Category: News

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.




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.



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.”


JHISN In the News

Barbara Mutnick of the JHISN contributed to the Fall newsletter of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, providing an overview of recent actions and policies against immigrants and how the Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network supports our immigrant neighbors.


Don’t Panic! Public Charge Rule Changes

UPDATE – 11 October 2019: A Judge in New York has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction which stops the Department of Homeland Security’s “public charge” regulation from going into effect. This is a victory for immigrant families. The legal fight will continue, but for now, the rules in the United States have not changed.

18 September 2019: Yesterday afternoon, the New York Immigration Coalition held their Queens Town Hall on Public Charge. Changes to the Public Charge Rule are set to go into effect on October 15, 2019, though this may be delayed due to litigation. Fear and confusion have led many people, some of whom wouldn’t have been affected by these changes, to drop services and benefits they desperately need.

The Public Charge Rule is a test to determine if someone will become dependent on the government. It is assessed when someone applies for a green card or certain types of visas. The concept is not new; it has existed for over 100 years. However, since 1999, only two types of benefits were considered in the test—cash assistance (like TANF or SSI) and institutionalized long-term healthcare (like a nursing home).

When the changes go into effect in October, other criteria will also be considered, including SNAP (food stamps), subsidized housing assistance (Section 8 and public housing), and non-emergency Medicaid (but NOT healthcare services, the Essential Plan, Emergency Medicaid, or Medicaid for pregnant women and children). Immigrants who use these benefits could be considered a “public charge” and see their applications for green cards or visas denied.

Don’t panic. First, determine if you are affected by these changes. Many people aren’t. For example, if you are already a U.S. citizen, or you are a legal permanent resident (green card holder), or you are applying for U.S. citizenship, this rule change does not affect you. Do not withdraw from any services or benefits that you currently receive.

Similarly, if you are a refugee, asylee, Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ), T & U Visa holder, victim of domestic violence (VAWA), or have another humanitarian status, you are also exempt from the rule change.

The rule change affects only people who are applying for a green card or visas that are not exempt as listed above. Even if you may be affected, remember that public charge determinations are based on many different circumstances, including whether a person’s income, resources, age, family situation and health would lead to dependence on government assistance in the future. Being enrolled in benefits does not by itself make someone a public charge. If you are concerned about your situation, consult an immigration or benefits expert before disenrolling from any programs.

New Yorkers who have questions about the new rule can contact the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to receive more information and be connected to resources.

For further information, download the NYIC Public Charge flyer, available in several languages.

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs also has a page on the Public Charge Rule.