This month, all of us — every address in the country — will receive a letter about the 2020 census. We’ll be invited to fill in the census online, on a printed form, or by phone. The census asks who is in our households on April 1 and some basic information about each person. It does not ask for citizenship or immigration status.

Historically, a lot of people ignore the census. That’s unfortunate because it determines how our states and communities will receive federal funds for the next 10 years–money for hospitals, schools, roads, and more. In 2010, only 1.6 percent of preschoolers in Ulster County were counted. The result is that our local schools do not receive federal assistance for all the children they serve.

The census also affects legislative representation. It determines how many seats in Congress each state gets. And census results affect redistricting: if the response rate is low again this year, Congressional District 19 may be absorbed into adjacent districts.

Get help completing the census

The census is very important for immigrants. As a community and as a country with a growing Latinx population, it’s essential to have an accurate picture of who we are. Resources need to be shared fairly. So UIDN is partnering with other agencies including Rural & Migrant Ministry and Nobody Leaves MidHudson to provide information to immigrant families.

Participants can also learn about the census–what it is, why it’s important, and how the census bureau guarantees safety. Census responses submitted online are encrypted the moment they’re sent. They are inaccessible to anyone but the census department.

At UIDN’s April sharing day (where volunteers distribute food, clothing, and household goods) Spanish-speaking volunteers will be available to help families fill in and submit census forms. Families who submit responses in April can be confident that census takers will not knock on their doors in May.

The U.S. has counted its population this way every 10 years since 1790. Let’s all help each other be part of this year’s count! For additional information and resources visit English or Spanish. More than 50 other languages are available. (Editors note: as of June 6/21 these links are no longer working.)

Submitted by Jo Salas

Photo: U.S. Census Bureau

Click here to download the 2-page PDF below. One page is English, the other Spanish.


Card benefits:

  • show support for everyone who lives in town
  • enter any Onteora school to pick up their child
  • be seen at area hospitals and urgent care centers
  • enter government buildings and some private buildings
  • get a Woodstock Library card
  • report a crime or seek police assistance
  • cash a check
  • go to The Good Neighbor Food Pantry
  • retain proof of ID if their DACA status expires
                   More benefits to come!

How to get a Woodstock muni card:

  • go to the Town Clerk’s office, 45 Comeau Drive, 8 a.m to to 4 p.m., M-F (Spanish spoken.)
  • bring a valid federal, state, or foreign photo ID and two proofs of residency that includes name and address.
  • pay a processing fee of $10 for adults, $5 for 14–18 year-olds, veterans, the disabled, and seniors. The fee may be waived at the discretion of the town.

A Note on Privacy. The Town of Woodstock will retain residents’ names, card numbers, and signatures only. It will not save their address or any other identifying information.

by Marjorie Leopold

Every Wednesday 27 K-4 English Language Learners (ELLs) eagerly arrive in the Chambers Elementary School cafeteria for what they’ve dubbed “Fun Day.” The after-school program was started by UIDN and St. John’s Episcopal Church in cooperation with Chambers’ administrators and the support of the Kingston City Schools. We chose Chambers because it has a sizable population of  ELLs and no free after school option, unlike George Washington and Kennedy schools.

Our program is an “enriched” experience for the children because of the caring, commitment, and expertise of our volunteer tutors who include retired educators with backgrounds in literacy, special education, and art as well as high school seniors. Volunteers are genuinely interested in the well-being and growth of the children who, in turn, relish the attention they get from our volunteers. We strive to meet the children where they are as English-language learners and unique individuals. Tutors and children are forming bonds, and the children get along well.

 Storyteller Jill Olesker entertains children and volunteers at the after-school program’s holiday celebration.

We designed the program with specific goals in mind. Children are assigned to one of three groups based on their age and grade. Each group circulates through three structured experiences in different learning spaces designed to meet specific objectives:

  • Literacy activities for improving reading, writing, and overall academic growth;
  • Games and building activities, e.g., trains and Legos, for social and emotional learning; and
  • Creative expression activities such as art projects, salsa dancing, and improvisation.

The Wednesday program kicks off with healthy snacks followed by outdoor play. Karma, a gorgeous golden retriever therapy dog, comes to each “Fun Day,” thanks to his generous owner, one of our special educator volunteer tutors. Karma plays Frisbee with the children and rolls over to have his silky fur patted; he’s especially loving with children who need soothing.

When parents, aunts, and uncles arrive for pick up the children eagerly share their art projects or original writing, a book they read, or the game they mastered. Families know the program is designed especially with their children in mind. Our message is indisputable: we value you and your children, and we’re pleased you’re a part of this community.  Our smiles say it all.

Volunteers Needed

If you have experience and enjoy working with young children and would like to join a cooperative and creative team, please fill out a volunteer form. We know volunteers are busy people but hope you will commit at least one Wednesday a month, giving you and the children a chance to get to know one another. We will provide guidance and support with particular activities and children as needed.

The Kingston City Schools require volunteers to submit references. Both the school district and St. Johns Church recommend child safety training, which is available free from St. Johns. For details, email Michele Riddell at or text her 845-443-9821.

Marjorie Leopold is co-coordinator of UIDN’s Schools Outreach & Support Group and co-founder of the Chambers English Language Learners After-School Program. Get more school and education resources here.

Dear Friends,

Mario fled Guatemala two years ago seeking asylum.  Last year, when his wife and daughter tried to join him, they were sent first to a detention facility in Texas and then to one in Louisiana.  UIDN worked with their Texas-based attorney to have their petition for asylum transferred to New York, where we will see to it that they have appropriate legal representation.

UIDN provided the requisite sponsor and was ready to provide bond for their release. We purchased airlines tickets and on December 21 the family was reunited.  UIDN will continue to support them in their efforts to secure asylum.

During 2019, UIDN received nearly 400 requests for assistance including transportation and accompaniment for ICE appointments and court dates, assistance with housing and other basic needs, bond payments for release from detention to referrals for legal assistance, and more.

Monthly food and clothing giveaways are held by UIDN’s household support group, and whenever friends come to our office in need of food volunteers provide it. We have been actively engaged in creating a K-4 after-school program now serving 27 children at Kingston’s Chambers Elementary. In addition we host educational events and training and maintain a Rapid Response Team to document ICE activity in our communities.

While UIDN is the only all-volunteer provider of services to members of Kingston’s immigrant community, we work with other faith-based and secular community organizations whose primary focus is to effect policy changes (e.g., the Municipal ID and Green Light campaigns) so the system will be more user friendly for our immigrant neighbors. Beginning in December 2019, persons without documents will once again be able to apply for drivers’ permits and licenses.

Much has been done and much more needs to be done. As we move through winter, when temporary jobs become scarce, the cry for the relief of basic human needs becomes all the more intense, especially since non-citizens are not allowed to access many public assistance programs. It is only through your continuing contributions of time, talent, and treasure that UIDN is able to sustain its response to this local humanitarian crisis.  We have tasks to be filled with the talents that only you can supply.

When we pause as a people to consider all our blessings and our need to cultivate ever more grateful hearts, I hope that more of us will be moved to renew our giving, as we are able, to the good work of welcoming the stranger among us.

Please make checks payable to UIDN’s fiscal sponsor, Holy Cross Church; write UIDN on the check’s memo line and mail to Holy  Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church, 30 Pine Grove Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401*. And, while you’re here, please explore our new website to learn more about our workget involved as a volunteer, find resources for your immigrant friends and neighbors, and donate.

All the best for a loving 2020,

Father Frank Alagna for all of UIDN

*  In late 2020, UIDN received it’s own not-for-profit status, 501(c)(3) and no longer uses the church as it’s fiscal sponsor. Checks may be made to UIDN and contributions are tax deductible.

Packing groceries at weekly food market.

Photos from the top

Father Frank Alagna, a UIDN founder and a priest-in-charge at Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church, Kingston

Monthly UIDN food and clothing distribution, and

Chambers Elementary after-school program, holiday celebration featuring storyteller Jill Olesker

On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, the Woodstock Town Board unanimously approved a resolution to provide municipal ID cards to all Woodstock residents who want them. Although there are a handful of situations in which the cards are not accepted (e.g., they do not allow holders to a board plane), they are legally recognized official identification with wide application. Read more in the Woodstock Times.

Municipal IDs are particularly useful to undocumented immigrants, homeless people, and others who may not have a driver’s license or other official ID.  The Woodstock Town Board’s Human Rights Commission and Woodstock Immigration Support made the case for offering muni ID cards. Woodstock is the sixth Hudson Valley town to offer the cards, after Poughkeepsie, Middletown, Newburgh, Kingston, and Beacon (Spanish, English).

New Paltz, Nov. 2019

About 60 New Paltz residents—children, parents, and grandparents, immigrants from many countries as well as U.S.-born — gathered on a cold November night to share stories and a meal.

Organized by a committee of New Paltz UIDN volunteers, the event featured a performance by a bilingual team from Hudson River Playback Theatre led by UIDN member Jo Salas with the support of interpreter Gonzalo Quintana.

Guests of all ages shared personal experiences and watched their stories transformed into theatre and music– a good day at school, finding support after escaping political violence, taking pleasure in hard work.

A highlight was the story told by Luis Martinez about being detained for five months by ICE. Luis, now safe from arrest, spoke of the anxiety, confusion, and shame of this experience, a result of mistaken government information. He also spoke of the painful impact on his family, all of whom were present at the show.

Luis wrote afterwards: “I really appreciate [having] the opportunity to talk about my story. I could say more but it would take me forever. It was wonderful.”

Following the show, everyone sat down together to enjoy delicious potluck dishes and conversation. The event took place at New Paltz Methodist Church, which kindly donated the use of its social hall.

Nov. 2019, New Paltz

Top: a crowd enjoyed the show. Above: Luis Martinez (center) tells his story. At left is Playback Theatre facilitator Jo Salas and at right, interpreter Gonzalo Quintana. Both photos by José Marte.

by Lisa Reticker, LCSW

Last month I joined more than 150 clinicians, academics, officials, and other service providers at SUNY New Paltz for the VIII International Congress on Migration and Mental Health. Participants came from around the world to explore ways to address mental health challenges faced by immigrants including assessment techniques, intervention, research, and innovative methodology.

Many immigrants experience “migratory mourning” — mental and emotional suffering felt after leaving one’s homeland and trying to adjust to a new country. Common reactions include depression, toxic stress, low self-esteem, isolation, pessimism, sleep disorders, and anxiety.

In addition, attachments between parents and children may be interrupted or even destroyed by migration, a problem worsened by current U.S. policies that may separate families. According to PBS’s Frontline and the AP, government data released early this month shows “an unprecedented 69,550 migrant children held in U.S. government custody over the past year….”

We may never know how many children were – or remain – separated from their families since current policies took effect in 2018, but years of research show that these kinds of adverse childhood experiences and traumas have life-long impacts on mental and physical health. Even when families are reunited, the effects of separation may never be reversed completely.

Persistent loss, persistent challenges

Both long-term residents and more recent arrivals must cope with the reality of losing everything that is familiar – extended families, cultures, social status, languages – as they adapt to a new life. Many immigrants face poverty, food insecurity, gang violence, separation, sexual assault, domestic violence, and trafficking or other coercion. These traumas can be magnified by perilous journeys and current anti-immigration policies.

Mental health professionals from the Bronx, Ulster County, Rochester, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan, Venezuela, and Mexico provided examples of integrated mental health services and psychosocial care specially designed to address the needs of immigrants. There are currently a number of agencies providing mental health services to immigrants in the Hudson Valley, but the number of Spanish-speaking practitioners and translators working locally remains insufficient. (Find local help in Resources.)

Conference participants came from Kingston High School, the Family Institute, and local mental health practices, as well as the conference’s many sponsors, which included SUNY New Paltz, Rutgers University, World Psychiatric Association, Ulster County Department of Social Services, Catholic Charities/Community Services of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster; Agri-Business Child Development, Rose Women’s Care Service, Family of Woodstock, and Humanamente.

This was the eighth annual conference organized by the Athena Network, a worldwide association of academics, clinicians, professionals, health policy advocates, immigrant service providers, community-based organizations, students, and others focused on providing psychological and psychosocial support for immigrants, especially those living in extreme situations. Athena Network New York and its founder, Kingston-based Maria Elena Ferrer-Harrington, can be reached at

Lisa Reticker is a clinical social worker who lives in Dutchess County. Watch for a future post about mental health services available to immigrants in our region.