Tag: AOC

JHISN Newsletter 03/19/2022

Dear friends,

​​Two years ago this month, Covid-19 hit the US. Our neighborhood in Central Queens quickly became a deadly epicenter of the global pandemic. For some of us that time may seem far away or a bit unreal; for others of us, including those who lost beloveds or who continue to suffer Covid’s lingering grip, the story has not ended. Memories remain vivid and losses are still grieved.

Our newsletter highlights the ongoing struggle for economic justice as the immigrant-led fight for pandemic aid marches straight to the steps of the state capitol. And we take a careful look at the inequalities and structural racism that shape how refugees are welcomed—or not—as millions of Ukrainians join the radical displacement and dispossession experienced by tens of millions fleeing Central Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Newsletter highlights:
  1. #FundExcludedWorkers Now!
  2. Refugee Politics: Who is Welcome? Who Is Excluded?

1. #ExcludedNoMore Launches ‘March to Albany’

This International Working Women’s Month, how will New York state care for domestic workers, restaurant workers, home health aids, retail workers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, daughters, sisters, wives? …. The pandemic has shown us time and again that when a crisis hits, it’s our communities who fall through the gaps in the social safety net.” – DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), 03-14-22

For those of us included in the pandemic social safety net who benefitted from supplemental unemployment insurance, stimulus checks, or remote work from home, the distance between NYC and Albany can be measured in hours or the price of an Amtrak ticket. For undocumented immigrants systematically excluded from the social safety net, the 150-mile distance to Albany is measured this month in activist days and a strategic itinerary through the districts of key state leaders. ‘March to Albany,’ organized by the Fund Excluded Workers (FEW) coalition, kicked off on March 15 in Manhattan with a march to the Bronx, and a demand for $3 billion in this year’s state budget for immigrant New Yorkers left out of pandemic aid.  

FEW won a historic victory a year ago when their 23-day hunger strike helped secure a $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund in the NYS budget to assist eligible immigrants, many of whom had not received a single dollar in federal or state pandemic support. The fund was life-changing for tens of thousands of New Yorkers who successfully applied, including thousands of residents in Queens.

But the fund ran out of money barely two months after it launched in August 2021, with an estimated 95,000 applications still pending. Tens of thousands of people never even had a chance to apply before the fund closed down. Activists report that up to 175,000 immigrants remain effectively ‘excluded’ from funding for which they are eligible, and which they desperately need.  

Immigrant justice groups, led by FEW, are mobilizing to right that wrong by securing billions for the Excluded Workers Fund in this year’s state budget. On March 8, hundreds of Deliveristas on bikes and scooters, along with domestic workers, street vendors, house cleaners, and taxi drivers, stopped traffic on the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, rallying to demand an additional $3 billion for the Fund, and a permanent unemployment insurance program for undocumented immigrant workers in NYS.  

With less than three weeks to go until the state budget is finalized, ‘March to Albany’ is routing their #ExcludedNoMore campaign through the home district of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, as part of a rolling cascade of actions around the state. On March 23, they will march into Albany to bear witness to the contributions, and needs, of essential and excluded workers. JHISN is one of over 120 organizations–along with local groups DRUM, Chhaya CDC, Adhikaar, and Damayan Migrant Workers–that endorse the Fund Excluded Workers (FEW) campaign. Join us in the urgent fight for budget justice in Albany! 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. Equity and Justice for All Refugees

“I think the world is watching and many immigrants and refugees are watching. And how the world treats…Ukrainian refugees should be how we are treating all refugees in the United States.” –Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The Rachel Maddow Show, 03-01-22 

As of March 14, more than 3 million Ukrainians have fled the brutal Russian attack on their country. The EU says that the invasion could end up displacing over 7 million people in “[w]hat could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years.” It has asked all member states to grant asylum to Ukrainian refugees for up to three years.

European countries are eagerly stepping up to address the crisis. News media are full of heartwarming stories: “Moldovans Open Hearts and Homes to Refugees,” “Britain Announces ‘Homes for Ukraine’ Program to Sponsor Refugees,” “Berliners Open Their Hearts and Homes to Those Fleeing Ukraine Conflict,” “Map Showing Number of Polish People Willing to Accept Ukrainian Refugees in Their Homes Is Giving Everyone Hope”—a seemingly endless outpouring of sympathy and, even more important, material assistance. 

What we are not hearing is familiar complaints about refugees “burdening” the receiving states; instead, only humanitarian concern and a willingness to share. This is inspiring; it is exactly how a global community should react to a vulnerable population running for their lives. So why does this response seem to only apply to white people?

Over the past 11 years, 6.8 million Syrians have become refugees and asylum-seekers from a war just as bloody as Ukraine’s.  Except for Germany and Sweden, most countries in the West have refused to shelter them in significant numbers. Millions of refugees have tried to enter Europe because of deadly violence in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have faced “a backlash of political nativism” in the same countries that now welcome Ukrainians.

The military in Hungary is allowing in Ukrainians through sections of the border that had been closed. Hungary’s hard-line prime minister, Viktor Orban, has previously called refugees a threat to his country, and his government has been accused of caging and starving them.

“Farther West, Chancellor Karl Nehammer of Austria said that ‘of course we will take in refugees if necessary’ in light of the crisis in Ukraine. As recently as last fall, when he was serving as interior minister, Mr. Nehammer sought to block some Afghans seeking refuge after the Taliban overthrew the government in Kabul.

“‘It’s different in Ukraine than in countries like Afghanistan,’ he was quoted as saying during an interview on a national TV program. ‘We’re talking about neighborhood help.’”New York Times, 02-26-22

Horrifying stories are emerging of Polish border guards assaulting and ejecting refugees from Africa, while simultaneously welcoming white Ukrainians. The Ukrainian military has also reportedly discriminated against non-white refugees, sending them to the back of the line in train stations and at border posts as they try to flee the war.

And then there is the US. The Biden administration and Congress are urgently discussing how to help Ukrainian refugees. Almost overnight, billions of dollars have been allocated to help them get shelter and services in Europe. The president says “we will welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms” if they come to our borders. He has already extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainian immigrants now in the US. Some Ukrainians are apparently being allowed to cross freely into the US from Mexico. This is admirable. 

But this is the same government that turned away over 1,100,000 asylum-seekers last year, using the phony pretext of Covid-19. The same government that forced tens of thousands of Haitian asylum seekers onto deportation planes, back into the deadly chaos they had risked their lives to escape. The same government that illegally ejected hundreds of thousands of refugees from Central America who are fleeing the violence, destitution, and climate disasters caused in large part by the US itself. These refugees now face vicious abuse while stranded in Mexico. 

Will the massive upwelling of support for imperiled Ukrainians transform the poisonous discourse about refugees in Europe? In the US, will the widespread racism towards refugees of color, thrown into stark relief by the Ukraine crisis, finally give way to a fuller respect for universal human rights? We can hope so. And we can fight to make that happen.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

 

In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

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 10/24/2020

Dear friends, 

Gratitude to all of our readers who have filled out our newsletter readership survey. If you have not yet responded, please fill out the brief survey today! It asks for your thoughts on our articles and gives you an opportunity to describe yourselves to us. We also continue our ‘Neighborhood Emergency!’ fundraising campaign, gathering direct donations to six local immigrant-led groups providing mutual aid, support, and solidarity during the pandemic. 

Please check out our fundraising webpage that links you directly to the donation page of each of the six organizations, and describes each group and the extraordinary work they are doing. To all of you who have already made donations, enormous thanks. Whatever you are able to afford can make a real, immediate difference to immigrant communities in Jackson Heights and beyond.

Two Focal Points for Immigrant Justice: Cancel Rent & Fund Excluded Workers

Immigrant rights groups in New York tend to be rooted in specific immigrant nationalities, which creates a diverse and complex web of activism in the city. Although they often work in coalition with others, these groups naturally concentrate on issues that impact their particular communities. 

But the pandemic has created an urgent common challenge: a struggle for basic survival that’s shared by all working-class immigrant communities. Some of the most immediate on-the-ground needs of individuals and families are being addressed by local groups through direct assistance and mutual aid. Meanwhile, on the level of city and state politics, the response by immigration activists to this common challenge seems to have converged around two key demands: a) rent cancelation, and b) a state fund to support immigrant workers who have been excluded from government coronavirus aid, financed by a tax on billionaires.

As newsletter readers are aware, the pandemic-induced housing emergency couldn’t be more dire. Rent was unaffordable before Covid-19. Things are much worse now. A recent study finds that 66% of renters in the US are concerned about being evicted and that over 20 million people are likely to have an eviction filing against them by January. An estimated 1.4 million renters in New York City are behind on their rent. Governor Cuomo keeps extending conditional, month by month moratoriums on evictions–the latest partial moratorium ends January 1. But back rent is piling up, creating impossible debt for working-class New Yorkers, most of whom are immigrants. Landlords are already filing for pre-pandemic and other types of evictions in Housing Court. Many are just waiting for the day the state moratorium ends to pounce on renters who fell behind during the pandemic.

Progressive lawmakers have tried to address the housing disaster. Federal legislation to cancel rent was proposed by Rep. Ilhan Omar. It was never taken up by the rest of Congress. In New York State, a proposed Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, introduced in July by Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and Senator Julia Salazar, has gone nowhere. Another bill by NY Representative Michael Gianaris, sponsored by 21 state representatives, languished in the Judiciary Committee.

But the real pressure behind the demand for rent cancelation is coming from the grassroots. Notably, local immigrant justice groups have picked up and amplified the demand, including DRUM, Adhikaar, Make the Road New York,and Damayan. Chhaya, which is part of the United for Small Business NYC Coalition, advocates rent cancelation for small businesses. These organizations feature Cancel Rent in their demonstrations, social media, and publications. 

The Cancel Rent movement has generated street heat. On October 1, tenants and Cancel Rent activists dragged furniture onto Broadway, blocking the avenue near Park Place. And on October 16, the entrance to Brooklyn Housing Court was spray-foamed and barricaded with a bike lock. A communique, demanding “an immediate end to evictions and retroactive rent relief,” explained why:

New York City’s unhoused population has reached its highest level since the Great Depression…. However, eviction courts have been allowed to continue with proceedings….This is unconscionable and we demand that evictions end immediately. If our elected leaders won’t do it, then the People of New York will make sure it happens.

Back in April and May, there was a series of rent strikes in 57 New York buildings, demanding rent cancelation. Some of the strikes were in our neighborhood. Tenant activists are working hard to spread the word about rent strikes as a key tactic for keeping people in their homes. They argue that collective action by tenants is the only way to “force the establishment to capitulate.” NYCHA Rising is currently building a rent strike in public housing projects, focused mainly on the pain and suffering caused by unsafe and unhealthy conditions, made even worse by the pandemic. If the NY State eviction moratorium ends without rent cancelation, there will almost certainly be an increase in this kind of direct action by tenants.

A similar broad-based grassroots movement has gathered around the Fund Excluded Workers campaign. As with Cancel Rent, local immigrant rights organizations have converged around Fund Excluded Workers. Among the campaign endorsers are Adhikaar, Chhaya, DRUM, Make the Road, NICE, Street Vendor Project, the New York Taxi Worker Alliance–and JHISN. 

In Albany, Senator Jessica Ramos sponsored legislation for a tax on billionaires who have seen their wealth skyrocket during the pandemic. This tax money would be used to fund aid for essential workers and immigrants not included in federal relief programs. AOC and a whole list of other progressive politicians support this idea.

Governor Cuomo initially refused to consider a tax on billionaires, many of whom are his campaign contributors. But pressure is building, and he’s been forced to moderate his position, opening the door to the possibility of a tax on the wealthy. There have been loud demonstrations outside the governor’s residence–in one case, 150 New Yorkers formed a “bread line” in front of his mansion. Many other actions have been organized outside the offices of billionaires, and in other symbolic locations. A Fund Excluded Workers petition currently has 8,770 signatures, with a goal of 12,800.

At a time of emergency, with so many issues clamoring for attention, it’s noteworthy that these two campaigns–Cancel Rent and Fund Excluded Workers–have emerged as dual political focal points for several front line immigrant rights organizations in our neighborhood. As we evaluate where to put our support and energy in the middle of a difficult and complex political situation, following their lead may be just the right move. 

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. 

 

 

AOC Town Hall in Queens

Thank you to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the Immigration Town Hall, held on Saturday, July 20th, in Corona. Thanks, also, to Amaha Kassa, Jennifer Sun, Roksana Mun, Yatziri Tovar, Lupito Romero and everyone else who contributed to this amazing event.