Category: Racism

JHISN Newsletter 07/02/2020

Dear friends,

Red, blue, and white are the proclaimed colors of this nation’s founding. The color of justice is yet to be invented — but it will always be indebted to black. As we approach a national and nationalist holiday this weekend, JHISN offers a newsletter in response to the nationwide demand for a profound reckoning with anti-Black racism and violence. We present three stories at the intersection of Black Lives Matter, the ongoing protests, struggles for immigrant justice, and policing. We ask that you put them to use! 

Newsletter highlights:

  • How Immigrant Politics Intersect with Black Lives Matter
  • “Defund the Police!” — More than a Rallying Cry
  • ICE/CBP/DHS Deployed Against Racial and Social Justice Movements 

1. Black Lives Matter and Immigrant Rights

Our call for Respect and Dignity doesn’t stop on immigrant issues…Now is the time to demand justice for all, but especially for Black lives…That means we must also work to check the anti-blackness within our own community, we must now all become actively anti-racist and ensure that our community stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The Latinx community has benefitted from this long and generational fight for racial justice by our Black familia and we must acknowledge it and be thankful for their strength and courage through the centuries. —Make the Road Nevada

Immigrant rights groups were quick to join the Black Lives Matter uprising. Solidarity arises largely out of common experience with white supremacist oppression, enforced by violent policing and mass incarceration. For immigrant rights groups, the BLM rebellion also shines a spotlight once again on the political imperative of unity with the Black freedom movement–a movement which is leading the attack on the same racist, violent system that impacts working-class immigrants and immigrants of color. Such unity could not only help save Black lives, but also play a wider role in defeating white nationalism and building a coalition for broad progressive change.

There’s extensive overlap between the oppression of Black people and of working-class immigrants:

1. Many immigrants are Black. Black immigrants make up about 7.2% of the non-citizen population. In some cases, they faced anti-Black racism in their countries of origin. Now they face dual oppression in the US–as immigrants and as Black people. One organization in New York that fights for the rights of Black immigrants is African Communities Together, which wrote a moving facebook post embracing Black Lives Matter.

2. Immigrants and Black communities have common experiences with mass activism to resist police brutality and mass incarceration. For instance, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), the powerful immigrant rights organization based in Jackson Heights, emerged originally out of the militant protests that followed the police murder of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999.

3. Many immigrants have already endured police violence in their countries of origin; many also have experienced racist brutality at the hands of the US military in their countries of origin. Damayan Migrant Workers Association, which fights for low-wage Filipino workers in New York, connects the dots:

As Filipinos, we continue to suffer the long term consequences of colonization and plunder of our country by US corporations and its military-industrial complex that continues to fund the Duterte regime back home.

Where there is oppression, there will always be resistance and Black liberation movements have always stood alongside Filipinos in our shared anti-imperialist struggle. Damayan supports Black worker led movements and organizations in their calls to defund the police and end structural anti-Blackness and racism. We urge Filipinos to join the uprisings and be part of the historic moment for systemic change.  

4. Immigration police are being used to attack Black Lives Matter. At the same time, state and local police are repressing immigrants and collaborating with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and ICE. (See related article below.)

Unity between immigrants and the Black movement isn’t automatic. Although white citizens are overwhelmingly responsible for structural racism in the US, some immigrants have also participated in anti-Black attacks. And some African Americans have adopted anti-immigrant positions. The Trump regime has certainly tried its best to turn African Americans and Latinx immigrants against each other.

But there are many factors favoring unity. Polls show that most Black people in the US have positive attitudes towards immigrants. Meanwhile, second-generation immigrants are actively combating anti-Black racism in their communities. Most immigrant rights forces are giving enthusiastic support to BLM. BLM even inspired a remarkable hunger strike in solidarity with BLM at an immigrant detention center in California.

Adhikaar, the local social justice organization based in the Nepali-speaking community, describes the necessity for unity in blunt terms: 

We call on our Nepali-speaking community to open our eyes to George Floyd’s death. In the same way an Asian police officer stood by and did nothing as George Floyd was killed, we too, must not remain silent and do nothing. Let’s remind ourselves that our struggle for human rights, as working-class immigrants, is directly tied to the struggle for Black liberation. It is more important than ever now that our communities speak up and take action.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. No Justice, No Peace // De-fund-the-Po-lice

“La policía y la migra
son la misma porquería!”
–street chant, everywhere

As we finish writing this newsletter, hundreds of New Yorkers will again sleep outside under the banner Occupy City Hall, an autonomous encampment in Lower Manhattan where thousands have gathered for more than a week to demand the Mayor and City Council defund the police. Mobilized by nationwide popular uprisings for Black Lives Matter and justice for George Floyd, Occupy City Hall calls for a $1 billion cut in a $6 billion NYPD budget. Activists demand that money be reallocated to support education, housing, mental health services, and community programs that serve black and brown communities across NYC. The City Council on July 1 approved a budget with a fake $1 billion ‘cut’, and protesters have refused to end the encampment.

Activist demands to defund the police—a rallying cry that has reached a national audience this summer—are not new. Collective movements to radically re-conceive and re-structure policing, and the very meaning of community safety, have been around for decades. Organized work to disband, demilitarize, abolish, or defund the police share one goal: a structural, permanent transformation in policing that goes far beyond reform or police re-training. 

Local immigrant justice groups from DRUM and Queens Neighborhood United (QNU) to Make the Road NY publicly support defunding the NYPD. Queens-based immigrant-led groups have long mobilized for de-carceral, de-criminalized approaches to community safety. DRUM led a campaign to close Rikers and defund local jails. For QNU, organizing against policing and the criminalization of immigrant communities is central to their founding mission.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

3. Homeland Security or Racist Persecution?

The actions of CBP and ICE-HSI may violate the Privacy Act of 1974 and threaten the exercise of First Amendment-protected activities including freedom of speech and association …ICE’s surveillance activity does not appear to be predicated upon any suspected violation of a law ICE enforces.

Center for Democracy and Technology, letter to DHS, May 2019

Last month New York State passed the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, to ensure that state officials know the types of surveillance conducted on New Yorkers, and how that information is protected from federal agencies, including ICE. The POST Act was passed after reports of ICE working with the NYPD despite the city’s public stance of non-cooperation, and after the Department of Justice allowed the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to conduct covert surveillance of protests against the police murder of George Floyd. 

The DEA, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are all agencies within the sprawling Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with its $51 billion annual budget. In June, Black Lives Matter protests in 15 U.S. cities came under DHS surveillance, including the use of CBP drone technology, despite the protests having nothing to do with drug law enforcement or border ‘control.’  

The House Oversight Committee has demanded an explanation from DHS for the use of Homeland Security resources to intimidate and surveil peaceful U.S. protests. The committee also recently investigated “racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments made by CBP employees in secret Facebook groups” over the last year. Local groups like DRUM have called out, as far back as 2012, the widespread racial profiling and surveillance of working-class immigrants by DHS and other federal and local law enforcement agencies.

During the recent nationwide uprisings against anti-Black violence, the use of fusion centers–established after 9/11 to share ‘intelligence’ between local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal agencies–has been questioned as the DHS has treated peaceful protests as a potential national security threat. DHS has deployed “fusion” surveillance technologies for years to target social justice activist groups, lawyers, and journalists. Fortunately, many organizations filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, bringing attention to these unconstitutional practices:

  • The ACLU found that DHS targeted lawful protests and peaceful political groups from 2006-2009. 
  • In 2011, The Partnership for Civil Justice uncovered DHS surveillance of the Occupy movement. 
  • The Center for Constitutional Rights revealed that DHS monitored the Movement for Black Lives in July 2016
  • In June 2018, The Intercept established that DHS worked with a private security firm to monitor nearly 600 groups protesting against immigrant families separated while in DHS custody.

In June 2019, 100 organizations joined forces and wrote a letter to oppose DHS surveillance of activists, journalists, and lawyers “based on their association with migrants seeking asylum.” Their letter also noted that ICE and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) had created a spreadsheet of ‘anti-Trump’ protests in NYC during the summer of 2018, as the ‘Abolish ICE’ campaign gained visibility and the Trump regime continued its family separations at the southern border. Five days later Oregon Senator Josh Wyden sent a letter to Acting DHS Secretary McAleenan demanding confirmation about DHS activity and clarity on what was done with the information gathered.

The last decade reveals that challenges coming from both government and progressive groups to DHS’s unconstitutional overreach have not changed its behavior. The DHS was built from the same cultural perspectives as the existing police system which persecutes people of color and anti-racist mobilizations as potential threats. DHS should meet the same challenge for defunding and radical restructuring.   

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • When protesting, follow the guidance in the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project’s Protest Toolkit.
  • Donate to the Center for Constitutional Rights and subscribe to their “Activist Files” podcast.
  • Read an in-depth analysis of government surveillance in the Emory Law Journal.
  • Read the Brennan Center’s report on the consequences of allowing surveillance programs to go unchecked.
  • Sign the ACLU petition demanding Amazon not use its facial recognition tools for government surveillance.

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 06/20/2020

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 06/06/2020

George Floyd

The struggle for immigrant rights and the fight against police brutality are connected. Black communities for generations have disproportionately borne the brunt of police militarization and brutality that often is also deployed to detain and deport immigrants. 

New Jersey Immigrant Justice Center (NJIC)

Dear friends,

We write in solidarity with the nationwide popular uprisings calling for justice for George Floyd, and for an end to the long, violent history of anti-Black racism by the police. Our newsletter is interrupted—as are so many people’s lives right now—by the surging demand that Black Lives Matter.

We mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee. Rest in power to all who have died in the hands of police, ICE, or CBP. We recognize that these most recent deaths occur during a global pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black, Brown, and immigrant communities in the U.S., with nearly 23,000 deaths of Black Americans. We honor the tens of thousands who have poured into the streets, with courage and commitment, to turn our public mourning into political change.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Consider joining local protests, while protecting ourselves from health risks or police arrests. For updated listings of NYC protests see @justiceforgeorgenyc
  • Demand justice by signing the petitions for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee.
  • On Monday, June 8th, 3:30pm to 5:00pm, join the NYS Day of Action for Education. Come to the socially distanced march on 34th Ave in Jackson Heights starting at 69th street. “March for Schools! Defund the Police.
  • Donate to local and national Bail Funds to help protesters quickly get out of jail during a pandemic that is spreading through the prison and detention system. Here is a Directory of Immigration System Bail Funds.
  • Support organizations calling to “Defund the NYPD” and reallocate monies to education and community services.
  • #repeal50a and join with Communities for Police Reform to demand the repeal of section 50-A of the NY state code to bring transparency to the misconduct and disciplinary records of every officer charged with brutality.
  • Attend a forum on Tuesday, June 9th, 8:00pm to 9:00pm on how the millionaire’s tax can be used to fully fund our schools, dismantle the police presence in schools, and return to school in safety following the pandemic.
  • Support the four demands, including defunding the NYPD, announced in an open letter to the mayor written by over 300 current and former staffers for de Blasio.
  • Add our names to the Alliance for Quality Education petition telling Mayor De Blasio to Defund the NYPD and invest in school
  • Educate ourselves about local and national campaigns to end police violence.

 

In solidarity,

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.

Image copyright Lorie Shaull

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

 

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. 

 

 

The Psychology of Scapegoating Immigrants

scape·goat
/ˈskāpˌɡōt/
noun
noun: scapegoat; plural noun: scapegoats
1. a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.

There’s no denying it: life is going downhill for a whole lot of people in the US. This country now has an 18% poverty rate, the highest of all major Western industrialized nations. Good-paying, blue-collar jobs have practically disappeared. The educational system is falling apart, along with the infrastructure. People spend ever-increasing amounts of money for unreliable health care. In fact, life expectancy is falling and infant mortality is on the rise. Mass shootings are a common occurrence. Drug abuse is at epidemic levels. The US imprisons more of its population than any other country. Pollution and other environmental damage is poisoning us. Corruption infests every level of government.

It’s no surprise that people are frustrated, even angry. What’s harder to explain is why so many are willing to blame immigrants and refugees for their problems. Polls show that most people in this country support immigrants, yet tens of millions of citizens endorse the abuses and the reign of terror inflicted on migrants by the US government.

People accuse immigrants of draining resources from the economy, though every study shows they actually improve the economy and create more jobs. Many unjustly label immigrants as criminals, even though they are significantly more law-abiding than the rest of the population. This willful ignorance, flying in the face of the facts, is rooted in irrational thinking.

There’s no question that most anti-immigrant sentiment in this country is tied to white racism. Many people who attack immigrants embrace the idea of the US as a white nation that rules by dominating people of color. White nationalists cling to their race privileges as treasured possessions. In their fevered imaginations, the impending arrival of a non-white majority is perceived as an existential threat. Their guilty consciences make them terrified that, once they are in the minority, whites will be treated the same way they have treated people of color. By keeping out migrants from “shithole countries” in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Carribean, they hope to stem the tide of history, preserving a bubble of white supremacy in a multiracial world.

One of the ugliest forms of racism against immigrants is scapegoating. Scapegoaters blame immigrants of color for all the ills of US society. The narrative for scapegoating starts with the assertion that society has only a fixed quantity of jobs, education, health care, and wealth. According to this narrative, society is like a big pie: if we let somebody else have a slice, there’s less for us. And the reason life is going downhill today is supposedly because we give too much of our pie to immigrants. Immigrants should stay away from our pie, or at least wait in line until we’ve eaten our fill.

Though this narrative is illogical, it is persistent. Its believers don’t care that immigration is something our society needs to be healthy, or that immigration creates greater wealth—a bigger pie. They certainly don’t care about the human rights of migrants, or the fact that US policies have created massive migration. What matters to scapegoaters is the narrative itself—that they have identified people less powerful than themselves—people of color—that they can blame for their troubles.

It’s obvious to everybody living in the US that wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a tiny number of people. Billionaires are the ones who hoard virtually the entire pie. They are the ones who are parasites on society—and not just our society, but the societies where migrants come from as well. The Trump tax cuts funneled billions of dollars to the richest 1%—money that could have been used to solve problems for ordinary people.

Scapegoaters are fully aware of this, but they are cowards. They are too morally weak and frightened to blame the billionaires for the declining state of the country, let alone actually try to do anything to stop them. Fighting back might involve some risk, some sacrifice. Cowards can’t handle that.

Instead, under the influence of people like Trump and his rich friends, scapegoaters punch down at immigrants of color—who are often the most vulnerable members of society. Demonizing immigrants gives the cowards an outlet for their anger, while still allowing them to kiss up to the rich and powerful. (Meanwhile, the rich and powerful laugh at them behind their backs.)

For scapegoaters, it’s all about short-term ego gratification. They don’t care about the long-term economic or political costs of scapegoating, provided those don’t impact them right now. They certainly don’t care about the human costs. In fact, they seem to enjoy seeing immigrants of color oppressed and humiliated. Cruelty is part of the psychology of scapegoating.

Scapegoaters are not just enemies of the immigrant human rights movement but enemies of everyone fighting for justice, equality, and freedom. They fortify the billionaire elite, undermine our solidarity, and function as shock troops for a corrupt, racist system. We need to expose them and call them out whenever they raise their cowardly voices.