Immigration Advocacy Group Endorses El-Yateem Without Interviewing Tong

When it comes to endorsements for local city council races, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) apparently missed the boat on their stated values of inclusiveness, representation, fairness, justness, accountability and trustfulness.

Pastor Khader El-Yateem

That after someone from the organization leaked to one media outlet that they endorsed Palestinian- American Pastor Khader El-Yateeem for the 43rd District City Council seat without so much as calling, let alone interviewing any of the other candidates, including Chinese/Asian-American immigrant Nancy Tong, who is also running for the seat.

According to a May 12 story in the Observer, The New York State Immigrant Action Fund—the political arm of the NYIC, an immigrant advocacy group endorsed El-Khateem, the first Palestinian-American Christian to ever run for the City Council, for term-limited City Councilman Vincent Gentile’s seat.

“Immigrant Action is dedicated to supporting candidates and elected officials who will fight for immigrant communities and support humane immigrant policies,” Steve Choi, executive director of Immigrant Action, said in a statement, according to the story.

The news of the endorsement came as a surprise to Tong, who is part of the very large and growing Chinese-American immigrant population in South Brooklyn. Tong is also the local Democratic District leader in a demographic, that despite its numbers, has no legislative elected office representative that looks like them or speaks their language.

“They (NYIC) didn’t call me or interview me, but whatever they want to do is fine. I’m not looking for fame. I only want to service the community,” said Tong, who has spent over 20 years, first as a volunteer and later as a part-time worker in Assemblyman Bill Colton’s office working with many Chinese, Russian and Arab immigrants navigating the American social services and legal system.

Republican candidate Liam McCabe also said the organization did not contact him, despite the fact that helping immigrnats in the district become American citizens was the majority of his job when he worked for Congressman Dan Donovan and former Congressman Michael Grimm.

“Nobody has helped immigrants in this district become American citizens more than me,” said McCabe. “In fact when Pastor El-Yateem and Justin Brannan (another Democratic candidate, who works in Gentile’s office) could not get the job done, they called me.”

NYIC spokesperson Siobhan Dingwall confirmed no press release went out on the endorsement. Neither she nor Choi responded to questions on why no other candidates were interviewed and on how the process went regarding El-Yateem’s endorsement. They also did not answer questions regarding their support or lack thereof for the thousands of Chinese-Americans in Southern Brooklyn that have no elected representation from one of their own in government.

Linda Sarsour

The Observer story did make note that El-Yateem recently came out in support of the controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to isolate Israel from the international community over its policies in the disputed Palestinian/Israeli territories.

The NYIC website lists Palestinian-American radical Linda Sarsour as a board member. Sarsour, a shrewd and respected political operator, is getting increasingly successful in linking pro-Palestinian views in context of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict with the city and nation’s left-leaning progressive agenda.

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