed an unchanged unemployment rate of 9.1%. A poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal indicated the current recession left a greater impact than the 9/11 terrorist attacks or America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Minorities, in particular, suffer more so through the current economic conditions. One particular group, gingers, make up approximately 1% – 2% of the population, leaving them an even smaller minority than the unemployed. A study confirmed that redheads feel more pain, thus leaving them more debilitated in today’s climate. Normally, the beacon of color atop a redhead, mixed with a pale, glowing complexion, would stand out from a crowd. But, a report from Orange County, CA (no pun intended) characterized one young man’s desperate attempt to get employers to notice his redheadedness. The Twitterverse highlights the exponential problems faced by the UV-sensitive group over other hair colors. Celebrity gingers failed to escape the wrath their average brethren burden. Iconic mascots, Ronald McDonald and Wendy, capture the economic trends against redheads. The Wendy’s brand features its auburn star prominently in its logo, while McDonald’s does not. Over the past five years, Wendy’s stock price lost 72%, while McDonald’s gained 112%, displaying a positive correlation between his absence and stock price gain. Ronald McDonald suffered more setbacks when a group of health professionals called for his retirement. In media, not even magic can save the most famous redheaded wizard. Despite being part of a billion dollar film project, Ron Weasley joins the unemployed ranks, as the end of the Harry Potter series arrived. Recently Sirius Satellite Radio launched Redheaded Radio: 100 Years of Lucile Ball, leaving, by some estimates, 2,999,999 to 5,999,999 redheads in America without a broadcast featuring them. One bright spot surround the rehiring of talk show host Conan O’Brien. However, considering his departure from the Tonight Show the year before, O’Brien’s net job growth over the past two years remained a defeated zero...

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