Tag: Latinx

JHISN Newsletter 08/21/2021

Dear friends,

​​Summertime is often a season of celebration, festivals, and sun-lit joy. We bring news this week of two recent celebrations organized by and for immigrant justice communities. On August 10, trans Latinx folks and friends, allies, and families gathered in central Queens to celebrate their community power and collective resilience. And on August 14, immigrant groups kicked off the opening of the Fund for Excluded Workers with a festive street fair. This hard-won victory promises a measure of economic justice for hundreds of thousands of mostly undocumented workers state-wide, including an estimated 58,000 immigrant workers here in Queens. Please check out our reports below.

Newsletter highlights:

  1. TransPower@CentralQueens 
  2. Launch of $2.1 Billion Fund for Undocumented & Excluded Workers

1.Rally for TransLatinx Power

Hundreds of people rallied in Corona Plaza on August 2 for the 10th Annual #TransLatinxMarch. The gathering is sponsored each year by the Trans Immigrant Project (TIP), as part of Make the Road New York’s commitment to TGNCIQ Justice, and the challenges facing immigrant, undocumented, and Latinx trans people.

TIP put forward three main demands: 1) dismantle NYPD vice units that disproportionately harass and criminalize trans women of color; 2) decriminalize sex work in NY state, and; 3) create a federal pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people.

Corona Plaza was full of colorful signs, posters, and balloons. A giant banner advertising the three demands was dropped from the subway platform high overhead. The crowd alternated chants of “Trans power!” and “Brown power!” A DJ and various cultural performances added to the liveliness of the event.

Several local progressive politicians attended the rally, including Jessica Ramos, Catalina Cruz, Tiffany Cabán, and Shekar Krishnan.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Support Make the Road’s TGNCIQ (transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex, and queer) organizing for dignity and safety for all. Donate here if you are able.

2. Launch of Historic NYS Fund for Excluded Workers 

“This is what community looks like … We want everyone across the state to know about this fund … I want this fund to run out of money not because no one applied, but because everyone did.” –Brayan Pagoada, Excluded Workers Fund Launch Fair (Bushwick Daily, 8/16/21)

After over a year of grassroots campaigning and a 23-day hunger strike in March 2021, the historic $2.1 billion NYS Fund for Excluded Workers went ‘live’ in mid-August, marked locally by a Launch Fair in Bushwick. Along with food and dance, guidance about how to apply for the funds was featured at the well-attended street fair.

As the largest economic assistance package won by undocumented immigrants in US history, New York’s $2.1 billion fund has inspired similar struggles in New Jersey, Iowa, and California, as undocumented workers—excluded from federal forms of pandemic relief—demand state-level support for lost wages and economic hardship. 

Workers in New York excluded from unemployment benefits or stimulus checks can now apply for either the Fund’s Tier 1 benefits of up to $15,600 (equal to $300 weekly unemployment payments from April 2020-April 2021), or Tier 2 benefits of up to $3,200 (equal to 3 federal stimulus checks).

Immigrant justice groups rallied in July when the newly-released Department of Labor (DOL) regulations for accessing the Fund appeared to exclude many excluded workers from qualifying for assistance. Bianca Guerrero of the Fund Excluded Workers (FEW) Coalition stated, “We demand that the Governor stop these shameful tactics and ensure that the program requirements allow workers who were the intended beneficiaries to qualify for the maximum benefit….The lives of thousands of excluded workers rely on this Fund.”

Local immigrant advocacy groups–including in Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst where the pandemic ravaged the livelihoods of many undocumented workers–are mobilizing resources and building outreach. Their aim is to ensure that workers can accurately assess their eligibility for the Fund, and successfully apply to the DOL. Make the Road NY co-organized a livestream on August 10, drawing 1200 listeners, which addressed FAQs and protocols for making an application. Over 60 community-based organizations across NY State are ready to help workers apply for the Fund in the language of their choice.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Sign up to volunteer with the Fund Excluded Workers (FEW) Coalition to assist immigrant community members in navigating the eligibility and application process for the Fund. 
  • Share FEW resource information, including an eligibility and document checklist, and multi-lingual video teach-ins, here
  • Circulate the NY Dept of Labor’s Excluded Workers Fund application FAQs website, available in 13 languages. 

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 05/29/2021

Dear friends

For lots of us, this is a time for optimism, as Covid-19 slowly loosens its grip on our lives and our nightmares. But for too many of us, the nightmare continues–this is a time for worrying, for mourning, for reckoning. The coronavirus still surges in South Asia, Latin America and so many other places where immigrants have loved ones. Here in New York, vaccination rates are starting to taper off, and the familiar wound of inequality continues to characterize “the recovery.” In this week’s newsletter, we consider some of the factors that have held back vaccine use in our community, and efforts by activists to overcome those obstacles. We also spotlight a moving public art tribute to essential immigrant workers who were lost to the pandemic. For the communities they helped save, fully honoring their humanity is a test of our own.

  1. In Memoriam to Essential Workers
  2. Vaccine Access @ Jackson Heights 

1. Memorial Art in Covid Times

“We have to remember exactly who has been affected. We have to remember the communities who have lost people needlessly …. Those losses have to be mourned, they have to be acknowledged, and they have to be honored.”  —Mourners Walk video (P. Mendoza, 2020)

The violinist, in a black mask, plays at the intersection of 35th Avenue and 95th Street. White roses are laid on the steps of Elmhurst Hospital. In October 2020, artists, activists, and community members gather after dark in Jackson Heights to mark the beloved dead, and call attention to the unfathomable loss and unacknowledged grief borne by communities like ours ravaged by COVID-19.

Six months later in the windows of an empty storefront in Manhattan’s SoHo, a memorial exhibition appears honoring seven undocumented immigrants who have died during the pandemic. Each beloved loss is marked with a huge poster of their image, and a QR code linked to an oral history of their life. The street installation is designed by artist-activist Paola Mendoza, who also co-organized the Jackson Heights ‘Mourners Walk’ last October. She names the public art memorial Immigrants Are Essential:

“The word ‘essential’ has become an identity during this crisis, of the people and places that keep our society moving even when everything else is on pause, of those that are too often in the background but without whom we would fall apart … This is exactly who immigrants have always been and will continue to be in the United States: essential. May their stories inspire and ignite change…” Paolo Mendoza (April 2021)

To date, over 9,800 people in Queens have died of COVID, disproportionately working-class, of color, and undocumented. The intimate stories featured in Mendoza’s public art exhibition narrate just seven out of tens of thousands of undocumented lives ended by a virus that fatally tracks unequal structures of vulnerability and social suffering. 

On Memorial Day weekend, a nationalist holiday dedicated to remembering US military lives lost, how to also honor the undocumented dead? How to continue the collective task of memorializing our community’s incalculable loss from this pandemic?   

2. Pop-up sites and worker protections vital to getting people vaccinated

While COVID-19 vaccinations lag across the country and around the world, several efforts have been launched to get shots into the arms of Jackson Heights and neighboring communities.

“We’re in a pretty good news period around the effectiveness of pop-ups, and going where people are to make this more convenient,” S. Mitra Kalita said on a recent episode of WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show,” speaking about the mobile vaccination sites showing up in New York’s working class communities.

Kalita founded Epicenter NYC, a news site that aims to highlight pandemic-related developments in Central Queens, often focusing on issues that immigrant communities face here. In addition to delivering news, Epicenter NYC offers help booking vaccine appointments. The website has important resources for both people looking to get vaccinated and those who want to help others in their community do so.

Neighborhoods with high populations of Latinx residents continue to face high barriers to vaccination, often due to the inability of employees to miss work so they can get the shot and recover. Restaurant workers, in particular, have had difficulties getting time off for a vaccination, Kalita said.

She recently demanded that the city transform its signage at pop-up sites to make it immediately clear, in multiple languages, that the vaccines are free and, especially, that immigration status will not be questioned. According to New York protocols, any ID will be accepted to confirm an appointment–even an old phone bill. But this fact is not widely known in some communities.

Several organizations are working in our neighborhood to help people get vaccinated easily. They show up on street corners, under tents, and in front of stores. It’s quite possible you’ve seen them around.

If you or anyone you know has questions about how, when, or where to get vaccinated—and if you’re wondering whether it’s a good idea (many people are understandably concerned)—these organizations will likely be able to provide helpful information. Whether it’s online or on Roosevelt Avenue, there are many places to go to learn more. Here are just a few:

  • NYC Health + Hospitals provides vaccines at its sites and sponsors many of the local mobile vaccination clinics.
  • The city of New York has information on its website about where vaccinations are available.
  • Epicenter NYC has updates and vaccination appointment help.
  • City Council Member Francisco Moya has hosted virtual vaccine town halls in English and Spanish to help increase confidence in the vaccine.
  • Voces Latinas frequently hosts pop-up vaccine sites in partnership with other organizations near 83rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

Vaccination is critical to protect health and lives, for people to be able to gather with communities and family, for businesses to reopen safely, and to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants. If more people in the United States and around the world can get vaccinated, we may be able to truly begin the long road to recovery from COVID-19.

In memoriam and in hope,

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.