PITTSFIELD -- There was Latin dancing and multicultural music for Immigrants' Day on Saturday, a celebration of the contributions of local immigrants held at Morningside Community School.
Indian immigrant Jeswant Banga and his 4-year-old daughter, Yashtia, who was born in India and immigrated to the Berkshires a year ago, enjoyed the air conditioning at the event.
In India, the sweltering hot weather could be made even more uncomfortable because of rolling blackouts that would leave people sweating, he said.
Banga appreciates living in the U.S., and he gives back to his community -- he donated food from his North Street restaurant, House of India, to the event.
"There are more opportunities here," Banga said about why he immigrated to the U.S.
The Berkshire Immigrant Center presented the 9th annual Immigrants' Day in the Berkshires, an event that connects immigrants with resources and celebrates cultural diversity and immigrants' accomplishments. The event was canceled last year, but organizers felt it was important to bring it back to highlight the positive contributions of local immigrants.
Greene said last year the Immigrant Center assisted about 1,000 immigrants from 74 different countries. Immigrants currently make up 14.4 percent of the state's population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
"I think positive events like this really help shape people's opinions on comprehensive immigration reform and they're able to look at these hardworking people, who are starting businesses and paying taxes," Berkshire Immigrant Center Executive Director Hilary Greene said.
During the event, State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and Richard T. Delmasto, congressional aide to former Congressman John Olver, were awarded the Jane Addams American Spirit Award for sponsoring House Bill 3285, or The Safe Driving Bill.
The state bill being reviewed in committee would allow illegal immigrants to receive a drivers license as long they are trained and insured.
Farley-Bouvier told The Eagle the bill will help everyone because it will help people to receive training and stop people from driving illegally because of their citizenship status.
"The federal government isn't capable right now to make the comprehensive reform, so we in the commonwealth can't wait to make the roads safer," Farley-Bouvier said. "I would say it's particularly important because in Berkshire County we don't have viable public transportation options."
Earlier this week, Gov. Deval Patrick proclaimed Oct. 14 through Nov. 14 Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month.
Correction: At Berkshire Immigrant Center’s Immigrants' Day celebration, the Jane Addams American Spirit Award was awarded to co-recipients: Richard T. Delmasto, congressional aide to former Congressman John Olver, and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield. They received the award for their dedication to supporting and welcoming the immigrant population in the Berkshires and to helping countless new American families navigate life in the U.S. A report in Sunday's Eagle omitted Delmasto as a recipient.