Category: Jackson Heights

JHISN Newsletter 04/03/2021

Dear friends,

Since we sent our last newsletter two weeks ago, immigrant workers have continued their hunger strike demanding inclusion of a Fund for Excluded Workers in the New York state budget. The ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ has brought together workers, mothers, aunties, brothers, husbands, sisters, grandmas, elders, and our neighbors, who are putting their bodies on the line to get emergency pandemic relief for undocumented workers. We continue to cover the historic strike below.

We also report on a recent legislative victory celebrated by local immigrant justice groups. House passage of the American Dream and Promise Act 2021 is a major step toward creating a possible citizenship path for Dreamers, TPS holders, and other immigrant residents. 

Newsletter highlights:

  1. ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ enters its third week 
  2. Legislation promises citizenship path for over 4 million immigrants  

1. Hunger strike continues as state budget talks drag on

“We are here because we have suffered enough. We have already endured a year of hunger. What difference does it make to endure two or three weeks more with the purpose of getting something that we deserve…Our stomachs ask for food, but our hearts ask for justice.”  —Veronica Leal, hunger striker (Documented, March 31, 2021)

Now in its third week, with individual hunger strikers in wheelchairs and facing increasing health risks, the ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ is a challenge now for us. What will we do, as immigrant and undocumented workers refuse to end their strike until the New York State legislature passes a ‘just budget’? How to measure our own hunger for justice against the ease of forgetting that almost a quarter-million undocumented immigrants in New York State have been excluded for over a year from any federal pandemic emergency relief? What does it mean to remember that many of the workers who have stocked grocery shelves, delivered take-out food, served meals and washed dishes for folks who venture out to eat, are hungry? And have families and children who are hungry too.

The #FundExcludedWorkers coalition, led by immigrant New Yorkers, has been mobilizing political pressure since last summer to tax the rich and raise state revenue to financially protect undocumented workers devastated by the pandemic. On March 16, as JHISN reported, the coalition launched a hunger strike now in its 19th day, with immigrant strikers staying in Judson Church in the West Village, and dozens more participating statewide in the strike in Westchester, Syracuse, and Albany. They aim to secure a $3.5 billion workers fund in the New York State budget. The initial proposed budget contained a suggested $2.1 billion fund, but activists insist that anything less than the full $3.5 billion is not enough to retroactively make up for the lost emergency support to excluded workers over the past year. 

The state budget was scheduled to be finalized by March 31. But that deadline has come and gone, with negotiations dragging on through this weekend. Hunger strikers continue to drink water and refuse food. Day 20…21…22?

Since the launch, elected officials and NYC mayoral candidates have joined the hunger strike on select days; immigrant justice groups and their allies have organized virtual hunger strikes in solidarity; rallies have been held in front of Governor Cuomo’s office; supporters have been arrested for civil disobedience in the streets; local politicians have washed the feet of hunger strikers in a symbolic Holy Thursday action; and musicians, dancers, artists, and storytellers have put their creativity in service of funding excluded workers.    

How has Governor Cuomo responded to this historic mobilization? By March 29, Cuomo’s team had introduced new barriers to workers’ ability to access the multi-billion-dollar fund included in the state assembly’s original budget proposal. The ‘poison pills’ proposed by Cuomo would require immigrant workers to present federal ITIN numbers, or bank account and payroll stubs, in order to access funding. “We cannot move forward with an Excluded Workers Fund that excludes the excluded workers,” noted Jessica Maxwell of the Central New York Workers Center. Immigrant workers and their allies rallied in Washington Square Park to decry the new barriers and demand a ‘flexible application’ process for undocumented workers. If Cuomo’s restrictions are put in place, most of the individual hunger strikers will not be eligible for the funds they starved for. 

As we remember the ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ and the urgent need for government support of all workers caught in the pandemic catastrophe, the words of Ana Ramirez—a hunger striker speaking at a public rally on Day 5—can inspire and haunt us:

“I want to make it clear to this nation, the most important nation in the world, that we will no longer conform to being told ‘Good Job.’ We want the laws to be just, because it is then that we can work with love, with honor, with dignity…  

“It is not just me but thousands of families—families that went to the bakery to bake the bread so that the rich can eat during this pandemic comfortably. I am forgotten, I am one of the excluded. We are house cleaners, construction workers, restaurant workers, retail workers, laundry workers, all of whom have worked hard for this nation… 

“When the body is depleted of its minerals, the vitamins that it needs, you begin to tremble. But this gives me more strength. Because that is the hunger that thousands of working families face…

“And the rich, the powerful, the thieves that don’t pay taxes, they were able to go through the pandemic with comfort and ease. But we the poor don’t ask for anything given. 

“I want to tell you all that my hunger strike is only beginning. Because if they want to see me die of hunger, they will.”

Ana Ramirez, hunger striker since Day 1

(translated from Spanish)

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Immediately contact your state legislators to voice support for the $3.5 billion Excluded Workers Fund.
  • Follow daily Hunger Strike updates, solidarity events, and social media campaigns at Fund Excluded Workers website and Instagram
  • Check out the Allies Action Toolkit with instructions on how to organize your own solidarity hunger strike, and amplify via social media.
  • Donate to the Strike Support fund here.

2. Path to citizenship could open for millions

“Yesterday, yet again, we made history with the passage of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6). This legislation, which passed with bipartisan support yesterday by a vote of 228-197, is a historic step towards correcting the injustices in America’s immigration system. … This is truly a grassroots win.” Pabitra Khati Benjamin, Adhikaar (email, March 19, 2021)

More than 4 million undocumented immigrants could get a path to citizenship under a bill passed last month by the U.S. House of Representatives.

While it faces a potentially steep uphill climb in the Senate—and it would leave millions of other people still without a path to legal status—the new bill has been supported by many immigrant advocacy groups, including Queens-based Adhikaar.

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 would provide conditional permanent residence for up to 10 years to people who came to the United States as children, including recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). By meeting certain requirements—for example, going to school or getting a job—those individuals could then gain permanent resident status (a green card), which could eventually lead to citizenship.

They’d be ineligible for conditional status if they have certain criminal offenses on their records, and they’d lose their status if convicted of a serious crime. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security would have authority to deny applications if officials have “clear and convincing evidence” that the applicant was involved in gang activity in recent years or is otherwise a public safety threat. These provisions have been criticized by several groups, including The Bronx Defenders and Human Rights Watch, who cite the disproportionate effect the stipulations could have on immigrants of color.

Certain other immigrants, including those with Temporary Protected Status and those protected under a program called Deferred Enforced Departure, would also be eligible for permanent status under the new bill.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 4.4 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could become eligible for permanent status if this bill becomes law.

“The passage of the American Dream and Promise Act within the first 100 days of the 117th Congress signals the overwhelming support for the legislation and a commitment to make good on overdue promises,” Amaha Kassa, executive director of African Communities Together, said in a statement. “We call on the Senate to take up and swiftly pass this legislation into law.” President Joe Biden has already voiced his support for the bill.

The so-called Dreamers—young people who were brought to the United States as children, many of whom have been protected by DACA—are probably the most often discussed group that would be covered by the bill. Less often talked about are TPS holders.

Temporary Protected Status grants temporary legal status to immigrants who would face humanitarian emergencies like war or fallout from natural disasters if sent back to their home countries. (Deferred Enforced Departure, which currently covers people from Liberia and Venezuela, is similar to Temporary Protected Status, and DED holders are also covered by the new bill. But whereas DED is at the discretion of the president, TPS is under the supervision of the secretary of Homeland Security.)

Nepal, Syria, Haiti, and Somalia are among the countries whose citizens have gained TPS protection in the United States.

“TPS holders are critical essential workers on the frontline of our economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” said Pabitra Khati Benjamin, executive director of Adhikaar. The group advocates for the rights of the Nepali-speaking community here in Central Queens and has been a leader in the fight to maintain protection for TPS holders. (Nepal received TPS designation after the massive earthquake and aftershocks that hit the country in 2015.)

The Trump administration tried to rescind TPS protection for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from several countries, including Nepal, but the policy was stalled amid litigation over the issue, which is still pending. Adhikaar has called for the Biden administration to redesignate Nepal as a protected country. At the same time, the group has advocated for Congress to provide permanent residency to TPS holders.

If passed into law, the new bill would be a significant step in that direction. It wouldn’t create the pathway to citizenship for all undocumented individuals that Adhikaar and other groups want, but advocates say this is still a victory.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • If you are able, consider a donation to Adhikaar to support their ongoing fight for Nepali-speaking TPS holders.

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 12/19/2020

Dear friends,

Winter arrives, with beauty and threat, in pandemic times. As the snowstorm swirled this week, COVID deaths continued their catastrophic rise across much of the country. Since last March, when JHISN started to meet remotely, we have drawn inspiration from the ongoing grassroots activism of so many local immigration groups during the crisis. We offer this final newsletter of 2020 with a focus on the collective resistance of the hunger strikers in New Jersey, and on the powerful political art created by immigration activists here in NYC.  

For those of you who have not yet — please consider contributing to our ‘Neighborhood Emergency!’ fundraising campaign. The campaign gathers direct donations to local immigrant-led community groups who are providing, under extraordinarily difficult conditions, emergency support throughout the pandemic. Deep thanks to each of you who has already made a donation.

We wish you collective warmth as, together, we continue to find ways to struggle and to celebrate.

Newsletter Highlights:

  1. Hunger Strike by Local Immigrant Detainees
  2. The Billionaire Scroll — ArtActivism@CentralPark

1. The Struggle at the Bergen County Jail

When anyone embarks on a hunger strike, they are putting their bodies on the line for the opportunity to be heard. These brave hunger strikers are protesting their indefinite detention and right to be reunited with loved ones and community where they can safely socially distance. —Abolish ICE NY-NJ

As this is written, several immigrant detainees at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey, have been on a hunger strike for over a month. They are demanding their right to wait for their immigration hearings at home with their families, instead of locked inside freezing cold, unsanitary cells where they are abused by guards and denied adequate medical treatment and water. One of the hunger strikers has lost over 40 pounds. In retaliation for the strike, ICE has transferred some of the strikers to other jails, where they will potentially be subjected to force-feeding and increased exposure to Covid-19

Transferring those putting their bodies on their line for a chance of freedom is a clear act of retaliation. The process separates people from their network of support, worsens the COVID-19 pandemic behind bars, and is directly responsible for the record number of deaths in ICE detention this year. Officials must act immediately to release those on hunger strike, and take substantive steps towards decarcerating ICE prisons.” —Tania Mattos, Freedom for Immigrants, Dec 9, 2020

Supporters of the hunger strikers have maintained a daily presence outside the jail, and have sometimes clashed with police. In recent days, Bergen County Sheriffs have become increasingly aggressive with protesters, including arresting 25-year old Niko Sanabria-John on December 11th on multiple charges. An organizer for the group Ridgewood for Black Liberation considers the arrest of Sanabria-John, who is Black, to be racially motivated. On December 12, nine more people were arrested outside the jail, eight of whom are New Yorkers. (Most of the immigrants detained in the Hackensack facility are from New York.) Jail windows have been covered to prevent strikers from hearing the demonstrators outside.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, six people attending a demonstration supporting the hunger strikers had to be rushed to the hospital after a car drove into the middle of their protest on December 11.

According to existing law and past practice, people arrested for immigration offenses are supposed to be individually evaluated as to whether they are a flight risk or threat to public safety. If not, they are supposed to be released on bond or their own recognizance. But the New York ICE field office is jailing virtually everybody. As an excuse, they use a risk assessment algorithm, modified in 2017 by the Trump regime to remove any option that could produce a recommendation for release.  According to the NY Civil Liberties Union, “ICE has secretly decided to detain thousands of New Yorkers unlawfully, inflicting enormous and entirely unnecessary harms.” 

NYCLU and Bronx Defenders brought a class action suit against this illegal policy in February. But while that effort works its way through the courts, many immigrants in the NY/NJ area are stuck in jail, separated from their families, and deeply worried about contracting coronavirus. That is why they have taken the drastic measure of staging a hunger strike.

The current strike was also inspired by the success of a previous hunger striker, Marcial Morales Garcia. Morales Garcia insisted that his underlying health problems made him vulnerable to coronavirus. After nine days of striking, he was allowed to leave the jail with an ankle monitor–something that could also be done for the current hunger strikers. Instead, ICE continues to resort to aggressive threats and systematic retaliation.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Volunteer with or donate to the New Sanctuary Coalition “Free Them All” campaign.
  • Fight to make the Biden administration enact a moratorium on immigration deportation and detentions

2. Scrolling for Justice — Activist Art for Excluded Workers

[T]he billionaire class, over all, has been the biggest winner from the pandemic, and the working-class has been the biggest loser. —The New Yorker, Dec. 10, 2020

Snow was falling thick and fast as activists, masked, shouted into the microphone, demanding passage of an emergency billionaires tax in New York State. On December 9, over 100 community members gathered in wintry Central Park to display a stunning three-block-long black scroll, calling for a new tax on the very richest to support working-class, immigrant, and undocumented workers. The scroll was designed and built by artist Ange Tran, with creative support from Zosia Skorko, in a huge studio space donated just for the project.

Immigrant justice groups including Make the Road NY, the Laundry Workers Center, and the Street Vendor Project, came together to roll out the massive 650-foot scroll, representing the $600+ billion in net worth held by New York’s 120 billionaires. Angeles Solis, an organizer with Make the Road, took the mic to make clear the connection between #Tax the Rich and the urgent campaign to fund excluded workers:

In a moment of mass inequality and desperation, the NY billionaires have gained more than they ever need or deserve. As I stand here in the snow, in the cold, with hundreds of excluded workers who are lining up every single day at food pantries to survive, we are outside of the homes of billionaire Leon Black, Steve Schwarzman, and the Trump Tower, a small representation of the disgusting hoarding of billionaire wealth in New York.Angeles Solis, Dec. 9, 2020

Far from a quixotic battle, the movement to Tax the Rich took a huge leap forward as dozens of state lawmakers called for a return to Albany before the New Year to pass emergency legislation, including a tax hike on the wealthy. A national group of 50 economic and legal scholars released a public letter on Dec. 10 advising top NY officials to raise taxes on billionaires in the face of fiscal emergency. Responding to Cuomo’s repeated concern that NY billionaires will move out-of-state, the letter pointedly notes: “Billionaires much more frequently remain ​​residents of the localities in which they became successful. Unless Wall Street is transported to ​​Florida, then, such fears are unfounded.” This past week, in a surprise move, the state Assembly Speaker also voiced support for the first time for an end-of-year tax hike.

Immigration activists are responding by stepping up the pressure. On December 16, Make the Road NY co-organized a “Ten Tweets for $10 Billion” hourly twitter rally, from 10 am to 7 pm. The digital activism mobilized supporters to send a series of tweets urging lawmakers to immediately pass $10 billion in emergency aid. Organizers explained:

For nine months the drumbeat of need has been building in epicenter communities and the homes of families hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we echo that drumbeat and tell those families and neighbors that we commit to standing with them. Every hour on the hour we speak out on Twitter to build the drumbeat for the relief they deserve – 10 tweets for $10 billion in emergency cash and a down payment on the investment we will need to make in 2021 for the recovery of our communities. Join us.  –MTRNY email, Dec. 16, 2020

JHISN, together with over 140 organizations, is part of the Fund Excluded Workers campaign. Help us keep building a coalition of solidarity to #Tax the Rich and #Fund Excluded Workers.

WHAT CAN WE 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 12/05/2020

Photo: Barbara Mutnick

 

Dear friends,

December arrives with measured optimism that one of the most viciously anti-immigrant administrations in US history will soon be out of power. JHISN wants to take this moment to thank our newsletter readers for the encouraging responses we received in our recent reader survey. “Keep doing what you are doing” was one of your clear messages—and we will. Readers expressed most interest in locally-focused immigration news and the work of local immigrant justice groups, so you will find more of it here in our pages. Readers looking for practical actions that make a difference can find concrete ideas in our regular ‘WHAT CAN WE DO?’ sections.

For survey respondents who said they would like to volunteer with JHISN—helping out with social media, or joining a working group—our survey was anonymous, so we don’t know who you are! Please send us a follow-up email at info@jhimmigrantsolidarity.org with the subject line “I’d like to volunteer”.

We continue our ‘Neighborhood Emergency!’ fundraising campaign as winter arrives and food insecurity, housing, job loss, and health, remain intersecting crises for many immigrant households. Your donation goes directly to local immigrant-led community groups who are providing, under extraordinarily difficult conditions, emergency support throughout the pandemic. Gratitude to everyone who has already contributed to the campaign!

Newsletter highlights:

  1.   Local Activism Intensifies to Fund Excluded Workers
  2.   Mobilizing for a Moratorium on Deportations and Detentions

1. Local Activism: Tax the Rich! Fund Excluded Workers!

On November 24, 2020, two noteworthy events took place. First, local activists with the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition gathered in a mock breadline outside Governor Cuomo’s office to dramatize the unmet needs of immigrant New Yorkers during the pandemic. And second, the total wealth gain of US billionaires during the COVID-19 crisis surpassed $1 trillion by the close of the stock markets, a 34% increase since mid-March.

As we reported in a previous newsletter, the campaign to Fund Excluded Workers (FEW) brings together several local immigrant justice groups including Adhikaar, Make the Road, NICE, Street Vendor Project, DRUM, and Chhaya. Together, they are demanding emergency support for immigrant workers excluded from federal relief, funded through a New York State billionaires tax. Activists have marched in the summer Hamptons with protest signs and pitchforks, held a public sleep-over on the sidewalk outside Jeff Bezos’ Fifth Avenue penthouse, joined in a hunger fast in Madison Square Park, and used the historic symbolism of the breadline to dramatize the obscene mismatch between the surplus of the very wealthy and the stinging hardship of everyday workers during the pandemic.

Several Democrats who promised to tax the rich and build an economy to serve working people got elected in statewide contests on November 3, boosting the chances that this community-led struggle can be won. Grassroots groups immediately called on the post-election state legislature to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers. Immigrant justice groups and the FEW Coalition are potentially poised to wield increased power as new Democratic supermajorities in both the Senate and Assembly move New York’s state politics—and its coronavirus response—in more progressive directions. 

Undocumented workers, and immigrants in the informal economy (day laborers, vendors, sex workers, food delivery workers), have struggled to withstand the pandemic crisis with zero federal emergency relief. No stimulus check. No unemployment benefits. A recent report on “The Pandemic Recession” notes:

The overall unemployment rates are dramatic, and every group is deeply affected by the COVID-19 recession. But, immigrants and people of color are hit far harder by unemployment. And undocumented immigrants may be hit hardest of all, while also being left out of aid… Fiscal Policy Institute, November 2020

While there are few direct measures of unemployment among the estimated 490,000 undocumented workers in New York State, we do know that undocumented labor is concentrated in industries hit hardest by the crisis: hotels, restaurants, and food services. The nail salon industry in NY, which hums on undocumented women’s work, has seen a 50% drop in customers as of October. Here in Jackson Heights, we don’t need to look any further than the block-long lines at food banks to see that immigrant communities, and our undocumented neighbors, need immediate support—not systematic exclusion from emergency economic aid. Fund. Excluded. Workers. Now. 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. For Hope—and a Real Moratorium

In this election, Americans chose a new path forward. We will hold President-elect Biden accountable to the promise he made on the campaign trail to respect immigrant communities and fight hard so that we can remain with our families in this country. —Anu Joshi, NY Immigration Coalition, Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC, 9/10/20

This is a season of hope for immigrants and everyone who believes in immigrant justice. Donald Trump, the anti-immigrant terrorist-in-chief, is gradually being dragged out of the White House, kicking and screaming. Joe Biden, the President-elect, promises to undo many of Trump’s most destructive policies on immigration and claims to support substantial reforms. His campaign statement on immigration, clearly influenced by AOC and Bernie Sanders, was a noticeable improvement over decades of conservative Democratic Party policy. 

Nobody was particularly surprised when Biden pledged to reverse Trump’s Muslim Ban and family separation policies. Or when the candidate said he would restore TPS, DACA, and pre-existing asylum laws. Or when he proposed to reverse draconian “public charge” regulations, send humanitarian resources to the Mexican border, provide aid for Central American countries, and broaden visa programs. What was more encouraging, and more of a break with the past, was Biden’s full-throated cry for a “roadmap to citizenship” for 11 million long-term undocumented people: 

These are our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. They are our neighbors, co-workers, and members of our congregations and Little League teams. They contribute in countless ways to our communities, workforce, and economy.    —Biden campaign statement

Yes, there are reasons for hope. But hope is not enough.

We can never forget that Biden was part of the administration that deported more immigrants than any regime in US history. (He has at least admitted that this was “a mistake.”) Biden’s refusal to call for dismantling ICE or the Border Patrol signals the limits of his vision for immigrant justice. Trying to “reform” these cesspools of racism and anti-immigrant ideology can easily be dead-ended by resistance inside and outside the agencies.

Any meaningful immigration reform will require solid commitment from the new administration—and possibly a Senate majority

Untangling the human rights disaster at the southern border will also be extremely challenging. Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers are waiting in camps in Mexico; tens of thousands more wish to cross. Processing all these urgent applications, under changing regulations, with immigration agencies in turmoil, will take time and massive resources.

Similarly, many of Trump’s reactionary executive orders are “sticky”—they can’t be overturned immediately. Some of them overlap, requiring that they be reversed in a specific order. Biden’s reforms will have to be made according to complex legal procedures, and will provoke numerous court challenges.

Immigrants, under extreme pressure from ICE and DHS, and from Covid-19, cannot wait while government bureaucracies grind through years of debates and formalities, with no guarantees that this process will result in major improvements. That’s why, since long before the presidential race, JHISN has called for a complete moratorium on deportations and detentions until the broken, racist immigration system gets fixed. We think this is a key organizing focus: a way to keep up the pressure on politicians during the current emergency, and to prioritize the basic human rights of migrants.

To his credit, Joe Biden has promised a partial, conditional deportation freeze. During the primary debates in March, he “committed to halting deportations of nearly all immigrants in the country illegally…..He would place a moratorium on deportations in the first 100 days of his administration and then would only look to deport people convicted of felonies.” This freeze proposal has been repeated in various forms during the post-election period. 

Like much of the Biden program, this is a step in the right direction—but isn’t nearly enough. One hundred days is not enough time to reform the system. Also, most felonies—which include things like failure to appear in court or small-time drug possession—don’t deserve to be punished with the radical sentence of deportation, which separates families and ruins lives. Finally, we need to have a moratorium that includes immigration detentions, not just deportations.

In the coming months, JHISN will renew our call for a real moratorium, one that brings sustained relief for immigrants. The election has brought us some hope—but we need to keep organizing.

WHAT CAN WE 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 11/14/2020

Dear friends,

In the face of hatred, you came forward in the spirit of love and community. You put your time, your energy, your body and spirit on the line to stop the rise of fascism and increasingly virulent and visible racism. Now we must work to…go beyond undoing what has been done by the outgoing administration and remake the system in fundamental ways. The bonds that connect us, immigrants and citizens, individuals of all genders and ethnicities…have only been strengthened over the past four years.

New Sanctuary Coalition, 11/8/20

JHISN first came together as a neighborhood group in the wake of Trump’s election in 2016. So we look, with respect, toward older immigration groups like NYC-based New Sanctuary Coalition, as we navigate our own ‘transition’ to 2021 and beyond. We echo their words here, and want to share with our readers gratitude for your work, and great hope in the power of our collective care for each other. In solidarity, we remain committed to go beyond undoing what has been done by the outgoing administration and remake the system in fundamental ways.

In this short post-election newsletter, we want to offer a picture of the history of immigrant deportations by the US government, told through the infographic below designed by one of our JHISN members. The picture shows the stunning rise in deportations in the 21st century US, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. The picture shows that the immigration system that we must remake reaches across party lines, into embedded structures of exclusion and border policing.

While we rejoice at the news that stock prices for the private prison and detention industry dropped with the news of a Biden-Harris victory, while we are horrified by the news that the parents of 666 migrant children separated from their families by Trump’s  “zero tolerance” policies have not yet been located – we also know that our struggle is against an entire immigration system and not any single issue or political administration. The Trump regime tried to dismantle and reconstruct the system through interlocking changes, some dramatic and many technical and less visible, all geared toward making it hard to undo in the near future. Our task is to understand and transform in fundamental ways what has been put in place, including the foundations of colonialism, white supremacy, and racial capitalism that it was built upon. Knowing our history can only help.

With collective hope,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network

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

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