A conference yesterday for immigrant workers and those who employ them was missing something: immigrant workers.

The daylong conference was designed to educate the community on how to eliminate employment discrimination in immigrant communities. Although employees might have benefited from the topic, none showed up.

The cost could have been one reason, said Nikki Jenkins, an equal opportunity officer for the city’s Community Relations Commission, which hosted the one-day conference at the Columbus Marriott North Hotel.

Each participant had to pay a $75 fee, which covered the cost of lunch and rental of the building, Jenkins said. Immigrant workers might have been unable to afford the fee, but scholarships were available, she said.

Fliers about the conference were mailed to more than 1,500 businesses and also to several nonprofit agencies, Jenkins said. They were asked to encourage their immigrant employees to attend.

“It was sad that not a lot of people heard the information presented,” she said.”We can only ask them to come, not force them to come.”

Most of the 20 organizations that showed up for the conference were not private businesses but rather government and nonprofit agencies, said Theresa Pribanic, a Volunteers in Service to America job developer who is working with the Community Refugee & Immigrant Services.

Pribanic and Traci Jines, another VISTA job developer with refugee and immigrant services, said they learned much from the conference’s guest speakers, including how to use different resources to help immigrant workers.

Topics included how to accommodate immigrants so they can observe the various religious holidays, and how to deal with language barriers.

Speakers included representatives from the Ohio Hispanic Coalition, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


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