Tag: DRUM

JHISN Newsletter 1/8/2022

Dear friends,

One of the many New Year’s celebrated in our neighborhood has just passed. This turning of the wheel of time also marks the return of Covid as an immediate and unequal threat. ‘How do we create solidarity during a global pandemic?’ JHISN asked in one of our first Covid-era newsletters in March 2020. At the start of this troubled new year, we want to honor all of our readers who have—in so many ways, seen and unseen—tried to answer that question with how you live, with what you love, with the kind of world you long to create.

Our newsletter looks at the mourning and mobilizing of NYC immigrant workers whose lives are literally on the line in the risky, low-wage business of food delivery. We then report on the most recent immigrant-led campaigns to protect essential workers in NY State, even as the visibility of their work starts to fade and their exclusion from government support continues.    

Newsletter highlights:

  1. NYC delivery workers mourn and organize
  2. Essential workers: still essential, still excluded

1. Deliveristas: Risking Death on Our Streets

In a more just city, in a happier time, immigrant food delivery workers would be in the mood for celebration. After all, after years of militant organizing, Los Deliveristas Unidos (LDU) and their allies have won a stunning victory, with the passage of new laws—effective starting this month—that finally give workers the use of restaurant bathrooms, minimum payments per trip, more disclosures about tips, and other crucial gains.

But bike delivery is a very dangerous job, and NYC deliveristas are still being killed and wounded in collisions and robberies. Half of all surveyed workers have been in an accident while working; more than half have been robbed or physically assaulted. Recent deaths within their ranks have hit deliveristas hard. And so satisfaction for progress made can only be mixed with grief, and with collective determination to keep organizing for better conditions.

Memorial for Adrian Coyotl De Los Santos, a Mexican immigrant and street vendor killed while riding his e-bike to work. Photo–Joseph Sciorra

In a December 18 Facebook post, the Jackson Heights-based group DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) expressed sadness and anger about how New York treats the deaths of delivery workers: 

“On Thursday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office released information about the arrest of the man who is charged with the death of Borkot Ullah—Delivery worker and DRUM member who was killed while making food deliveries this past July.

“Borkot was struck by the driver who ran the light while being chased by the police. The driver was speeding and is responsible for Borkot’s death. But it is also illegal for the NYPD to engage in high speed car chases within the city to prevent exactly these situations. There is still no word about the officers involved in the chase who are also to blame for Borkot’s tragic death….

“Why is there a difference between the speeding driver who killed Borkot (and is being prosecuted), the speeding driver who killed Xin Long Lin (not being prosecuted), and the speed chasing cops in Borkot’s case (also not being investigated or prosecuted)? Does the identity of the victim determine how the District Attorney will pursue a case?….

“What does justice look like for immigrants who are forced to leave their homelands and work long hours in unsafe conditions for corporations that treat them as disposable? Do we believe pursuing justice through a system that is defined by punishment and retribution is the way forward?

“We are mourning. Mourning the loss of Borkot Ullah and the loss of Xin Long Lin. We are hurting. Yet, in our hurt, we know that there has to be a better way.

“By coming together to encourage safety and strengthen the bond between each other, delivery workers are working to make sure no more workers die like this. They are building solidarity as Black, Latinx, South Asian, Arab, African, East Asian and other people of color to build collective power and change their conditions to fight for the future of all delivery workers.”

On December 31, more than 2,000 protesting members of Los Deliveristas Unidos rolled through the streets of Manhattan, fighting once again for better working conditions and pay. They are now bolstered by representation and legal support from service worker union SEIU Local 32BJ. One of the deliveristas’ main demands at the demonstration: more protected bike lanes.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. Does New York Still Care About Essential Workers?

In the early months of the pandemic, the term “essential workers” catapulted into popular consciousness. Disproportionately working-class, immigrant, and of color, essential workers were people who kept showing up for their jobs, while many of us worked remotely or remained locked down at home. Essential workers were people who got sick and died from Covid at higher rates because their labor conditions exposed them to higher risk. Essential workers were people whose labor was necessary to keep society going during a brutal pandemic, including workers in health care, transit, farm work, food production, delivery, sanitation, and grocery stores. Essential workers were unsung heroes who, in the throes of the Covid threat, society started to sing about.

What happened to our collective recognition of the food, care, and necessary production and services provided by essential workers? Almost two years into the pandemic, public consciousness—including a renewed class consciousness—of whose work is really essential seems to be fading. Even as the latest threat from a virulent Covid mutation once again puts essential workers, and their households, at greatest risk of exposure and sickness.

An estimated 74% of undocumented workers in the US are essential workers. The vast majority of them have been excluded from the government’s pandemic relief efforts, including enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments. A recent analysis by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy spotlights the discriminatory financial effects of this exclusion: a family of four with two US citizen breadwinners earning a combined annual income of $24,000, would receive $35,470 more in government pandemic benefits during 8 weeks of unemployment than a similar family with two US children and two undocumented working parents.  

In response to this punishing aid gap, New York’s essential and excluded workers got organized. Led by the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition (FEW), including Make the Road New York, immigrant activists won a historic $2.1 billion fund for excluded workers in the state budget last spring. But the fund ran out in just two months. Thousands of eligible workers in upstate and rural areas didn’t even have a chance to hear about the fund and to apply. An estimated 40,000 applicants were denied simply because the fund had been exhausted. Now immigrant activists are calling on Governor Hochul to dedicate $3 billion in additional state funds to fully address the pandemic aid gap for undocumented workers. 

A new mobilization organized by the FEW Coalition, #ExcludedNoMore, has also been launched to create a permanent statewide solution to systemic inequalities in unemployment insurance for immigrant workers and others who labor in low-wage, precarious industries. #ExcludedNoMore calls for a separate and parallel NY State unemployment insurance program that would serve domestic workers, street vendors, day laborers, and other workers historically excluded from unemployment compensation.

On New Year’s Eve, the FEW Coalition tweeted out, “Thousands were left behind with no relief this season,” asking members to light a candle in solidarity with excluded workers everywhere. As 2022 begins, New York’s eviction moratorium is ending, along with Biden’s child tax credit that helped millions of families, including immigrant households, keep children fed and pay the bills. How can we support essential workers in the ongoing struggle for economic justice? What essential lessons from an unforgiving pandemic must never be forgotten? 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Share tweets from #FundExcludedWorkers calling for $3 billion in additional support.
  • Listen to and circulate the podcast with FEW coordinator Bianca Guerrero on the need for a permanent NYS unemployment plan for undocumented and other marginalized workers. 

 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 12/18/2021

Dear friends,

The days grow short as the winter solstice approaches. At this darkest time of year, we celebrate the power of community and the promise of collective warmth in our immigrant neighborhood here in the heart of Queens. We celebrate the political promise of hundreds of thousands of immigrants now enfranchised to vote in local elections, as NYC joins over a dozen US communities where non-citizens have the right to vote.

In this issue, we offer you a local story of how the historic fight to fund excluded workers in New York State has been curated into a museum exhibition in Queens. And we report on the statewide campaign to end ICE detention of immigrants, in the context of the 20th-century criminalization of immigrants of color in the US.  

Newsletter highlights:

  1. ‘Nuevayorkinos: Essential and Excluded’ at PS1
  2. Shutting Down ICE Detention 

1. Immigrant Activism Meets Museum Space: Art & Politics @MoMA PS1

The room is sunny, spacious, and quiet. The white museum walls are adorned with colorful banners in Spanish, and photographs of immigrant activists taken last spring at Corona Plaza. In the middle of the room is a comfortable couch and chairs circled around a table with Spanish- and English-language books on immigration history and politics, including a neatly stacked pile of tales of resistance for children.

The exhibition in the “Homeroom,” a community-engagement space at MoMA PS1 in Queens, invites reflection: What is the place of community activism in a museum that contributes to gentrification and community displacement? How can we build popular memory of immigrant struggles using the tools of art and visual culture? Who is this exhibition created for, and who may be excluded by ticket price and social class?

PS1’s exhibition Nuevayorkinos: Essential and Excluded (on view through January 10, 2022) brings together the work of artist Djali Brown-Cepeda and local immigrant groups Make the Road NY, the Street Vendor Project, and NY Communities for Change. At the center of the exhibition is the historic struggle of the Fund for Excluded Workers, and their 23-day hunger strike in spring 2021 that culminated with an unprecedented victory: a $2.1 billion fund in NYS dedicated to immigrant workers excluded from federal programs of pandemic relief and emergency support.

In a corner of the exhibition, providing a rolling soundtrack, are two videos by Jose Armando Solis, filmed on Day 5 and on Day 17 of the hunger strike. As visitors wander in and out of the exhibition space, the voice of hunger striker Ana Ramirez cries out, over and over, “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…”

For those of you unfamiliar with the Fund for Excluded Workers, the hunger strike, or the cultural power and beauty of immigrant justice struggles, we encourage you to visit the exhibition. To not forget those who were systematically forgotten. For those of you who have participated in the victorious fight for essential and excluded workers – a fight that is ongoing – we honor your power and the possibility that this exhibition can help strengthen community support and solidarity. For the struggles ahead.


2. ‘Dignity Not Detention’: Decriminalizing Immigration 

“This hard-fought victory reflects the resilience and tenacity of our communities – and reaffirms that our vision of a world without detention is within reach.” Tania Mattos, Freedom for Immigrants (August 2021)

Sustained activism on the part of immigrants, their families, and immigrant justice activists has succeeded in shutting down ICE detention in the state of New Jersey. The Hudson County Jail processed out its last immigrant prisoner in October. And the last 12 immigrant detainees in the Bergen County Jail were transferred out on November 12. Ending the use of these jails for immigrant detention was a result of militant protests outside the facilities, hunger strikes by prisoners, and an intense publicity and organizing campaign run by activists including the Abolish ICE NY-NJ coalition. 

Unfortunately, while some immigrants have been released, most of the New Jersey detainees have been transferred to New York State jails such as the Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen and the Buffalo Service Processing Center in Batavia. This puts them hundreds of miles farther away from friends, family, and lawyers.

New York State activists hope to keep the anti-detention momentum going with the “Dignity Not Detention Act”  now making its way through the state legislature (it is currently in committee in both houses). The Act would require the termination of all existing ICE contracts for immigrant detention in public jails in New York, including the Goshen and Batavia facilities. Local groups including Centro Corona, DRUM, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, NICE, and Street Vendors Project are supporters of the statewide mobilization for the Act. Similar legislation has already become law in Maryland, California, Washington, and Illinois. Activists in New Mexico launched their own Dignity Not Detention movement in 2019.

But as the ICE detainee transfers from Bergen County make clear, passing state-by-state laws isn’t a panacea. In fact, some immigrants may find themselves transferred even farther away from where they were arrested, to completely different parts of the country. They might also end up in brutal private for-profit jails –  still widely used for ICE detention, despite pledges by the Biden administration to eliminate them.

Nationally, ICE continues to detain tens of thousands of immigrants. Most of these people are simply waiting for their backed-up immigration hearings, which they could do without being jailed. The number of undocumented migrants imprisoned has increased 50% since Joe Biden took office. Conditions in the facilities are often brutal. When immigrants speak out about rampant abuses, they face severe retaliation and ongoing surveillance

The criminalization of migrants to the US began in the 1920s with a wave of reactionary anti-immigrant politics that led to a series of quotas, exclusions, and other restrictions on immigration, mainly targeting immigrants of color. In 1929, the Undesirable Aliens Act – authored by an avowed white supremacist and pro-lynching advocate – epitomized the hardening of immigration policing. Entering the US illegally–which had been processed as a civil complaint–suddenly became a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year’s imprisonment and a fine. Returning to the US after deportation was now defined as a felony, resulting in up to two years imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. The Act was intended specifically to control and regulate Mexican labor. In the years after the passage of this law, Mexicans made up as much as 99% of the newly-criminalized immigrants filling just-built federal prisons in El Paso, Tucson, and Los Angeles. (Today, Latinx immigrants still make up 92% of people prosecuted for illegal entry and re-entry to the US.)

The 1929 law was eventually updated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. This legislation cut the sentences for crossing the border in half but continued to criminalize migrants through its notorious Sections 1325 and 1326. During periods when Mexican labor was in demand, immigrant detentions and prosecutions fell. But starting in 2005, as the “war on terror” ramped up during the Bush and Obama administrations, the federal government once again began prosecuting tens of thousands of migrants and jailing them until their cases could be heard. Donald Trump used Section 1325 as a basis for his infamous “zero tolerance” and family separation policies.

The most effective means of stopping the large-scale detention of immigrants would be a national law that overturns the criminalization of border crossing. (For example, by returning illegal border crossing to its previous status as a civil offense.)  Hundreds of immigrant justice groups have been demanding this kind of federal legislation for years, including local groups like DRUM, Adhikaar, and JHISN. However, decriminalization of border crossing is not included in the current Build Back Better draft legislation. A 2019 decriminalization proposal introduced by Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Jesus Chuy Garcia, has been stalled in Congress, despite the fact that it is endorsed by many immigrant justice groups and has 44 co-sponsors – all Democrats.

And so the end of immigrant detention in New Jersey must be seen as only one hopeful step in a long struggle. Local activists have turned their full attention to fighting against the abuses of immigrant detention in New York State, including punitive transfers, detainee mistreatment, and deportations. At each step, they raise the need for the Dignity Not Detention Act. 

Last Sunday, December 12, a small demonstration took place outside the Bergen County Jail. It commemorated the one-year anniversary of a violent clash with cops that led to the arrest of ten immigrant justice activists. Protesters carried signs saying “Releases Not Transfers,” “Close the Camps,” and “Abolish ICE.”  As Shamz Azanedo, one of the organizers, said, “We didn’t feel right just letting today pass. Today was a huge day last year, and we needed to be here together.”


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 12/04/2021

Dear friends,

Welcome to our new readers who have signed up to receive the newsletter! Some of you may have seen us recently handing out our newsletter flyer on 37th Avenue and at the Farmers Market – we are excited to now have over 525 newsletter subscribers. Please feel free to share our subscriber link with friends, co-workers, local activists, neighbors, and family: https://jhimmigrantsolidarity.org/news/

 This week’s feature article takes a look at the latest news on national immigration legislation. The news is not good. But the more political awareness we can build around what is happening, and the more solidarity we can offer in the struggle for collective security and a permanent home for undocumented immigrants—the closer we will get to that deferred promise of “… justice for all.”          

Senate must reinstate a pathway to citizenship in Build Back Better bill

People who try to frame this as a win for the community need to work closer with undocumented immigrants… there’s clearly mass disappointment and confusion, and a sense of betrayal.”  –Manuel Castro,  NICE Executive Director

While the New York City Council will soon vote on making this city the largest US municipality allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, the US Congress is offering us nothing more in immigration law than the halfhearted options they have already debated for decades. In mid-November, instead of providing a permanent road to citizenship as promised by Democrats, the House of Representatives included a proposal called “immigrant parole” in the Build Back Better bill. This parole allows a limited population of immigrants legal status and work permits for five years, with the possibility of a five-year extension. The Senate still has the option to include a more desirable option, changing the existing Green Card eligibility date (called Registry) from 1972 to 2010. This would create a pathway to citizenship because after five years a permanent resident can then apply to become a naturalized citizen. 

Over recent months, New York groups energetically mobilized to remind Democratic legislators of their promise to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people. There were 11 days of action by NICE, Movement for Justice in El Barrio protested outside Senator Gillibrand’s office, newspaper ads were published, and rallies took place at Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Manhattan office and at his home. A four-day #NoSleepTilCitizenship sleep-out with Adhikaar in front of Schumer’s Brooklyn home kept the pressure on, demanding a pathway to citizenship be included in the final Build Back Better (BBB) reconciliation package. 

The House did not deliver that pathway on November 19. Not because of any true policy commitment that parole is actually the best solution; according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, “It’s our best option for getting past the parliamentarian,” who had rejected more expansive immigration proposals, arguing they did not meet the budgetary rules. In response, the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, NICE, and other groups led an 11-mile march from 110th street in Harlem to Grand Army Plaza to urge Senate Democrats to fulfill their campaign promise. Adhikaar retweeted the statement from South Asian Americans Leading Together that the Senate must reinstate the pathway to citizenship, not the temporary reprieve of parole and time-limited work permits. DRUM retweeted United We Dream’s call for a pathway to citizenship. 

Despite recent surveys showing over 55% of Republican voters support a pathway for citizenship and work permits and protections from deportation for those who have been here for over 20 years, not a single House Republican voted for Build Back Better. Elected Democrats spoke mostly about the need to do more. The first Dominican American to serve in the House of Representatives, Harlem’s Adriano Espaillat, noted that undocumented workers contribute significantly to our nation’s pandemic recovery and should not be left behind: “[W]e now urge our colleagues in the Senate to further this work by reinstating a pathway to citizenship for the millions of Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers, and essential workers who are counting on us to do the right thing.”

Make The Road NY and NICE thanked Espaillat, along with AOC and 10 other NYC Representatives, for signing a letter calling on Congress to fulfill its promise for immigration reform. The letter argues this “promise three decades in the making still hangs in the balance”; the signatories urge the Senate to refuse this temporary measure:

“Immigrants have sought relief from the precarity of jumping from one temporary status to another in the only country they can call home. Another temporary status would merely extend this precarity.“ – Letter to the Senate from 91 members of Congress (Nov 22, 2021)

Make The Road, NY posted a set of infographics showing how temporary parole and registry are very different, and reminding members to ignore scam offers to apply for either proposal since they are not yet laws. 

As JHISN member Rosalinda Martinez notes, “11 million people who are present now working ‘clandestinely’ are still not accepted as citizens, so as not to pay them benefits and cut their rights as Workers. Rather, they do not have the status of workers, at any moment they can detain and deport them as if they were disposable, like poisonous animals.“ Passing BBB with temporary parole reinforces the problematic good vs bad immigrant trope and merely postpones for many people the threat of deportation from now until some time in the very near future, possibly as soon as September 2031Neither parole nor registry are radical left policies, nor are they new to the immigration discussion. Registry was last used 35 years ago, by the first Make America Great Again administration of Ronald Reagan. Millions of people were given a path to citizenship, while many others were detained or deported, and the criminalization of undocumented people increased.

Those who support parole may believe most undocumented people don’t have much to fear under a Biden administration, especially if parole grants many the security to live and work safely in this country. However, millions of families and individuals will still face persecution from ICE and Border Patrol because even recent rules under the current president do not guarantee their security. As Lena Graber, senior staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center notes, Biden’s ”guidelines gave officers so much discretion that enforcement actions would not look much different from those during the Trump administration.”

Even a broadly popular program like DACA, which is still being litigated in the courts, could be eliminated by next year. And the Biden Administration, which declares its support for DACA, may be about to complicate the program: DHS took public comments from September to November about a proposed change to create multiple DACA application processes. One application includes work permission and one does not, which could lead to confusion, bad guidance, and a situation where someone discovers that they made the wrong application choice for their future needs.

AOC has noted that some national immigrant advocacy groups have actually hampered the negotiating process on BBB, resulting in parole replacing registry as the Democrats’ proposal in the spending bill. Many of these groups are not grounded in immigrant communities or do not have undocumented members in positions of power. By way of contrast,  NICE has made clear “Our members are ready to continue to fight for #citizenship4all! after a packed member meeting, we are recommitting ourselves to demand @SenateDems to ACT and include a #pathtocitizenship in #BuildBackBetter LET’S GO!” 

JHISN encourages our readership to join them…Let’s go!

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Join United We Dream’s campaign by texting PATHWAY to 877877 and tell Senators to add a real pathway to citizenship.
  • Join Movement for Justice in El Barrio, in East Harlem, by demanding that NY Senator Gillibrand fight for a pathway to citizenship in the Build Back Better bill. 
  • Join the Texas-based RAICES campaign to tell Senators to add a real pathway to citizenship (while also signing up to learn more about their refugee work).

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.