Category: Campaign

JHISN Newsletter 10/10/2020

Dear friends,

This week we address two things close to JHISN’s collective heart, and our collective work during the pandemic. First, we focus on the newsletter itself. Below is a link to a brief survey that will give us a better sense of how folks are using the newsletter, and a deeper sense of who you, our readers, are. Second, we focus on our launch last week of the ‘Neighborhood Emergency!’ fundraising campaign. The campaign will continue throughout October, directing donations to six fierce, dedicated frontline immigrant justice groups doing emergency solidarity work.    

1. Please Take Our Brief Survey! 

Survey link: https://jhimmigrantsolidarity.org/surveys/index.php/956417?lang=en

This survey of newsletter readers takes less than three minutes to complete. For an archive of newsletters we have sent since the pandemic began, see here.  

2. Back on the Street

“I’m elated!” That was one JHISN member’s feeling after we returned to the street to launch our “Neighborhood Emergency!” fundraising campaign. Our first campaign activity–tabling and leafleting at the Farmers’ Market–met with lots of friendly interest. People seemed willing to contribute, and eager to learn more about local immigrant-led groups. It felt good to reach out to a wider community, to exercise our activist muscles, to function in some small way as a practical force for immigrant solidarity. 

We’re grateful that six incredible community organizations trusted us to use their names and logos on our fundraising materials, which directly link people to each group’s own donation page. A couple of them have told us that donations are starting to come in.

We’re also grateful to you, our newsletter readers. Your interest and support has sustained us during these long hard months. This newsletter anchored JHISN and kept us going even as Covid-19 limited our activities.

Now, as we get back out onto the street, we hope you’ll keep on supporting JHISN by participating fully in the “Neighborhood Emergency!” campaign. We know many of you have already donated. If you haven’t yet made a contribution, please visit the fundraising webpage here. Whatever you are able to afford will help! 

Just as important, you can also promote the campaign by spreading the word. Some of us are putting leaflets in our building lobbies. Others are sending out personal emails with campaign info to our friends and families, and re-posting the campaign on social media.

It does feel good to work on this campaign. But it’s also deadly serious for us. Jackson Heights was in the epicenter of the first wave of Covid-19. It’s still an epicenter of unemployment, hunger, housing insecurity, and crushing debt for immigrant families. We’re determined to support the deeply-rooted frontline groups who are aiding, rallying and mobilizing local immigrant communities.

In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN. 

 

 

JHISN Newsletter 09/26/2020

Neighborhood Emergency! Donate!

Dear friends,

This weekend JHISN launches our Neighborhood Emergency! fundraising campaign. The campaign gathers direct financial support for six dedicated, deeply-rooted local groups that provide food, mutual aid, services, and solidarity to immigrant communities during the pandemic. 

We are cheered by evidence of Jackson Heights’ creative resilience and community strength just months after being the epicenter of the epicenter of the COVID crisis. A cover story in the New York Times (9/23) describes the vibrant community scenes that have bloomed all along the Open Street on 34th Avenue. Early autumn nights in the neighborhood are animated by improvised sidewalk dining and music in the streets. But underneath the lively resurgence of street life is the less visible loss, suffering, and economic vulnerability of so many community members.

As we reported in our August 15 newsletter, neighbors in Jackson Heights are now facing ‘the cliff’: that dangerous edge where housing and food insecurity, income loss, unemployment, illness, and lack of government support threaten to push people into economic free fall. Emergency relief from the federal government has excluded immigrants, especially those who are undocumented. Local immigrant justice organizations have stepped up to protect people and build community power. They need your support. We ask each of you this week to:

  • Donate directly to one or more of the six frontline, immigrant-led groups. Whatever you can afford makes a difference.
  • Share the jhimmigrantsolidarity.org/emergency webpage or circulate this newsletter. Ask others in your network to consider donating: friends, co-workers, folks in your building, members of your mosque, temple, church, community group, or political organization. 

Here are six extraordinary immigrant-led local groups. Please click on the group’s name to connect directly to their fundraising webpage:

Adhikaar

Adhikaar is a Jackson Heights-based immigrant justice group serving the Nepali-speaking community since 2005. Focused on immigration rights and legal issues, labor struggles (including for domestic workers), and health and social justice issues, Adhikaar played a key role in the groundbreaking New York State Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Your donation will support Adhikaar’s mutual aid relief efforts during the crisis including the supply of direct relief, community education and the ongoing struggle for systemic change and community empowerment.

Damayan

Damayan Migrant Workers Association organizes low-wage Filipino workers–including undocumented workers–to fight for their gender, labor, health, and immigrant rights. Established in 2002, Damayan’s immigrant-led organization builds leadership at the grassroots level to eliminate labor trafficking, fight labor fraud and wage theft, and demand fair labor standards to achieve economic and social justice.

Damayan’s Emergency Fund provides direct material support during the pandemic to community members, prioritizing those who are unemployed, sick, elderly, or families with small children.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

DRUM is a multigenerational, membership-led organization of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean working-class immigrants, women, youth, and undocumented families. Founded in 2000, DRUM has built a unique model of community-based organizing where members lead social and policy changes that impact their own lives–from immigrant rights to education reform, civil rights, and worker’s justice. 

DRUM’s emergency fund, “Building Power and Safety Through Solidarity,” provides direct aid to community members via food, healthcare, housing, and participatory programs to strengthen community power during the Covid-19 crisis.

Make the Road New York

Make the Road carries out extensive organizing to empower immigrant Latinx communities. As a locally-based and statewide organization, Make the Road New York builds the power of immigrant and working-class communities to achieve dignity and justice through community organizing, transformative education, policy innovation, and survival services.

Donate to MTRNY’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund to support vulnerable workers, undocumented households, and low-income families.

New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)

NICE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable and precarious immigrant workers and their families in New York, with a focus on day laborers, domestic workers, and newly arrived immigrants. For over 20 years, NICE has offered an extensive set of services, community organizing, and leadership development programs.

Your donation will support NICE’s front-line impacts in our community. NICE has launched and continued vital food access, cash assistance, and overall case management programs during the pandemic.

Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU)

QNU is a community-based organization made up of members from Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst. QNU believes in establishing democratic control over land-use, policing, and immigration policies that directly impact us, our families, homes, businesses, places of work, and neighborhoods. Through grassroots organizing, leadership development, advocacy, and community education, QNU builds power to fight criminalization and displacement in our communities.

Donating to QNU will provide mutual aid to neighbors in need during the pandemic.

 

Support our Neighborhood Emergency! fundraising campaign. Share this newsletter and link to the fundraising webpage jhimmigrantsolidarity.org/emergency with your friends and local networks! 

 

In solidarity and with collective care,
Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN.

Neighborhood Emergency!

Neighborhood Emergency! Donate!

Introducing the fundraising campaign.

JHISN’s Neighborhood Emergency! fundraising campaign invites direct donations to the following six immigrant-led, community-based organizations in Queens that provide food, mutual aid, services, and solidarity to immigrant workers and families during the COVID-19 crisis.

The pandemic disproportionately affects immigrant and undocumented communities. Emergency relief from the federal government has excluded immigrants, especially undocumented households and workers. Local immigrant justice organizations have stepped up to protect people from multiple crises of health, employment, food, and housing. They need your support!

Find the quick links to fundraising pages for all six groups at: jhimmigrantsolidarity.org/emergency

Click on the group’s name to connect directly to their fundraising webpage and please donate what you can afford.

Adhikaar

Adhikaar is a Jackson Heights-based immigrant justice group serving the Nepali-speaking community since 2005. Focused on immigration rights and legal issues, labor struggles (including for domestic workers), and health and social justice issues, Adhikaar played a key role in the groundbreaking New York State Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Your donation will support Adhikaar’s mutual aid relief efforts during the crisis including the supply of direct relief, community education and the ongoing struggle for systemic change and community empowerment.

Damayan

Damayan Migrant Workers Association organizes low-wage Filipino workers–including undocumented workers–to fight for their gender, labor, health, and immigrant rights. Established in 2002, Damayan’s immigrant-led organization builds leadership at the grassroots level to eliminate labor trafficking, fight labor fraud and wage theft, and demand fair labor standards to achieve economic and social justice.

Damayan’s Emergency Fund provides direct material support during the pandemic to community members, prioritizing those who are unemployed, sick, elderly, or families with small children.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

DRUM is a multigenerational, membership-led organization of South Asian and Indo-Caribbean working-class immigrants, women, youth, and undocumented families. Founded in 2000, DRUM has built a unique model of community-based organizing where members lead social and policy changes that impact their own lives–from immigrant rights to education reform, civil rights, and worker’s justice. 

DRUM’s emergency fund, “Building Power and Safety Through Solidarity,” provides direct aid to community members via food, healthcare, housing, and participatory programs to strengthen community power during the Covid-19 crisis.

Make the Road New York

Make the Road carries out extensive organizing to empower immigrant Latinx communities. As a locally-based and statewide organization, Make the Road New York builds the power of immigrant and working-class communities to achieve dignity and justice through community organizing, transformative education, policy innovation, and survival services.

Donate to MTRNY’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund to support vulnerable workers, undocumented households, and low-income families.

New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)

NICE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable and precarious immigrant workers and their families in New York, with a focus on day laborers, domestic workers, and newly arrived immigrants. For over 20 years, NICE has offered an extensive set of services, community organizing, and leadership development programs.

Your donation will support NICE’s front-line impacts in our community. NICE has launched and continued vital food access, cash assistance, and overall case management programs during the pandemic.

Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU)

QNU is a community-based organization made up of members from Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst. QNU believes in establishing democratic control over land-use, policing, and immigration policies that directly impact us, our families, homes, businesses, places of work, and neighborhoods. Through grassroots organizing, leadership development, advocacy, and community education, QNU builds power to fight criminalization and displacement in our communities.

Donating to QNU will provide mutual aid to neighbors in need during the pandemic.

JHISN Newsletter 06/20/2020

Dear friends, 

In a time of so much loss and uncertainty, we find strength in whatever victories come our way. This past week, the Supreme Court stopped the Trump regime from deporting hundreds of thousands of young DACA immigrants–many of whom are healthcare workers fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Relief is only temporary: the Court says Trump can end DACA, he just needs to do it the “right” way. But the delay will take us past the presidential election in November. The struggle continues….

Newsletter highlights:

  1. Immigrant Voting Not a Dream
  2. Essential Immigrants @ Queens Museum Mural
  3. New Public Charge Rules: Working-class Immigrants Need Not Apply (Part 3 of 3)

1. VOTING  – A POLITICAL PRIMER

As the NY State primary approaches on Tuesday, June 23, and as unprecedented numbers of New Yorkers vote for the first time via absentee ballot or early voting, JHISN offers a brief window onto what has been, what could be, and what is, in terms of voting and the politics of power in the U.S. Historically, women of all races and ethnicities were denied voting rights in the U.S. until 1920 when, for the first time, voting by women was decriminalized. Voting rights for indigenous americans in all 50 states was not achieved until 1962. The violent and systematic suppression of Black voting in the U.S. was targeted by the 1965 Voting Rights Act—and then gutted seven years ago by a Republican-leaning Supreme Court. As of 2020, millions of US citizens in the colonial territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa are denied a vote in US presidential elections. 

If voting is a “right” in the United States it has been won by struggle, denied by force, and shot through until this day with colonial, racist, patriarchal, and imperial power relations.

Establishing municipal voting rights in NYC for immigrants—legal permanent residents and those with work authorizations—is a vision and a struggle gathering force today. A coalition of over 50 organizations has called for the enfranchisement of immigrants in NYC elections for mayor, city council, and borough president. Adhikaar, African Communities Together, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), New Sanctuary Coalition, and Street Vendor Project are some of the local immigrant justice groups joining the fight. In January 2020, City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez introduced a bill to enfranchise immigrant New Yorkers and secure their electoral power.

Immigrant voting is not a pipe dream; it is a historical precedent. Before WWI, immigrant men in some US states were able to vote in municipal, state, and even Congressional elections. Several cities in Maryland have expanded voting rights to noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants. San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Washington DC, the states of Massachusetts and Maine have all passed or proposed legislation to enfranchise immigrant voters.

On the ground in Queens, for those of you voting in the June 23 primary, a few facts: Absentee ballots needed to be requested by June 16; absentee ballots must be sent in by election day. If you requested but do not receive an absentee ballot you are still eligible to vote in-person on June 23. Early voting runs June 13 – 21 and reports so far suggest that early voting is quick and easy, especially if you go early in the morning. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

2. “Somos La Luz” (“We are the Light”) – Murals and Memory

In the early 20th century, Mexico’s vibrant Muralist art movement brought leftist images and politics to the walls of public buildings. Mural artists recognized workers as central figures in the country’s developing political and cultural identity. Here in Queens, in the early 21st century, Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada recently completed a mural that recognizes the essential immigrant healthcare workers who are giving their labor and, too often, their own lives to treat those suffering from COVID-19. Nationally, almost 27,000 of our essential health care workers are DACA recipients who experienced a small sigh of relief this week when the Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration could not simply end the DACA program. 

Gerada’s enormous mural, painted on the Queens Museum parking lot in Flushing Meadows Park, works on two levels. The first celebrates and gives thanks to workers on the pandemic front lines, while a deeper level conjures the social and political challenges that immigrants are forced to navigate. Supported by the NYC Parks Department, the Queens Museum, the SOMOS Community Care Network, and Make the Road New York, Gerada explains:

This project is an homage to Hispanic caregivers that risk their lives to save others. It highlights their contribution while at the same time calling for action. These are the people that make our city move, the people that care for us, these are the people that contribute socially, culturally and economically to the nation…how it is that minorities today still have to suffer the same injustices of the minorities of the past.

Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada – Artist

The mural’s face can only be seen from the heavens, where the compassion of the healthcare provider is apparent, and most people will only know it from those aerial photographs. Gerada tells us that the eyes belong to a particular SOMOS doctor, Dr. Ydelfonso Decoo, but the rest of the mask-covered face could be anyone—any of the unknown faces protecting our neighborhoods and our lives.

The mural’s deeper level of meaning, the challenges of being an immigrant, can only be experienced in person. The mural introduces uncertainty: it is not immediately apparent that you are driving onto a work of art. Parking space markings are obscured by the giant painting and, while you know the marks should be there, you can’t find them. No vantage point provides a clear picture. You could attempt the risk-taking enterprise of climbing a nearby tree where you might finally see both eyes together, but they are not looking at you. Their kindness is not directed to the person on the ground. The eyes look skyward, seen through the screens of people who are remote and, mostly, working safely from home, while the essential immigrant workers remain outside.

Already, a short week after the mural was completed, there are scars where possibly a motorcycle has done a wheel spin on the face mask. People have paid homage. Given recognition. But they are starting to move on. Soon, parked cars will cover the mural face as practical needs become more important than seeing the bigger picture.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

3. New Public Charge Rules (Part 3 of 3) 

In the final part of this series (see Part 1 and Part 2), we discuss the most damaging aspect of the new public charge rules that aim to systematically alter the demographics of immigration.

A battery of expanded financial tests is now being applied to most people seeking to live in the US, whether temporarily or permanently. The new public charge tests are applied even to non-immigrant visa holders when they apply to extend or modify their visa–for instance, if they want to change an education visa to a work visa. But the biggest impact of the new regulations is on people with modest incomes who are trying to get a green card in order to live permanently in the US with their spouse or their family. These applicants are affected by public charge whether they are applying from inside or outside the country.

We noted in Part 2 that most green card applicants are ineligible to actually participate in any of the newly-listed public charge benefits that cause disqualification. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily give them protection from the new public charge process. Officials reviewing green card applications are also now instructed to decide, based on an Orwellian scoring system, if an immigrant is likely to use one of the designated public charge benefits in the future, after they get a green card. Department of Homeland Security or Department of State officials scrutinize an applicant’s income, age, health, “insurability,” education, family size, family income, employment status and history, skills, credit score, English proficiency, disability status, sponsor support, etc. Is the applicant likely to ever use food stamps, or welfare, or Section 8 housing vouchers, other listed benefits, in the future? If an official thinks so, based on the “totality of circumstances,” the application is denied.

This is a process expressly designed to discriminate against low-income households. And it will affect a large proportion of green card applicants. The Migration Policy Institute explains the long-term significance:

This forward-looking test will likely have an enormous impact on future green-card grants and has the potential to reshape U.S. immigration by lowering levels of permanent immigration and tilting admissions toward those with more wealth and education. Using data on recent green-card holders, MPI determined that 69 percent have at least one factor that would be considered negative under the test, 43 percent have at least two factors, and 17 percent have at least three. In short, the public-charge rule’s primary immigration impact will be through its test of the likelihood of future benefits use.

A lot is riding on advocacy, activism, litigation, and legislation to reverse these damaging public charge regulations. In the meantime, how can immigrants weigh the risks? Like public charge itself, the answer is complicated. Every individual needs a strategy for making it past the public charge barrier. And so the last word of this series goes to Hasan Shafiqullah, Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit:

If there’s one message to leave people with: do not stop your benefits without speaking to an immigration expert, because it’s possible that the benefits you are getting are totally fine.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN. 

JHISN Newsletter 06/13/2020

Dear Friends,

As NYC takes the first official steps towards a wider reopening, and as we move out from under an unprecedented 6-night citywide curfew, JHISN–like you–is in transition. The local landscape feels a bit more familiar as shops and activity come back to life. Nationwide uprisings in the name of Black Lives Matter demand real structural change in how we fund, and how we imagine, policing. The pandemic continues to burn steadily, with the U.S. death count hovering around 1,000 people each day. We hope the newsletter can help us orient in these disorienting times, as immigrant justice and empowerment converge with dreams for freedom, and demands for lasting change. 

Newsletter highlights:

  1. Public Charge: Who is Hurt by New Regulations?  (Part 2 of 3)
  2. Crisis and Radical Imagination 

1. Public Charge (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1, we discussed the history of public charge regulations. We saw that the Trump administration has radically expanded those regulations in an attempt to systematically discriminate against working-class immigrants of color. In this part, we consider which categories of immigrants are directly affected, and how.

Given the clear exclusionary intent of the new public charge rules, it’s no wonder that many immigrants are concerned.

One in seven adults in immigrant families reported that they or a family member did not participate in a non cash benefit program (assistance with health care, housing, food, etc.) in 2018, out of fear of risking future green card status. This has also created a ripple effect. Even individuals who already have legal status, including permanent residents, are forgoing these benefits out of fear of risking the status of a relative. The Trump administration is weaponizing the public charge rule, which is essentially a “wealth test” to hurt families, and limit them from accessing critical safety net programs. (US Rep. Grace Meng)

Responding to the widespread anxiety about the public charge rules, advocates have been quick to point out that most immigrants are not directly affected right now. For example, it’s unlikely that public charge will be an obstacle to citizenship for people who already have a green card, even if they use the listed benefits. Several other large categories of migrants are completely exempt from public charge tests, including refugees and migrant survivors of violence against women. 

Many kinds of benefits are also currently exempt from public charge determinations. For instance, most programs for children, emergency medical assistance, and student loans will not be considered; neither will most state assistance programs. The US has promised that Covid-19 testing and medical care will not count as part of public charge.

Ironically, most current green card applicants aren’t even eligible for the federal benefits listed in the public charge regulations. These federal programs are generally reserved for citizens and permanent residents.

On the other hand, a subset of green-card applicants do receive potentially disqualifying “public charge” benefits. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 167,000 green card applicants, in certain specific categories, could potentially be rejected for a green card because of participation in the newly-listed public charge programs. This may be a tiny percentage of potential green card applicants, but it’s still a lot of people (and their families) that might be in jeopardy. 

And it turns out that, despite all the apparent loopholes and exemptions in the regulations, immigrants and their supporters have reason to be very concerned about the trajectory of public charge. The new rules, if left in place, will eventually affect millions of green card applicants. The reason is both simple and deeply disturbing: immigration officials aren’t just looking at past or present benefit use. They are now mandated to judge how likely an applicant is to ever use the listed public charge benefits in the future. That is where the new public charge regulations are expected to do the most damage. 

In Part 3, we’ll talk about why.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? 

2. Re-Imagining the Future as Ours

In response to the crisis, ideas that were previously impossible in American society, are now being considered …. These kinds of crises are transformative of society and things will never return back to the way they were…  (DRUM, Desis Rising Up and Moving, April 2020)

The Minneapolis City Council declares it will dismantle the city’s police department. Cries for “Defund Police! Decolonize the Schools!” ring down 34th Avenue on a bright June day in Jackson Heights. Mayors from New York City to L.A. announce they will cut budgets for policing and redistribute funding to community and health services. Confederate statues are toppled to the ground, with joyous collective whoops. The swell of protests in the name of Black Lives Matter and justice for George Floyd has surged into something almost unimaginable a few months ago: big, new cracks in historical structures of white supremacy.

‘Something almost unimaginable a few months ago’? Within weeks of the unfolding of the pandemic in the U.S., voices reminded us that crisis has long been the author of previously ‘unimaginable’ transformations. Could the pandemic usher in newly imaginable alternatives to predatory, dying neoliberalism? Could the wildcat strikes, the union walkouts, the courage of immigrant farmworkers shutting down fruit-packing plants across Washington State, and the militant organizing campaigns by workers at Amazon, Target, and Whole Foods, signal a fierce renewal of working-class power? Will the ongoing dance with pandemic death create deeper openings for indigenous people’s post-apocalyptic knowledge of how to survive and still dream

“There are no simple rules for when disaster becomes insurrection,” writes Rebecca Solnit just weeks before the police murder of George Floyd launched a popular insurrection against systemic racism that is not yet over.

Here in Queens, DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) organized a new Building Power & Safety through Solidarity campaign in April, as the pandemic ravaged New York City and the working class, immigrant, undocumented workers and families at the core of DRUM’s community. Calling up “previously impossible” ideas like a universal basic income, DRUM mobilized to address the entwined health crisis (demanding wholistic community care), the systemic crisis (demanding new structures that serve human needs before corporate profit), and the social crisis (demanding new cultures of mutuality and solidarity). This is not an impossible dream. DRUM began during quarantine, patiently building a base for radical social change phone call by phone call. The campaign remains vibrant and ongoing.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

 

Yours in struggle and collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and Twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN.

 

 

JHISN Newsletter 05/30/2020

Dear Friends, 

As the national count of coronavirus victims reaches more than 100,000, as Corona and Elmhurst continue to experience some of the highest hospitalization rates in NYC, we wonder when grief will have an end. With corporate media focused on ‘reopenings’ and the ‘mask wars,’ we want to use the newsletter to keep our focus on the local, the possible, and the unfolding realities around us. Both the grim and the hopeful.

A reminder that on June 1, Art from the Epicenter, a Jackson Heights-based artists’ initiative to raise money for local mutual aid groups, begins its Instagram auction of donated artworks. The auction runs June 1-10, and we encourage all of you who are financially able to participate!

Newsletter highlights:

  1. Public Charge, Part 1: Intended to Exclude
  2. Protesting during a Pandemic
  3. New Report on COVID-19 Crisis among Immigrant New Yorkers

 

1. Public Charge (Part 1 of 3)

The public charge rule was designed on purpose to be confusing, complicated, and scary. You have rights in this country no matter where you were born. The more we know about our rights, the harder it is for the Trump administration to scare us. We encourage you to learn more about your situation before making decisions that may harm you or your family. (National Immigrant Law Center)

One of the ugliest attacks the Trump regime has launched against immigrants is a set of new “public charge” regulations. The new rules are meant to keep poor, mainly non-white immigrants out of the US, and to sow fear and confusion among those who are already here, discouraging people from getting permanent residency as well as the social benefits they are entitled to. The long-term goal of the administration is nothing less than a massive distortion of the US immigration system, skewing it to welcome the wealthy and exclude the working class.

“Public charge” first became law as part of the Immigration Act of 1882. The Act mandated the exclusion of any immigrant “unable to take care of him or herself.” The government’s interpretation of this vague phrase has evolved, often reflecting waves of racial and class chauvinism. In the twentieth century, public charge rules were used “first to keep out poor Asian Indians and Mexicans and then to keep out poor people generally.” (Daniels and Graham, 2001) In the 1930’s Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were kept out of the US by public charge tests.

Public charge regulation is rooted in a xenophobic narrative that portrays immigrants as a drain on the economy. This has been widely debunked. Study after study shows that immigrants provide an overall boost to the economy. They pay billions in taxes, have enormous spending power, and “end up contributing more money into the economy than they take out in public services” (“US Immigrants Pay Billions..” Quartz)

In recent decades, the US generally raised public charge issues only against immigrants who were completely reliant on government aid to survive. This included small numbers of people on welfare or in government-run nursing homes. But that has changed. As of February 24, 2020, under Trump’s new regulations, public charge rules penalize many immigrants who use–or may someday use–a whole list of benefits, including federal Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, and federal housing subsidies.

Not surprisingly, the Trump regulations were challenged in court as soon as they were announced. Some of the pivotal lawsuits were initiated by Make the Road New York, working with other advocacy groups. However, in January 2020 the Supreme Court refused to stop implementation of the Trump rules while the challenges work their way through lower courts. In April, the Court turned down a request to freeze public charge regulations during the pandemic. The legal battle continues.

Unless the new regulations are overturned, they will disqualify large numbers of people from getting green cards and protected legal status. Relatives will be prevented from joining their families in the US. There will be additional deportations. Immigrants will not access needed social assistance programs–even those they might still be eligible for. 

All the while, millions of immigrants are left trying to figure out exactly how public charge rules are being enforced, and how their families might be affected later.

In Part 2 next week, we will look at who is not directly affected by the rule change, who is, and how.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

 

2. The Perception of Protests in Pandemic Times

Anti-Trump protests with far more attendees in a single day than all of April and early May’s #ReOpen events … passed with far less attention in the national press. (Vox)

Protests aim to bring attention to an issue so that attention can bring about social change. When the new Trump administration announced its first travel ban against Muslims in January 2017, thousands of protestors rapidly gathered at NYC airports, drawing critical public attention to the issue. Within 24 hours, a federal judge in NY issued a temporary injunction and the ban was lifted.

Naomi Wolf notes that an effective protest disrupts business as usual — so how does protesting change when the entire planet is disrupted? When there is no business as usual?

Immigrant rights groups in New York and New Jersey have taken to their cars in “driving protests” with hand-written signs in every window, driving slowly in caravans, honking horns, and flashing lights, to draw attention to immigrant detainees locked in detention centers during the pandemic. Cosecha organized a month of #FreeThemAllFridays with bike and car rallies to demand people’s release from ICE detention. Immigration activists gathered at an elevated station on the 7 train in Queens to unfurl banners– “Fund Excluded Workers”, “ Cancel Rent Now”, and “Free Them All”. On May Day, the Laundry Workers Center coordinated with nail salon workers, street vendors, domestic workers, cab drivers, and other workers for an hour of storytelling streamed live with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Make the Road and NICE have also held COVID vigils for #NamingTheLost, remembering those who are lost to us by projecting their names on the side of a building.

During the past month of stay-at-home orders, national media has paid far more attention to small numbers of white protestors with assault weapons–many purposefully not wearing protective face masks, screaming at police and public officials–than they ever paid to large immigrants rights protests over the last year organized by groups like “Lights for Liberty” and “Families Belong Together”. One of Trump’s advisors, Stephen Moore, actually celebrated ‘anti-lockdown’ protestors, which include white nationalist militia members, by trying to associate them with the historic action of Rosa Parks.

For the first time since stay-at-home orders launched in New York in late March, up to ten people may now join for “non-essential gatherings.” While Governor Cuomo initially excluded protesters from his May 21st executive order, he reversed course under threat of a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Up to ten socially-distanced protesters may now gather … JHISN asks our readers to share with us on facebook and twitter the creative forms of protest-in-a-pandemic they are seeing locally.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Use social media or contact the editors of your favorite newspaper to generate better coverage of immigrant justice protests.
  • Find where your skills are in this set of strategies for sustainable protest, then offer your skills for free to an activist group.

 

3. “In Their Own Words”– Latinx Immigrant New Yorkers and the Impact of COVID-19

Make the Road NY’s recently-released survey, Excluded in the Epicenter: Impacts of the Covid Crisis on Working-Class Immigrant, Black, and Brown New Yorkers, offers an invaluable and devastating picture of local communities reeling from the pandemic. Based on 244 phone interviews with mostly Latinx immigrants in and around NYC, the report reveals in careful empirical detail the intersecting crises faced by respondents: of work and income, housing, illness and death, education, and emotional health. 

Mapped out in charts, graphs, interview excerpts, and biographical stories, the unmet needs of immigrant New Yorkers are staggering. While one in six respondents have already lost a family member to COVID-19, and four in ten report family members with COVID-19, less than half believe they have received the medical attention that they or their loved ones need. With 92% of respondents living in households where at least one earner has lost a job due to the crisis, only 5% have received unemployment benefits in the past month. Among the two-thirds of respondents experiencing depression and anxiety, nearly half do not know where to go for help. With 89% of respondents worried about how they will pay their rent, only 15% have received any form of government assistance.

“If we don’t die from the virus,” said one member, “it will be from hunger.”

The report also spotlights the experiences of youth—one-third of respondents were 24 years old and under—almost all of whom spoke of the toll the crisis is taking on their mental health:

It’s been hard! My brother and I are in college and my younger brother and cousin are in high school and elementary school. It’s very stressful. All of us are at home so it’s packed and it’s hard to concentrate. A sleep schedule has been hard to maintain. Dad and Grandma tested positive for COVID-19 and there are people in the house that are not obeying the social distance norms. Mental health issues as a student have been hard for me to deal with and getting help has been difficult because it’s not something I’ve navigated before.

Nearly one-quarter of young people reported that their experience with remote learning was “poor” or “very poor,” due to barriers including internet access (38%), no devices (42%), lack of school support (34%), or parents working (18%).

What would a ‘true recovery’ from this crisis look like? Excluded in the Epicenter ends with concrete policy recommendations and political demands that would help build a just society in which immigrant communities are, always, essential and empowered. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

We wish you health, strength, and care as the crisis transforms and continues. The rich, complex fabric of our neighborhood has been torn. We hope that solidarity is one means of repair, together with new forms of connection.

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network

 

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