Author: JHISN

Monitoring The Candidate Positions

Our group does not endorse candidates, because we believe our efforts are more inclusive, broad, and effective if we remain independent. We have monitored each candidate’s positions relevant to immigration policies and created a position tracker page on our website to help you see what they say about policies that impact immigrants.

Looking at a large field of candidates there are challenges to compare opinions. If the candidates say very similar things you can’t really discern any difference between them. If one takes a stance that differentiates them from the others, then we start to wonder – can they pull it off since it is not the consensus opinion?

Ultimately you need to ask yourself, can I determine if I like the candidate because of their policies, or because of their personality? Our position tracker gives you the opportunity to discover which candidate is most closely aligned to your own preferences.

We reviewed each candidate’s websites and opinion statements. We identified a number of policy areas that collectively every candidate had. Then we looked at each candidate again to see if they had stated an opinion on each area. If we could not find a clear opinion, or if the candidate’s statement is only a non-committal opposition to the current administration’s policies, then we indicate that the candidate has no opinion.

When you review our position tracker the names of the candidates are hidden from immediate view. This allows you to read all the positions independently of knowing who has the opinion. Pick the position you most agree with and then you can reveal the name(s) of the candidates with that opinion.

If you discover there are a couple of candidates that you like, you can also use our web tool to show all of the opinions of each candidate. You can then print them out and do a side by side comparison.


Public Charge: Latest Update

A letter from Nick Gulotta, Director of Outreach and Organizing, Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs:

Dear Community Leader,

I am writing to share an important update on the Trump administration’s public charge rule. As you may have heard, yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted the public charge rule to go into effect, while litigation over the rule continues. This means the public charge rule is in effect, for now, in New York and most places nationwide.

It is important to know:

·         The “public charge” test does not apply to everyone.

·         There is no “public charge” test for green card holders who apply for citizenship.

·         Free legal help is available. Call ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365 and say “public charge.”

·         The public charge rule does not change eligibility requirements for public benefits.

·         The City's litigation against the "public charge" rule is not over.

What you can do: Attached is an updated flyer in English and Spanish to share with anyone who can use it. You can also post PSAs on social media and in newsletters from MOIA’s social media tool kit, and visit for updates. Translations will be posted on our website as soon as they become available.

Statement from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affair’s Commissioner Bitta Mostofi:
“I am deeply troubled that the court has allowed this dangerous Public Charge Rule to go into effect, for now, placing the well-being of millions of families, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities at risk.  The City will do everything in its power to connect people to the resources they need and to help dispel the confusion the Rule has created.  It’s important to know that eligibility for public benefits has not changed and many immigrants are not affected by public charge. It is also important to know that the case is still being fought in court.  Don’t stop using public benefits unnecessarily.  If you are worried or have questions about immigration and public benefits for you or your loved ones, you can call the free, confidential ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365, or call 311 and say ‘Public Charge’ to access timely and trusted information and connections to legal help. The City is here to help you make a decision that is best for you and your family.”

Statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio:
“Immigrant New Yorkers are our neighbors, our friends, and our fellow parents. We cannot stand by while they are treated as less than human – expected to weigh putting food on the table against the need for a Green Card. The Trump Administration wants to scare us into silence, but this is New York City. We are still in court and we will not stop fighting for the rights of immigrants to feed their families.”

In community and solidarity,


More information can be found in this PDF, in ENGLISH and SPANISH.





If you stop and think about it, citizenship is a strange phenomenon. It’s an “official” status that gets assigned to each of us, for better or worse, based on lines on a map, and accidents of birth. It’s a way that governments separate and classify us. It can be the most ordinary, bureaucratic thing in the world—or a matter of life and death.

For most people who are born in the US, citizenship is automatic and routine. They don’t do anything to get it, and they rarely give it a thought. But for hundreds of millions of people, survival itself rides on citizenship. Citizenship can lock a person into a lifetime of hunger and fear, unable to cross borders to seek a better life. Or it can virtually guarantee the basic necessities of life, safety and opportunity.

Currently there are about 730 million people in the world living on less than $1.90 a day—what economists classify as “extreme poverty.” Virtually none of these people are US citizens. Meanwhile, 16% of Honduran citizens, 21% of Indian citizens, 22% of Laotian citizens, 23.5% of Haitian citizens, and over 77% of citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo endure such destitution. All because of where they were born.

For many migrants, gaining US citizenship is a prized accomplishment. It’s not always possible to become a citizen, as we know. When it is possible, getting it often requires a difficult struggle. We should support migrants in this effort, admiring their fortitude and the sacrifices they make while seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

But we must also recognize that US citizenship often functions as a form of privilege in the world. Statistically, US citizens have a much higher standard of living, more options, and more personal security than most of the world’s people. Looked at historically, this is mainly due to the power and wealth of US imperialism, which has used military force and economic blackmail to dominate other lands. Most of the profits of imperialism go to a tiny percentage of super-rich monopolists. But some of the advantages go to ordinary US citizens, too.

Imperial privilege, infused with racism, was integral to the origin of the US. Citizenship was for white settlers only. It was based on genocide against Native peoples, their enslavement, and theft of their lands. (Native people weren’t legally considered US citizens until 1924.)

It should go without saying that African slaves weren’t US citizens. The first slave ship arrived in Jamestown in 1619. Only in 1868, 249 years later, did African Americans gain birthright citizenship. Nevertheless, their citizenship was questioned and restricted for generations after that, with many white politicians advocating Black deportation and promoting white nationalism.

The US seized half of Mexico in 1848. The 80,000 Mexicans living in the occupied territory became US citizens overnight, whether they wanted to or not. Those new citizens were still subjected to violent white racism; many were forced off their land or illegally deported in the following years. On the other hand, Mexicans who happened to live on the south side of the newly-imposed border became “illegal aliens”in the eyes of the US—restricted from crossing into the northern half of their own nation.

Ethnic Chinese people born in the US were denied birthright citizenship until a hotly-contested Supreme Court ruling in 1898.  Even then, Chinese and other non-white immigrants were strictly prohibited from becoming naturalized citizens of the US for decades—until 1952, to be exact.

We know that citizenship doesn’t guarantee equality. Nationally, women citizens didn’t get the right to vote until 1920. In 1898, nineteen years after the US invaded and occupied Puerto Rico, people born on the island were formally declared US citizens. But Puerto Ricans still can’t vote in presidential elections, unless they leave Puerto Rico to live in one of the States. They don’t get all the same federal benefits as other citizens, either. Similar restrictions apply to the residents of the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Meanwhile, the stark distinction between citizens and non-citizens inside US borders is a persistent feature of our society. Non-citizen residents face discrimination in many walks of life, whether they are in the US legally or not. On average, non-citizens make about 20% less in wages. They are frequently turned down for jobs that are reserved for citizens. Their immigration status makes them vulnerable to exploitation and police abuse. Legal residents may be denied important government benefits, such as retirement programs, welfare, health care, public housing, and access to higher education, all depending on a patchwork of arcane state and national laws.

The current US administration has recently activated a provision of the Patriot Act that allows them to imprison non-citizens forever, without trial, if the government considers them to be a “threat,” but finds them difficult to deport for some reason. (For instance, if their country of origin refuses to accept them.) Their status is considered to be similar to the prisoners in Guantanamo. No evidence of  an actual threat needs be proven—the government claims to have complete discretion when it comes to non-citizens.

Even when migrants do manage to become US citizens, that status can be taken away. Right now the government is ramping up a program called Operation Janus, started under the Obama administration, which actively attempts to deport people who are naturalized citizens, especially Muslims and politically active people. The Department of Justice looks for technical flaws, omissions or false answers in these citizens’ naturalization paperwork, often going back decades. The DOJ is working to literally undo the citizenship of people they don’t like. Operation Janus further illustrates the politicized and racially-determined character of US citizenship.

Citizen privilege obviously isn’t the only form of privilege that affects our society. White privilege has always played a particularly central role in this country. And male privilege infuses US society, like every society in the world today. There are other kinds of privilege as well. All these forms of privilege overlap and interact with each other in a variety of ways. In fact, the history of citizenship in the US, with its intimate connections to white supremacy, is a good example of this.

Recognizing that US citizenship is a privilege doesn’t mean disregarding other forms of privilege, or minimizing the oppression of citizens of color, women citizens, or any citizens struggling for equality, justice and a decent livelihood. Rather, it means adopting a global point of view. It means seeing our society through the eyes of billions of non-US citizens around the world who are struggling for those exact same things. Many of whom are migrants being driven from their homes by US imperialism.

Understanding US citizenship as a privilege helps inform our fight for migrant rights. It puts a spotlight on the fundamental unfairness of determining peoples’ fate according to where they were born, the color of their skin, or the color of their passport. It forces us to question the logic of today’s borders. How sacred are the lines on the map that were drawn by invaders and occupiers? Why can billionaire investors live and invest any where in the world, while ordinary people are prohibited from seeking a better life in another country?

By acknowledging that citizenship privilege in the US is intertwined with colonialism, we strengthen our determination to welcome and support migrants whose lives and livelihoods overseas have been devastated by US corporations and US government policies. This acknowledgement further motivates us to help reverse and repair colonialism’s damage, so that people can choose to stay in their home countries if they wish.

Finally, an awareness of citizenship’s history and role in the world underlines the responsibility of US citizens to make use of their own privilege in the battle for migrant rights. Citizenship’s advantages bring with them an obligation: to fight alongside those who seek, demand, and battle for an equal chance in life.



Five Facts About Next Year’s Census

Trump and his allies are hellbent on reducing our participation in the Census next year. And if they succeed, they’ll have an easier time passing laws that promote white nationalism and violence against immigrants and communities of color.

Their goal is to scare us. But we are unafraid, and ready to fight back for our communities. So we want to make sure you have the facts.

Here are five important things you need to know about next year’s Census.

  1. It WILL NOT include a citizenship question: It’s as simple as that. There will be no citizenship question on the Census, and everyone (citizens and undocumented folks) can fill out the Census.
  2. Participation is convenient: The Census forms will be sent right to your home (and you’ll receive reminders to fill it out). The forms can be mailed back to the Census Bureau free of charge.
  3. Your information is safe: The data is protected by the strictest confidentiality protections in federal law. This means that no one will be able to share the information you provide.
  4. It impacts how billions of dollars are spent. Do you want better schools, roads, hospitals, parks and public facilities in your neighborhood? The Census helps determine where $800 BILLION in federal funding will be spent.
  5. It impacts your political representation: We can gain a Member to represent us in Congress by filling out the forms. But we can also lose a seat at the table if we skip out.

Make sure everyone knows the real facts about the Census. Share on Facebook today.

Thanks to United We Dream for the information.



Denise Romero versus Chuck Schumer

At JHISN’s Community Gathering on October 17, activist Denise (Lupita) Romero spoke about her recent confrontation with US Senator and Democratic Party Leader Chuck Schumer on the streets of Woodside, Queens. Some video of the encounter can be seen online:

During the street confrontation, Romero told Schumer that he wasn’t welcome in Queens. She said that, in spite of Schumer’s claims about supporting immigrant rights, he and his fellow Democrats were actually dividing immigrants: offering to help some, while putting a deportation target on the backs of many others. Speaking over Schumer as he wagged a finger in her face, Romero insisted that dividing immigrants this way undermines the struggle for rights and justice for all immigrants.

Romero, a “Dreamer” brought to the US as a small child, would possibly be eligible for permanent legal status if the “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation proposed by Schumer and Nancy Pelosi ever passed in Congress. (At least if she met a set of strict eligibility guidelines and conditions.) But, as Romero pointed out to Schumer, her own parents would be still be subject to deportation, along with millions of other immigrants. In addition, the Democrats’ “comprehensive immigration reform” bills include billions of dollars for tougher enforcement—more ICE and Border Patrol agents, more courts and more equipment, including drones and other advanced technology.

At the JHISN community gathering, Romero said that she understands why lots of US citizens are caught up in supporting the Democratic Party as a way of defeating Trump. But she argued passionately that, with the rights of millions of immigrants on the line, people should be demanding much more from their leaders than what Schumer, Pelosi, and other mainstream Democrats are offering.

JHISN received a range of feedback about Romero’s talk. Some attendees expressed discomfort with her anger, and felt defensive. Others worried that attacks on Democrats could help Trump get reelected. And still others were enthusiastic about the talk, which they found inspiring, challenging or energizing. If you weren’t there, check out the video of Denise Romero, and see for yourself.

For a recap of our community gathering, including photos and videos of the speakers’ presentations and musical performances, see our News story.

We All Belong Here: Recap of our Annual Community Gathering

On October 17, 2019, the Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN) held its annual community gathering at The Renaissance Charter School. Videos of the speakers’ presentations and musical performances, as well as photographs, are posted below. Following is a recap of the event.

Balafon master Famoro Dioubate from Guinea performed as attendees arrived at the gathering and found their seats.

Melissa Greenberg welcomed everyone and explained how JHISN began in 2017. She introduced Nuala O’Doherty, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. Ms. O’Doherty described some of the difficulties immigrants face and how we as residents of this diverse Jackson Heights area need to support all our immigrant neighbors. She said we shouldn’t separate people into “good” and “bad” immigrants, but support all immigrants regardless of their history or past mistakes. She urged us to educate ourselves about the old laws we haven’t paid attention to, but that now are being enforced. She urged us to get those laws changed. Her most important point was that our immigrant neighbors are afraid and they must know that we’re behind them.

The featured speaker was Suketu Mehta, author of This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto, and a professor of journalism at NYU. His book has been celebrated as a “powerful, passionate, angry, and hopeful cry for justice.” Mr. Mehta recounted several of the themes in his book. He began by saying that he wrote the book in response to the emergency in the United States and all over the world of immigrants arriving in large numbers. Never have more people immigrated than now. He explained that people are leaving their countries because rich countries have stolen the future from the poor countries. “We re the creditors. You’ve stolen from us and we’re here to collect. We’re here because you were there.” Europeans took from colonies and the colonies made Europe rich. After different wars, Western colonial powers drew lines on maps without considering where people actually lived. This has caused problems that continue to the present day. Now imperial colonialism has evolved into corporate colonialism.

Mr. Mehta continued by pointing out some causes of migration: wars, gang wars in the Northern Triangle of Central America, and climate change that ruins economies because of drought. There are estimates that 1 billion people will have to move during this century because of continuing climate changes.

He also told of his experience at Friendship Park on the border between San Diego and Tijuana. There is a fence of thick mesh separating the towns. Here loved ones from either side of the border can meet for only 10 to 15 minutes across the fence that has only enough space for people to touch pinkies, not enough space to touch or hug one another. This has been dubbed “the pinky kiss.” It is a situation that mocks the name of the park and is a subtle cruelty.

The people who fear immigrants are people who don’t know any immigrants. The truth is that immigration is good news because everyone benefits. Immigrants send remittances back to their countries of origin. Immigrants are young and have children and pay taxes that support Social Security for the aging population of the USA. Immigrants help themselves and start new businesses. So his message is that immigrants are good for the countries they enter.

The third speaker was Denise Romero, originally from Mexico and now living in Sunnyside, Queens. She is undocumented and a DACA recipient. Ms. Romero is currently a legal advocate and tenant organizer at Mobilization for Justice Legal Services. She described a recent encounter she had with Senator Chuck Schumer at a street fair in Sunnyside. (You can see a video of that encounter here.)  Ms. Romero challenged Senator Schumer because he was a sponsor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill and he proclaims he is a friend of immigrants. But Ms. Romero and others don’t see him as a friend of immigrants because the bill had too many compromises they could not support. The bill would only have helped some immigrants and would have pitted DACA kids against their parents.

Ms. Romero urged us to remember that 70% of immigrant families are mixed status, i.e., at least one family member is undocumented. She believes that if the government and Democrats aren’t ready to talk about the old laws (of the eighties and nineties) and the drug wars or abolishing ICE, then they aren’t really trying to help immigrants. She pointed out that none of the Democrats running for president are talking about immigration issues. So she urged us to pay attention to the candidates and to organize to force Senator Schumer and others to provide a real solution. Finally, she said the solutions have to come from those affected, so we have to back the young people. (See our post about the reactions to Ms. Romero's confrontation with Chuck Schumer.)

Following a song from Venezuelan folk singer Miriam Elhajli, the next speaker was Javaid Tariq. He came to the U.S. in 1990, escaping political repression in Pakistan. As a cab driver, he helped found the New York Taxi Workers Alliance to fight oppressive work conditions in the cab industry. Mr. Tariq explained that taxi drivers come from more than 100 countries and 60% to 70% of them are Muslims. The Alliance grew from 75 members to 22,000. After 9/11 there were crimes against the Muslim drivers, but his union stood up for those who were attacked. The Alliance fought for a Taxi Driver Protection Act, but it took 11 years before Mayor Bill de Blasio signed it into law. The union shut down JFK airport when President Trump initiated the ban against Muslims entering the U.S. Now they are fighting for economic rights for the drivers. Because of the tremendously high cost of medallions, many drivers are now deeply in debt. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is trying to get loan forgiveness for the affected drivers. The New York Taxi Alliance is bringing awareness and urging drivers to stand up for themselves. Mr. Tariq believes all immigrants must stand together.

Next we heard from Terry Duprat a volunteer at the New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC). New Sanctuary Coalition has an accompaniment program that trains volunteers to accompany people facing deportation to their immigration court hearings and ICE check-ins. Volunteers accompany hundreds of people each year and thousands of NYC immigrant families have been supported by NSC’s social justice work.

Ms. Duprat has been accompanying immigrants to their court hearings for three years. She described how there have been significant changes to the procedures during that time. Families used to be able to see and touch the detainees. However, since August 2019 detainees only appear on video. They can see the judge, their lawyer, the DHS lawyer, but not the accompanier or their family members. This is very upsetting for the families. Ms. Duprat said during the previous week, she attended 17 hearings at the Foley Square courts. Some of the judges were on video in other states and had to be instructed about NY State laws. Although using videos has made the process quicker, it is alienating for the detainees. Also, the asylum application is long and it changes often. This whole process is very stressful for all involved.

After Miriam Elhajli sang Woody Guthrie’s song “Deportee,” we heard from the final speaker, Julie Schwietert Collazo. Ms. Collazo is a writer, journalist and a mother of three. She founded the grassroots collective Immigrant Families Together (IFT) in 2018. IFT works with an all-volunteer staff to bond out immigrants being held in detention and reunite them with their children and families. IFT has reunited over 75 children and families and provided resettlement and legal support to dozens more. She expressed her surprise that IFT has raised $2 million through its GoFundMe page although she didn’t have a specific monetary goal in mind at the beginning.

In order to illustrate some of the common events she encounters, Ms. Collazo described four cases. The first was the case of a woman whose asylum hearing Ms. Collazo planned to attend. When the judge realized that she was not biologically related to the woman, he didn’t want her to be there until the woman told him Ms. Collazo was part of her family by choice. Her asylum plea was denied within 90 minutes of the hearing.

Next Ms. Collazo related the series of bureaucratic mix-ups that prevented a man from getting the travel documents he needed in order to return to his country to see his dying mother. ICE had taken his passport and since it was his only means of identification, his consulate wouldn’t grant him the travel documents he needed to return to Honduras.

The third case was a boy denied entrance to school although the Department of Education had said he was assigned to the last seat available in that school. The school couldn’t understand why the DOE had sent him there. Many hours were spent to finally get the boy into a school.

The fourth case was how a foster care agency claimed a mother had to pay $1000 to pay for the flight and chaperone for her child to be reunited with her. Ms. Collazo had been in similar situations before and knew the agency was legally required to pay. So she was able to get the foster care agency to pay the plane fare for the child and chaperone. The child was successfully reunited with his mother after a separation of 14 years.

Ms. Collazo emphasized that although these cases represent absurd events, she said they are very common. In closing, Ms. Collazo mentioned that her husband had asked her why they keep going to events like this in Queens, the most diverse place in the United States and arguably one of the most progressive. Her responses highlighted that there is still work to be done, even in neighborhoods such as ours, but she also stressed the importance of coming together to renew our commitment to do that work.

The evening ended with Famoro Dioubate playing another song while audience members purchased books on their way out. Representatives of the Astoria Bookstore provided copies for sale of Suketu Mehta’s book This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto, as well as a variety of children’s books that could be purchased for children of families Immigrant Families Together has reunited. Each attendee received an envelope with material related to the work of the Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network, including “Ideas for Volunteering and Activism.”