Tag: ProtectImmigrants

JHISN Newsletter 04/03/2021

Dear friends,

Since we sent our last newsletter two weeks ago, immigrant workers have continued their hunger strike demanding inclusion of a Fund for Excluded Workers in the New York state budget. The ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ has brought together workers, mothers, aunties, brothers, husbands, sisters, grandmas, elders, and our neighbors, who are putting their bodies on the line to get emergency pandemic relief for undocumented workers. We continue to cover the historic strike below.

We also report on a recent legislative victory celebrated by local immigrant justice groups. House passage of the American Dream and Promise Act 2021 is a major step toward creating a possible citizenship path for Dreamers, TPS holders, and other immigrant residents. 

Newsletter highlights:

  1. ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ enters its third week 
  2. Legislation promises citizenship path for over 4 million immigrants  

1. Hunger strike continues as state budget talks drag on

“We are here because we have suffered enough. We have already endured a year of hunger. What difference does it make to endure two or three weeks more with the purpose of getting something that we deserve…Our stomachs ask for food, but our hearts ask for justice.”  —Veronica Leal, hunger striker (Documented, March 31, 2021)

Now in its third week, with individual hunger strikers in wheelchairs and facing increasing health risks, the ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ is a challenge now for us. What will we do, as immigrant and undocumented workers refuse to end their strike until the New York State legislature passes a ‘just budget’? How to measure our own hunger for justice against the ease of forgetting that almost a quarter-million undocumented immigrants in New York State have been excluded for over a year from any federal pandemic emergency relief? What does it mean to remember that many of the workers who have stocked grocery shelves, delivered take-out food, served meals and washed dishes for folks who venture out to eat, are hungry? And have families and children who are hungry too.

The #FundExcludedWorkers coalition, led by immigrant New Yorkers, has been mobilizing political pressure since last summer to tax the rich and raise state revenue to financially protect undocumented workers devastated by the pandemic. On March 16, as JHISN reported, the coalition launched a hunger strike now in its 19th day, with immigrant strikers staying in Judson Church in the West Village, and dozens more participating statewide in the strike in Westchester, Syracuse, and Albany. They aim to secure a $3.5 billion workers fund in the New York State budget. The initial proposed budget contained a suggested $2.1 billion fund, but activists insist that anything less than the full $3.5 billion is not enough to retroactively make up for the lost emergency support to excluded workers over the past year. 

The state budget was scheduled to be finalized by March 31. But that deadline has come and gone, with negotiations dragging on through this weekend. Hunger strikers continue to drink water and refuse food. Day 20…21…22?

Since the launch, elected officials and NYC mayoral candidates have joined the hunger strike on select days; immigrant justice groups and their allies have organized virtual hunger strikes in solidarity; rallies have been held in front of Governor Cuomo’s office; supporters have been arrested for civil disobedience in the streets; local politicians have washed the feet of hunger strikers in a symbolic Holy Thursday action; and musicians, dancers, artists, and storytellers have put their creativity in service of funding excluded workers.    

How has Governor Cuomo responded to this historic mobilization? By March 29, Cuomo’s team had introduced new barriers to workers’ ability to access the multi-billion-dollar fund included in the state assembly’s original budget proposal. The ‘poison pills’ proposed by Cuomo would require immigrant workers to present federal ITIN numbers, or bank account and payroll stubs, in order to access funding. “We cannot move forward with an Excluded Workers Fund that excludes the excluded workers,” noted Jessica Maxwell of the Central New York Workers Center. Immigrant workers and their allies rallied in Washington Square Park to decry the new barriers and demand a ‘flexible application’ process for undocumented workers. If Cuomo’s restrictions are put in place, most of the individual hunger strikers will not be eligible for the funds they starved for. 

As we remember the ‘Fast for the Forgotten’ and the urgent need for government support of all workers caught in the pandemic catastrophe, the words of Ana Ramirez—a hunger striker speaking at a public rally on Day 5—can inspire and haunt us:

“I want to make it clear to this nation, the most important nation in the world, that we will no longer conform to being told ‘Good Job.’ We want the laws to be just, because it is then that we can work with love, with honor, with dignity…  

“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… 

“When the body is depleted of its minerals, the vitamins that it needs, you begin to tremble. But this gives me more strength. Because that is the hunger that thousands of working families face…

“And the rich, the powerful, the thieves that don’t pay taxes, they were able to go through the pandemic with comfort and ease. But we the poor don’t ask for anything given. 

“I want to tell you all that my hunger strike is only beginning. Because if they want to see me die of hunger, they will.”

Ana Ramirez, hunger striker since Day 1

(translated from Spanish)

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Immediately contact your state legislators to voice support for the $3.5 billion Excluded Workers Fund.
  • Follow daily Hunger Strike updates, solidarity events, and social media campaigns at Fund Excluded Workers website and Instagram
  • Check out the Allies Action Toolkit with instructions on how to organize your own solidarity hunger strike, and amplify via social media.
  • Donate to the Strike Support fund here.

2. Path to citizenship could open for millions

“Yesterday, yet again, we made history with the passage of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6). This legislation, which passed with bipartisan support yesterday by a vote of 228-197, is a historic step towards correcting the injustices in America’s immigration system. … This is truly a grassroots win.” Pabitra Khati Benjamin, Adhikaar (email, March 19, 2021)

More than 4 million undocumented immigrants could get a path to citizenship under a bill passed last month by the U.S. House of Representatives.

While it faces a potentially steep uphill climb in the Senate—and it would leave millions of other people still without a path to legal status—the new bill has been supported by many immigrant advocacy groups, including Queens-based Adhikaar.

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 would provide conditional permanent residence for up to 10 years to people who came to the United States as children, including recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). By meeting certain requirements—for example, going to school or getting a job—those individuals could then gain permanent resident status (a green card), which could eventually lead to citizenship.

They’d be ineligible for conditional status if they have certain criminal offenses on their records, and they’d lose their status if convicted of a serious crime. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security would have authority to deny applications if officials have “clear and convincing evidence” that the applicant was involved in gang activity in recent years or is otherwise a public safety threat. These provisions have been criticized by several groups, including The Bronx Defenders and Human Rights Watch, who cite the disproportionate effect the stipulations could have on immigrants of color.

Certain other immigrants, including those with Temporary Protected Status and those protected under a program called Deferred Enforced Departure, would also be eligible for permanent status under the new bill.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 4.4 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could become eligible for permanent status if this bill becomes law.

“The passage of the American Dream and Promise Act within the first 100 days of the 117th Congress signals the overwhelming support for the legislation and a commitment to make good on overdue promises,” Amaha Kassa, executive director of African Communities Together, said in a statement. “We call on the Senate to take up and swiftly pass this legislation into law.” President Joe Biden has already voiced his support for the bill.

The so-called Dreamers—young people who were brought to the United States as children, many of whom have been protected by DACA—are probably the most often discussed group that would be covered by the bill. Less often talked about are TPS holders.

Temporary Protected Status grants temporary legal status to immigrants who would face humanitarian emergencies like war or fallout from natural disasters if sent back to their home countries. (Deferred Enforced Departure, which currently covers people from Liberia and Venezuela, is similar to Temporary Protected Status, and DED holders are also covered by the new bill. But whereas DED is at the discretion of the president, TPS is under the supervision of the secretary of Homeland Security.)

Nepal, Syria, Haiti, and Somalia are among the countries whose citizens have gained TPS protection in the United States.

“TPS holders are critical essential workers on the frontline of our economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” said Pabitra Khati Benjamin, executive director of Adhikaar. The group advocates for the rights of the Nepali-speaking community here in Central Queens and has been a leader in the fight to maintain protection for TPS holders. (Nepal received TPS designation after the massive earthquake and aftershocks that hit the country in 2015.)

The Trump administration tried to rescind TPS protection for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from several countries, including Nepal, but the policy was stalled amid litigation over the issue, which is still pending. Adhikaar has called for the Biden administration to redesignate Nepal as a protected country. At the same time, the group has advocated for Congress to provide permanent residency to TPS holders.

If passed into law, the new bill would be a significant step in that direction. It wouldn’t create the pathway to citizenship for all undocumented individuals that Adhikaar and other groups want, but advocates say this is still a victory.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • If you are able, consider a donation to Adhikaar to support their ongoing fight for Nepali-speaking TPS holders.

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 03/20/2021

Dear friends,

As we count the days toward spring, it is Day 5 in the hunger strike launched by immigrant New Yorkers who are calling for billions to fund workers intentionally excluded from pandemic emergency and unemployment benefits. And it is Day 59 of a new administration that promised, but has not yet begun, a 100-day moratorium on deportations. Spring will come. Let’s join forces to see that urgent funding for excluded and essential workers also arrives. Let’s demand that an indefinite moratorium on deportations ushers in a season of immigrant justice and radical changes to a damaging, racist US immigration system. 

If you are receiving a stimulus check in the new round of pandemic relief and have the resources, please consider a direct donation to one of the six local immigrant groups that are part of JHISN’s Neighborhood Emergency! fundraising campaign.

Newsletter Highlights:

  1. Hunger strike launches to support Fund for Excluded Workers
  2. JHISN calls for a ‘Deportation Moratorium Now!’

1. ‘Fast for the Forgotten’: Hunger strikers demand NYS pandemic relief 

“Because of the pandemic, I’ve lost all my savings and all of my income. I am eight months behind on rent and unable to support my family …. The government doesn’t ask me for my status when it wants me to pay taxes, but it bars me from receiving help. Excluded workers have been through enough this year. We need support now.”  Rubiela Correa, hunger striker, Jackson Heights

Activists are calling on state leaders to provide billions of dollars in relief for undocumented workers who have yet to receive assistance as the pandemic enters its second year. They’re urging lawmakers to set $3.5 billion aside in the state’s budget for workers excluded from federal pandemic relief packages. And they say they won’t eat until it happens.

With an April 1 deadline to finalize New York’s budget for the coming year, the State Assembly is considering allocating just over $2 billion for excluded workers. This fund would be the first of its kind in the nation. But excluded workers say that while it’s a start, it’s not enough.

On March 16, immigrants launched their hunger strike on the steps of St. John the Divine and other spots around Manhattan and Westchester, in a coordinated effort to pressure state politicians. About 75 people have signed on to participate in the Fast for the Forgotten, including members of Make the Road New York and other immigrant rights groups with the #FundExcludedWorkers coalition. On March 19, more than a dozen state politicians joined the ongoing hunger strike in solidarity. The $3.5 billion they’re calling for would retroactively distribute money to workers for the past year of unemployment. According to the coalition, this amount would be comparable to what other unemployed workers have received during the crisis.

“Workers who have been laid off or furloughed through no fault of their own should get the same support that has helped keep other New Yorkers afloat—especially because excluded workers themselves pay taxes to make unemployment insurance possible for other workers,” said Bianca Guerrero, coordinator of the Fund Excluded Workers coalition. The lawmakers’ current proposal is welcome, she said, but it won’t give workers what they need.

New York’s wealthiest residents continue to make billions of dollars during the crisis, Guerrero noted, and the state should tax them more to raise the needed revenue for those who have been economically devastated during the pandemic. A survey by Make the Road last August found that 98% of unemployed undocumented workers hadn’t received any federal or state government assistance. The Fund Excluded Workers coalition estimates 500,000 undocumented workers have been left out of relief packages. This past week, major unions and labor organizations declared their support for increasing taxes on the ultra-wealthy in New York.

This isn’t the first time excluded workers are striking: Last summer, immigration activists in Madison Square Park fasted for 24 hours to bring visibility to the lack of assistance for excluded workers. In the fall, they formed a mock bread line outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. And in December, activists unveiled a three-block-long scroll in Central Park to bring attention to the wealth gap exacerbated by the pandemic, with the state’s richest residents increasing their wealth by tens of billions of dollars while the poorest continue to go into debt.  

“This is not a game,” said Ana Ramirez, a hunger striker and member of New York Communities for Change. “Our lives and the lives of our families are on the line. We’re here for two days, for three days, for 10 days, for 100 days—until we are heard and treated with dignity.”

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Volunteer to support NYC hunger strikers. If you are an artist, educator, dancer, writer, musician or have other skills—you are needed! See Strike Volunteer Sign-up Form.  
  • If you are able to, donate to the Hunger Strike Support Fund to cover meal stipends for hunger strikers’ families, and to provide PPE and sleeping materials for onsite strikers. 
  • Follow the Fund Excluded Workers coalition and Make the Road New York on social media to stay up to date on the progress of the hunger strike.
  • Add your name to the petition to Governor Cuomo to establish a $3.5 billion relief fund for excluded workers.

2. Moratorium Now!

“All deportations and immigrant detentions must stop while the current immigration system is abolished and re-imagined.” —JHISN leaflet

The early days of the Biden administration demonstrate that the long-standing demand for a complete moratorium on immigration detentions and deportations is more urgent than ever. Since the election, right-wing anti-immigrant forces have mobilized to stop the new administration’s reform efforts. For their part, leading Democrats show signs of sliding back into an unprincipled “good immigrant vs. bad immigrant” approach to immigration legislation. Without a groundswell of support for a real moratorium, millions of undocumented immigrants will continue to be threatened by arrest and expulsion. JHISN joins the call for a Deportation Moratorium Now!

Biden started his term by proudly announcing a 100-day limited “pause” on many deportations and detentions. Within days, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to stop the new policy. He succeeded, obtaining a temporary restraining order against the moratorium from a Trump-appointed U.S. District judge. This has now become an indefinite temporary injunction.

ICE has openly defied the enforcement policies and priorities Biden spelled out, and has actually accelerated deportations. For instance, in an act of racist child abuse, agents deported 22 Haitian children, including an infant, on February 8. This is exactly the kind of injustice Biden had pledged to stop. On February 18, ICE issued a memo affirming that its agents have wide powers of enforcement—in effect, undercutting Biden’s moratorium and the provisions of his proposed Citizenship Act.

News media are currently full of stories casting doubt on the new administration’s ability to carry out fundamental immigration reform at all. Biden now says he’s “flexible” on what legislation to fight for; his officials urge “patience.”

The obstacles are certainly daunting: the Immigration Tracking Project has found over 1,000 Trump-sponsored immigration policies that are now embedded in regulations and executive orders. At the southern border, large numbers of migrants hoping for consideration by the new administration pose logistical and political challenges for Biden. “As of Wednesday, more than 3,700 children were reportedly being detained in Customs and Border Protection temporary holding facilities…for longer than legally permitted—a record high” (N. Narea, Vox, 03/15/21)

Meanwhile, in a discouraging retreat from Biden’s broad immigration bill, Vox reports that some House Democrats are falling back on “piecemeal immigration reform.” The bills they have introduced “narrowly address immigrant populations perceived as sympathetic by members of both parties.” Passage of these bills, which is far from assured, would certainly help many farmworkers, TPS holders and Dreamers. But it would leave millions of other immigrants under continued threat of detention and deportation while reinforcing the toxic discourse of “worthy” vs. “unworthy” immigrants.

Responding to the current moment, immigrants are making their own voices heard:

Movimiento Cosecha, a national movement fighting for undocumented immigrants in the United States, has presented President Biden and Democrats with a deadline for action in protecting the undocumented community. The group has vowed to mobilize in D.C. on May 1st if Biden fails to provide permanent protection for the 11 million undocumented workers and families living in the states. —WGVU, 03/11/21

On March 14, Cosecha sponsored a rally in front of Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s Park Slope home, protesting his “empty promises.” Later, they projected messages onto the triumphal arch at Grand Army Plaza, including “Schumer: Do Your Job.”

Immigrant justice groups including DRUM, Chhaya, Make the Road and the New York Immigration Coalition have been calling for a complete moratorium on deportations and detentions for years. JHISN has also made this a central demand. In our new moratorium leaflet, we call for abolishing and re-imagining the current immigration system, and replacing it with a system based on human rights, international law, and decriminalization. 

We recognize that transitioning to a just system will be difficult and complicated. It will require, among other things, a thorough purge of the white nationalists inside DHS. But it can be done, especially if Biden and the Democrats are sincere about a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented migrants. During the process of abolition and restructuring, however long it takes, there’s no excuse for continuing to criminalize, detain and deport more of our family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. 

A symbolic or temporary moratorium is not enough. Along with other immigrant justice organizations, we demand a complete moratorium on deportations and immigrant detentions until there’s a system in place based on human rights for all immigrants.

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.

 

 

Petition to Keep Border Patrols off Greyhound Buses

BUSES ARE NO PLACE FOR BORDER PATROL

Sign the Petition HERE.

From the ACLU:

Throughout the country, people rely on Greyhound to get to work, visit family, or to simply travel freely. But Greyhound has been letting Border Patrol board its buses to question and arrest passengers without a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing. The company is throwing its loyal customers under the bus.

For more than a year, we’ve been urging Greyhound to stop letting Border Patrol board its buses, but the company is refusing to issue a policy protecting its customers. So now we’re taking our fight to the next level.

Greyhound is owned by FirstGroup plc, a multi-national transport group based in the UK, whose own Code of Ethics and Corporate Responsibility contradicts what its subsidiary has been doing to passengers.

“We are committed to recognising human rights on a global basis. We have a zero-tolerance approach to any violations within our company or by business partners.”

Greyhound’s complicity in the Trump deportation machine is a clear violation of the human rights values that FirstGroup professes to uphold. We must raise our voices: Sign the petition to demand that FirstGroup direct Greyhound to comply with its code of ethics. Greyhound must stop throwing customers under the bus.

Sign the ACLU’s petition to FirstGroup plc, the parent company of Greyhound, to demand that they comply with their code of ethics and stop allowing Border Patrol to board and search its buses without probable cause or warrant.

Sign the Petition HERE.

In Praise of Migrants—And Jackson Heights

(A Review: This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto, Suketu Mehta)

Suketu Mehta is an immigrant. And he’s not apologizing for it.

These days, a great many people in the rich countries complain loudly about migration from the poor ones. But as the migrants see it, the game was rigged: First, the rich countries colonized us and stole our treasure and prevented us from building our industries. After plundering us for centuries, they left, having drawn up maps in ways that ensured permanent strife between our communities….

Having built up their economies with our raw materials and our labor, they asked us to go back and were surprised when we did not. They stole our minerals and corrupted our governments so that their corporations could continue stealing our resources; they fouled the air above us and the waters around us, making our farms barren, our oceans lifeless; and they were aghast when the poorest among us arrived at their borders, not to steal but to work, to clean their shit, and to fuck their men.

Still, they needed us. They needed us to fix their computers and heal their sick and teach their kids, so they took our best and brightest, those who had been educated at the greatest expense of the struggling states they came from, and seduced us again to work for them. Now, again, they ask us not to come, desperate and starving though they have rendered us, because the richest among them need a scapegoat. This is how the game is rigged today.

Mehta’s book is a clear, engaging explanation of the global, national and personal dynamics of immigration. It’s based on his own experience, and that of his family, which has migrated all over the world. But it’s also grounded in research, informed by righteous indignation, and fueled by a desire for justice for migrants, especially those less fortunate than himself. As the author puts it, “This book is being written in sorrow and rage—as well as hope.”

This Land isn’t a “movement” book. It doesn’t delve into the various strands of the immigrant rights struggle, analyze immigration legislation or lay out a strategy for defeating Donald Trump. But nevertheless, it’s definitely a political book. What Mehta does is to try and change the popular discourse about immigration, using facts, experiences and exhilaratingly blunt arguments. He approaches migration in various contexts and from various angles, always reinforcing the value, humanity and dignity of migrants.

Mehta, who lived in Jackson Heights as a young immigrant, combines pithy arguments with devastating real-life examples. One of his most memorable examples is an extended description of a “friendship park” between San Diego and Tijuana. For many years, this was “the only place on the two-thousand-mile U.S. Mexican  border where you could meet your family face to face…a small patch of land adjoining the Pacific Ocean.” Mehta describes in agonizing detail how this tiny park, where families were once allowed to mingle freely, was suddenly fenced in, then double-fenced, so that people could barely touch pinkies. Today only ten people at a time are allowed in from the U.S. side. They are forbidden to take photos or videos, or even record the voices of their loved ones. Mehta spent two days at the park, absorbing the poignant and tragic stories of separated families, who travel for hours and days to see their loved ones across the border fences. Meanwhile, Border Patrol officers he interviewed exhibited open disdain for the park’s visitors.

Some of Mehta’s most potent writing is dedicated to exposing the realities of imperialism. He doesn’t pull any punches:

Before you ask other people to respect the borders of the West, ask yourself if the West has ever respected anybody else’s border. How often has the United States gone over the southern border or into the Caribbean or Southeast Asia? How often does it keep doing so, going over the borders of Iraq or Afghanistan? The United States has not acted lawfully with other nations, including the Native American nations on its soil, through most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How can it now expect the human victims of that enormous illegality to obey the laws of the United States and stay home or wait thirty years for a visa to rejoin their families?

Mehta makes it clear that this imperial hypocrisy doesn’t just apply to the U.S., but to all the colonial powers. For instance, he spends some time examining the history of British imperialism in his original homeland of India. He also describes how brutal French colonialism in the Caribbean and North Africa has resulted in massive migration.

In recent decades, as Mehta explains, colonialism has taken new forms. Many former colonies have gained legal independence. Now it is primarily multinational corporations and global banks that control the world economy, not Western governments. But the effects on ordinary people are largely the same. As he puts it,

They looted us for centuries, and they took whatever was worth taking, and they continued taking after we became ‘independent’—of their governments, but not of their corporations.” Trillions of dollars in wealth is still being transferred from the poor countries to the rich countries….

This has a direct bearing on the ethics of immigration. Between 1970 and 2010, Mexico lost $872 billion in illicit financial outflows, and most of the money ended up in American banks. Around this time—from 1965 to 2015—16 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States. They weren’t doing anything wrong; they were just following the money. Their money.

Besides the economic injustice of imperialism, Mehta discusses how imperialist wars trigger mass migration. He discusses not only classic armed conflicts, such as proxy civil wars and invasions, but also the phony “war on drugs,” which destroys nations while fattening the wallets of Western bankers. Together, all of these wars generate refugees by the millions.

Another major source of migration discussed in This Land is climate change. More and more nations are experiencing droughts, floods, and severe weather of all kinds. Crops are dying; heat-related deaths are skyrocketing. And so people are leaving their homes.

And where should they move to? To their former colonizers, or to the country most responsible for the heating of the planet? Americans are only 4 percent of the world’s population but are responsible for one-third of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Next comes the European Union, which put another quarter of the existing CO2 in the atmosphere. America creates a third of the world’s solid waste and consumes a fifth of the world’s energy. The average American uses as much energy as 35 Indians, or 185 Ethiopians, and consumes as many goods and services as 53 Chinese. But America was the first and only country to walk away from a global attempt at a solution: the Paris Agreement. The Trump administration is an existential threat to life on the planet today. The most damning indictment against Americans: we ruined the planet and then elected a government that will stop any last chance we have of saving it.

Mehta emphasizes that anti-immigrant sentiment, especially in the U.S., is closely tied to racism. White citizens often feel a sense of entitlement, coupled now with the feeling that they are losing privileges that used to be automatic. White citizens also, at times, feel jealous. Many immigrants are better educated than white U.S. citizens, and make more money after arriving here. (For instance, the median income for Indian Americans was over $110,000 in 2016.) Donald Trump, of course,has amplified false white nationalist narratives about crime and about immigrants draining resources from the U.S. His open appeal to white grievance and betrayal has helped increase and intensify an onslaught of racist attacks on immigrants. As Mehta says, “the conversation about immigrants in America…is approaching incitement to genocide.”

Mehta makes it clear that this racism isn’t random or disorganized. It’s actively encouraged by wealthy capitalists. The billionaire class and giant corporations have profited from globalist outsourcing,while simultaneously disinvesting from the U.S. Now the capitalists are eager to redirect outraged white resentment away from themselves and onto scapegoated immigrants.

One of Mehta’s most controversial assertions is that immigration should be understood as a form of reparations for the sins of colonialism. This is an attention-grabbing argument, but it turns out to be one of his less rigorous ones. After all, as Mehta argues at length, immigration has been good for countries like the U.S. Not just good: indispensable. It seems like an odd kind of “reparations” that comes free of cost to the offenders. This Land struggles with the contradiction, finally concluding that: “A huge bill is coming due to the West. And it is one that the West is not only morally obligated to pay, but one that it should also look forward to paying.”

This part of Mehta’s analysis, while it may be somewhat confusing, is also pretty thought-provoking. Mehta is putting his finger on a sensitive spot. Doesn’t the U.S. in fact owe reparations to the countries and peoples it has undermined and ripped off? Isn’t migration a human right, whether it helps the receiving country’s economy or not? These are some of the most important questions in front of us today.

This Land is full of revealing data. For instance, did you know that there are now 9 million U.S. citizens—migrants—living abroad, up from 4 million in 1999? Or that Turkey took in more than a million refugees in 2014, while the has U.S. allowed in just 50,000 refugees per year for decades? (Trump wants to reduce that to 30,000.) Mehta’s book is not only interesting and easy to read, but it’s also chock full of ammunition for immigrant rights fighters and supporters.

This Land includes many heartbreaking and hopeful stories of migrants—those who he calls “everyday heroes”—in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. They are people who often end up doing the hardest work in our societies, after risking their safety and freedom to migrate because they are driven to help their families or are fighting to escape intolerable situations. In many cases the migrants Mehta profiles show tremendous insight, courage and initiative.

Ultimately, This Land is a cautiously hopeful book. Bringing things right home, Mehta upholds Jackson Heights as an example of the advantages of migration and multiculturalism. Mehta is aware of the divisions here. And in fact, he argues that multiculturalism doesn’t depend on everybody instantly loving each other. It’s more of a process. He remembers that, in his youth, Jackson Heights had to cope with some deeply rooted ethnic antagonisms, which had migrated right along with people.

My neighbors were Indians and Pakistanis, Jews and Muslims, Haitians and Dominicans; the building was owned by a Turkish man but the super was Greek. Many of them had been killing each other just before they got on the plane….

But we were in a new country now, making a new life. And we could live side by side and interact in certain demarcated ways. We could exchange food; our kids could play together; they could go to school together. We discovered that we are more alike than different. South Asians in the West, for instance: Indians and Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have been warring at home discover, in Jackson Heights, that they are “desi,” and share a love of samosas and Bollywood. If we still didn’t like our neighbors, we would not burn and riot as we might at home; we would suffer them…. Because no one ethnicity dominates, no one community gets blamed if the economy goes south.

And now, diversity has become a point of attraction for all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds. As Mehta puts it, “Creative people want to live in the kind of city where they can hear many languages spoken on the street, and have a choice between pupusas and parathas for dinner.”

Mehta is inspired by Jackson Heights, and by New York in general. He notes that the city has been thriving because of the huge waves of immigration that arrived in recent decades. The author’s moving hope is that New York can serve as an example to the world.

But as Mehta knows only too well, there’s plenty of racism and inequality in New York. And there’s a vicious anti-immigrant storm raging all around us. Many residents of Jackson Heights are living in fear, while ICE thugs swagger around like modern-day Brownshirts.

Woven together with his sadness and rage, This Land’s moral clarity and expansive vision do give us cause for long-term hope. Mehta’s manifesto is important for that reason, among many others. But it’s pretty obvious that the author’s optimistic view of Jackson Heights isn’t something we can take for granted. On the contrary, it’s something we’re going to have to fight like hell to live up to, and to defend.

 

 

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.

The “Public Charge” Proposal – Make Your Voice Heard!

DEADLINE December 10th!!!

Update (10/11/19): A Judge in New York has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction which stops the Department of Homeland Security’s “public charge” regulation from going into effect. This is a victory for immigrant families. The legal fight will continue, but for now, the rules in the United States have not changed. 

President Trump’s “Public Charge” proposal will force millions of immigrants to choose between public services and seeking permanent residence, by making it harder for those who have used public services to get their Green Card.

Before the rule can be finalized, however, the administration is required by law to review and respond to every unique public comment they receive.

To make your voice heard, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to this link: https://on.nyc.gov/2EoJGGG
  2. Fill in your name.
  3. In the box labeled Why is this important to you? write your comment.
  4. Click the Submit Your Comment

What should you write in the comment box?

  • Tell the government why you disagree with the “Public Charge” rule.
  • What will happen to you or your family if you are forced to stop using public services, such as Medicaid, food aid, or housing aid?
  • Do you disagree with the proposal, even though you will not be affected by it? Let the government know!
  • Use your own words – if you copy someone else’s comment it will not be read more than once.
  • Use English – comments must be in English to be read.
  • Some examples:

This rule will threaten the health and well-being of my children.

I disagree with this rule because I have paid my taxes and should be entitled to receive help without jeopardizing my chance for a Green Card.

This rule could cost our economy $164 billion a year and drive up poverty, hunger & housing needs.