New Americans Advisory Commission

In September, 2020, the Bucks County Commissioners  created an advisory commission to help immigrants and first- and second-generation Americans with the challenges of adjusting and prospering in their new environment.  

Chairing the new commission will be Dr. Umar Farooq, who emigrated from Pakistan more than 30 years ago and has practiced internal medicine in Bensalem since 1999. The commissioners also appointed seven additional members, each having personal and/or professional experience in issues facing New Americans.

The commission will play an advisory role in keeping the county commissioners apprised of matters affecting New Americans, will assist Bucks County residents in easing the path to citizenship, and will seek to foster interracial and interethnic communications aimed at identifying opportunities for equitable economic growth and the sharing of cultural experiences.

“The New Americans Advisory Commission is a sincere attempt at building bridges between racial and ethnic groups throughout Bucks County,” said Bob Harvie, vice chair of the Board of County Commissioners.

“As American households and communities become more diverse, so too must our dialogue within government,” Harvie said. “I have no doubt that members of the inaugural commission, led by Dr. Farooq, will faithfully advise the county commissioners as we work toward a more inclusive community that believes in opportunity, freedom, and justice for all.”

Farooq pronounced himself “honored and humbled” by his appointment. He recalled arriving here in 1991 after two years in England, working to complete his medical residency while “going through all the hardships that immigrants go through.” 

He said that the goals of the commission “resonate with what I have been doing throughout my life in the United States: building bridges between the communities, working across the aisle, being part of civic engagement, advising new immigrants on the path to success, and guiding them in this land of opportunity.”

Others appointed  to the commission include:

Stephanie A. Gonzalez Ferrandez of Bensalem, a family law attorney who has worked with immigrant communities for 25 years.

Lois Heist of Lower Makefield, a board member and English instructor for Welcoming the Stranger, a Langhorne non-profit offering free English, computer and citizenship preparation classes for area immigrants and refugees.

Razin Karu of Bensalem, former student body president and Muslim Students Association president at Bucks County Community College, currently PA outreach coordinator for ICNA Relief USA.

Eugene Potakh of Lower Southampton, a Ukraine-born consultant and senior programmer for New York Technology Partners.

Stephen Seufert of Falls Township, executive assistant to Commissioner Harvie, who will serve as the county commissioners’ representative on the advisory commission.

Patrice Tisdale of Warrington, a labor, employee relations and municipal law attorney and co-chair of the Criminal Justice and Education Committee of the Bucks County NAACP.

Duke Wu of Northampton, a Temple University business student working as a business development intern for Siemens Healthineers of Malvern. 

While the current membership of the commission stands at eight, its bylaws allow for up to 15 members. Appointments are made with preference for racial and ethnic diversity, with an emphasis on immigrants and first- and second-generation Americans, preferably from communities that have historically been marginalized or underserved by county government.

The commission also will strive to include members with diverse experiences, such as legal work involving immigration, teaching non-English speakers, interfaith dialogue, public safety, organized labor or business ownership. All are appointed to four-year terms.