Tag: Refugee Crisis

JHISN Newsletter 02/17/2024

Dear friends,

In troubled, even catastrophic, times we welcome news that brings hope and clarity to the fight for immigrant justice. Today’s newsletter focuses on the important work being done by non-governmental, community-based groups to support new migrant arrivals in New York City. We then turn to an in-depth story of Peruvian artist Olinda Silvano, co-founder of the migrant Shipibo community in Lima, whose indigenous wisdom sparks creative resistance to environmental threats both here and in Peru.

Newsletter highlights:
  1. Community support for migrant arrivals—Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) Report 
  2. The art of indigenous ecology: Olinda Silvano of the Shipibo-Konibo Nation

1. Local Community Groups Are Critical to Migrant Support

“Community-based organizations, grassroots advocates, and everyday volunteers have been critical to providing support to people arriving in NYC from the border to seek safety and stability while they go through their immigration process.” Women’s Refugee Commission

Local community groups are gaining hard-earned recognition for the support they provide to immigrants. WNYC’s radio host Brian Lehrer announced on February 7 that his 2024 Prize for Community Well-Being has been awarded to three groups who welcome migrants to NYC. One of those is the Jackson Heights Immigrant Center, founded by Nuala O’Dougherty-Naranjo, which helps new arrivals apply for asylum and form a community. Another awardee is Power Malu’s Artists Athletes Activists group which JHISN wrote about last year in our June 10 newsletter.

In addition, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) praised the activist group NYC-TLC, the NY Chapter of the national organization Grannies Respond, in its recent report Opportunities for Welcome. The report identifies best practices and lessons learned from groups supporting asylum seekers in NYC, Chicago, Denver, and Portland (Maine). JHISN has previously reported on the work of team TLC-NYC which assists with the arrival of migrants bussed to NYC, and established the Little Shop of Kindness to provide free goods to migrants in need.

The WRC report is a comprehensive examination of the strenuous efforts made to support the thousands of migrants bussed across state lines by Republican governors as a political stunt. These politicians intended to teach a lesson to Democratic-run Sanctuary Cities that declare themselves a safe haven for immigrants. Despite the challenges, 190 cities and counties remain members of the Cities for Action group which advocates for pro-immigrant federal policies and recommends local innovative, inclusive programs and policies instead of vilifying immigrants.

The WRC spoke with over 50 support organizations in building its assessment of the current situation for migrants. Their report highlights the problem of 2 million court cases awaiting review by only 659 immigration judges. They stress that the backlog “leaves people seeking protection and permanency in the US in limbo for years.” It also extends the time that those immigrants cannot work: the 150-day countdown clock for getting work permission does not start until they file an application (p6). WRC states it is time to “end the inaccurate and unserviceable ‘crisis mode’ response to the durable reality of displaced people seeking safety.” (p2

While Mayor Adams is still requesting more federal funding for migrant services in NYC, this report reveals that our city has so far been the largest recipient of government support: NYC received $106,879,743, Denver was awarded $9,009,328 and Chicago $12,739,273. In looking at how this money was used, WRC identified several problems faced in all four cities:

  • Using emergency shelters instead of long-term solutions for housing.
  • Leaning on emergency responses that are expensive, unsustainable, and lack transparency.
  • Inadequate numbers of Legal Service providers for people seeking protection.
  • Some community tensions over new arrivals.
  • Incomplete coordination and support from the federal government.

They also identified best practices to address the problems, including leveraging public-private partnerships to offer support; providing rental assistance and establishing private hosting programs for people seeking asylum; and using a community-led case management approach with support services. 

WRC’s report concludes with comprehensive recommendations for local, state, congressional, executive branch, and federal departments. Instead of pretending that all will be fine if the border is simply closed, WRC emphasizes the complex breadth of structural and policy changes needed to address current challenges, as well as the terrible effects of five decades of inaction by our politicians to pass any meaningful new immigration laws. Without progressive national immigration reform, local groups have filled a policy vacuum with service. 

The WRC report ultimately suggests, as does Brian Lehrer’s recognition of the Well-Being Award recipients, that success comes from kind, supportive, and welcoming community initiatives. These model positive and engaged responses to how immigration can be properly handled.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. Shipibo Resilience and Resistance in DC

“To care and defend is to love, it is to prolong life, it is to combat the extinction of the region as well as its people.” —Ronin Koshi, Cantagallo Shipibo-konibo community, Lima 

The fight for environmental justice in Peru was put in the spotlight on January 23. Just a few days after a corrupt and illegitimate Peruvian Congress approved environmentally disastrous modifications to the Forestry and Wildlife Law, Olinda Silvano of the Shipibo-Konibo Nation opened the exhibition, Amazonia: A BioCreativity Hub at the IDB Cultural Center in Washington, DC. Expressing love for her ancestors, her culture, and the jungle, Olinda spoke and sang in her native language, calling for protecting the Amazon and the future of Mother Earth, while her finger ran the lines of the Kené in the mural. It was an apotheotic opening. Ironically, the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank)—whose actions do not preserve or protect the ecosystem of the Amazon—is the group that sponsored Amazonia, which has the stated goal of defending and protecting the jungle. 

Indigenous Nations in Peru have faced serious threats for decades from settlers or land traffickers. These outsiders illegally cut down cedar forests and take over Indigenous territory. The newly revised law will now allow these traffickers to change land use without carrying out a land classification study to determine if they are suitable for agricultural or forestry use. A preliminary report will no longer be necessary to authorize a forest to be cut down to become agricultural land.

Every year 150,000 hectares of virgin forest are lost in Peru, endangering the sustainable management of forest resources and the protection of ecosystems. Now, a new European Union law that prohibits imports of coffee, cocoa, beef, soy, and palm oil that have been obtained illegally from deforested forests has become a threat to forest profiteers. That is why Peru’s congress acted so swiftly to change the law. By formally legalizing predatory practices, they are protecting the profits of the export companies.

Another danger that threatens the jungle is illegal mining. The industry’s chemicals and destructive methods have seriously contaminated the region’s land and rivers. The Integral Registry of Formalization (Reinfo) was organized in 2017 to regulate small and artisanal mining. Although it was supposed to go into effect in 2020,  a corrupt Congress has kept extending the deadline. Meanwhile, a proposed “reform” bill would further weaken registration provisions.

The new legislation legalizes deforestation and degradation of Amazonian forests and ruthlessly violates the prior consultation with Indigenous peoples. It was approved through an irregular process, being opposed by Indigenous organizations, academia, and a significant majority of Peruvians. 

Olinda Silvano, who arrived in Washington with her son Ronin Koshi, showed us that the struggle to preserve our environment can and must be fought in all forums. She spoke with the wisdom imparted by her elders, insisting that the love of nature, of animals, of rivers, are the only guarantees of avoiding a climate catastrophe. 

The Shipibo people, who live on the banks of the Ucayali River, are one of the most numerous nations in the Peruvian Amazon. People like Olinda are said to have been shown the crown of inspiration. She is one of the founders of the migrant Shipibo settlement in Lima on the right margin of Rimac river, now called the Cantagallo community. She’s a leader, muralist, and lecturer, who has shown her art and her knowledge in several cities in Europe, Russia, and in recent years in North America. 

In the IDB gallery exhibition, Olinda’s 24-foot-long mural was the center of attention. It reflects the kené, which refers to traditional designs painted by women and men on ceramics, textiles, wooden surfaces and on the bodies of the Shipibo-Konibo people. Kené is made by drawing geometric patterns that express the Shipibo worldview and spirituality; it indicates identity, beauty and quality

The Peruvian communities of Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) mobilized to disseminate Olinda’s work and message through local workshops and exhibitions. Prior to the workshops Olinda, with the help of Ronin, drew up the designs that we were going to paint; they made straight lines, curves, geometric figures, perfect circles, all came from Olinda’s ancestral wisdom and were applied directly to a piece of tocuyo (raw cotton). Every participant with a stick or brush used paint prepared with cedar and other plants to color the design. After it dried, mud from her town Paohyan (Shell Lake) in Ucayali was applied to fix the color. With the accompaniment of Olinda’s songs and stories, and with the tapestry, ceramics, bracelets and earrings around us, an atmosphere of a Shipibo community was created during the workshop. Olinda told us how she received kené art, her training with plants, her decision to take the art with her; she shared her migration story and her significant work of cultivating and keeping the Shipibo-Konibo Nation alive through kené. 

Indigenous people continue to sacrifice their lives to defend the forests and rivers of the jungle. Thirty-three environmental defenders have been murdered in the last decade. It is urgent to protect Indigenous leaders. Indigenous artists like Olinda, with her unconditional dedication and love for her ancestral Amazonian culture, help raise awareness of an ecosystem as important as the Amazon in order to protect it, defend it, and fight for legislation that preserves it. 

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 11/18/2023

Dear friends, 

As the UN announces that millions of displaced people face starvation in Gaza, JHISN adds our voice to the humanitarian calls for an immediate cease-fire and for an end to all war crimes, Islamophobia, and anti-semitism. While, at home, our mayor scapegoats desperate displaced migrants as the reason for cutting city services, JHISN calls for strict adherence to international law regarding asylum seekers and taxing the rich to pay for the needs of all New York residents, new and old. Our libraries are threatened by budget cuts despite providing critical community services including their Winter Coat Drive which we encourage our readers to support with donations at the 81st Street location.

In this newsletter, we offer an additional way to listen to local coverage of immigrant stories online with WBAI in partnership with the DocumentedNY team. Happily, we lead with the excellent news about the power of immigrant labor that has resulted in the hired car workers in NYC getting back hundreds of millions of dollars in wages stolen by Uber and Lyft.

1. Taxi Workers Alliance Celebrates Massive Wage Theft Settlement

“NYC Uber and Lyft drivers were cheated out of their hard-earned income at a time when an independent study found drivers were earning below even the minimum wage, and when out of that income drivers must pay for operating expenses. On top of that, drivers are locked out of the courts due to arbitration. Tens of thousands of drivers were cheated out of a better life and then kept from pursuing justice.” —Bhairavi Desai, New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director

The taxi and hired car industry, powered by immigrant labor, is an essential part of NYC’s economy. It’s also a site of constant cutthroat struggle, where billionaires fight for market share, and weaponize political connections and technology to ruthlessly extract profit from hundreds of thousands of drivers. Remarkably, the drivers, led by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), not only manage to survive in this merciless arena, but continue to notch up significant victories.

NYTWA started in 1998, defending the rights of yellow cab and black car workers—long before the advent of ride-share apps. But once Uber and Lyft started flooding the streets with tens of thousands of cars, the union pivoted to include the app drivers’ concerns. Today 70 percent of the 21,000 NYTWA members are Uber and Lyft drivers. 

The union soon learned that ride-sharing companies were engaged in widespread wage theft, including illegally deducting passenger sales tax out of driver’s pay. Employer-friendly arbitration clauses, included by default in drivers’ contracts, severely limited the ability of the workers to sue. In 2015, NYTWA asked the governor and attorney general to do something about their stolen wages. They were turned down flat.

Undeterred, the NYTWA began a relentless campaign to bring Uber and Lyft to account. In 2016, they filed suit and publicized the app companies’ blatant lawbreaking. Soon, Uber “discovered” that they had “made a mistake” in the way they calculated commissions, and promised to pay back tens of millions of dollars—a small proportion of what was owed. In 2019 and 2020, the NYTWA went back to court, challenging the arbitration clauses in cases of wage theft, and demanding full reimbursement for all drivers.

On November 2, after eight and a half years of NYTWA organizing, State Attorney General Letitia James announced that Uber and Lyft had agreed to a massive settlement; one of the largest wage theft recoveries in history. The companies will pay back all the stolen wages, amounting to $328 million. In addition, Uber and Lyft have agreed to guarantee drivers a minimum wage and sick leave. As NYTA’s Desai says,

“You can’t turn back the clock and feed a hungry belly, but this money is going to help drivers get the life that they should have had in the years that this money was initially stolen. I hope that drivers will be able to move into that bigger apartment, put a down payment on their next car, or have their kid go back to college – that’s how significant this is.”

Attorney General James praised the drivers for their unrelenting efforts. She thanked the NYTWA specifically “for bringing the matter to this office.”

As we write, another uphill NYTWA battle against the ride-share companies and the city administration is underway. The union supports the longstanding cap on the number of ride-share vehicles in the city. The cap serves to prevent the companies from oversaturating the city with cars and pushing down driver income. But Uber and its captive mouthpiece, the Independent Drivers Guild, have been pushing for an exemption from the cap for electric vehicles. This would do more than weaken the cap: because of a city mandate for all-electric fleets by 2030, exempting electric vehicles essentially does away with the cap altogether. As usual, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has taken the companies’ side.

For now, an injunction stemming from a NYTWA lawsuit has stopped the city from issuing any more electric for-hire vehicle license plates.

WHAT CAN WE DO?:
  • Donate to the NYTWA
  • Read more about Uber and Lyft wage theft and the campaign to stop it

2. DocumentedNY on the Radio

“Our journey on earth, though difficult and long, shall be filled with happiness and in the end everyone gets their due, either good or bad.”—Irinajo Lyrics by Beautiful Nubia as translated from Yoruba by Fisayo Okare, host of Documented Immigration News Roundup

The online free speech radio station, WBAI, has been elevating the work of the DocumentedNY news source with a half-hour show airing at 5 pm on Saturdays. The show host, Fisayo Okare, has brought attention to migration issues ever since Texas started busing migrants to NYC. She brings to us not just the words, but the live voices of people advocating for the immigrant populations coming into New York City. 

In the November 11 episode, Okare spoke with Diane Enobabor, who grew up in Texas and is currently a PhD student at CUNY. Enobabor co-founded BAMSA, the Black and Arab Movement Solidarity Alliance, to support men placed at the Stockton Street “respite center” in Bushwick/Bed-Stuy after they arrived from Texas. Along with other members of BAMSA’a rapid response team, she advocated for the City to better support these immigrants, including ensuring that the men had access to showers. BAMSA originally planned to volunteer support work for no more than two months, so as to not cover over the need to address systemic problems about the way the city was providing support services.

BAMSA used monies from a $5,000 grant to launch ESL classes and to begin capturing better data about the migrants they were working with. Since the asylum process tracks people based on the last nation of residency rather than their nation of origin, many asylum seekers of African origin become statistically invisible after coming to the US via other nations. BAMSA’s research has shown that 40% of African migrants arrive by plane, 10% by train, 49% by bus, and only 1% arrive on the Texas buses.

Enobabor also learned that recent migrants who move outside of NYC, such as the Mauritanians who have found success in Ohio, as well as those who returned to Texas, actually found cheaper housing and better access to work opportunities elsewhere. She notes that NYC used to be the foundational start for most migrants but now, by not taking this opportunity to provide the best support to new migrants, NYC is missing an important chance for its own revitalization.

Enobabor and Okare also raised awareness of Adama Bah who founded a Harlem non-profit called Afrikana. The organization played a crucial role by serving as greeters to arriving migrants at Port Authority and then expanded support by helping provide IDNYC cards to people without established residency. Bah’s efforts to support new immigrants were recognized earlier this year when State Senator Jessica Ramos nominated her for the BPHA Community Awards from the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus.

JHISN applauds the work of these incredible women. We encourage our readers to support DocumentedNY and to listen to the noteworthy online radio coverage the news team is now providing about migration issues.

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 10/21/2023

Dear friends,

It’s not that easy to keep up with immigration politics in NYC. Corporate media often distorts or ignores current issues; grassroots immigrant-led justice groups are rarely highlighted in journalistic accounts; and local media—including Gothamist, Queens Post, City Limits, and Queens Daily Eagle—can be uneven in their reporting. So you might have missed the truly significant news that Mayor Adams, under the pretext of a “crisis” of new migrants in NYC, is trying to overturn the city’s decades-old Right to Shelter law. We offer that important story below.

We also give an update on the recent work of Adhikaar, a Queens-based immigrant justice organization—the first in the US to represent Nepali-speaking communities.

 Newsletter highlights:
  1. Mayor takes aim at Right to Shelter
  2. Adhikaar helps win TPS extension and more…

1. Adams Attacks NYC’s Right to Shelter

“You know, I think the mayor thought he was going to sneak this by, that he was going to repeal the right to shelter, he was going to throw new arrivals out on the street like they weren’t human beings and nobody was going to notice.”    Christine Quinn, president and CEO of Win

JHISN has recently argued that Mayor Adams has used the busing of asylum seekers from Texas as a pretext for cutting social services and introducing a new wave of austerity politics to our city. True to form, Adams—with support from Governor Hochul—is now trying to use the arrival of these migrants as an excuse to gut New York City’s renowned Right to Shelter law.

Because of a 1981 consent decree, Callahan v Carey, NYC is legally obligated to offer access to a bed, lockers, showers, and necessary toiletries to those in need.

“There’s a reason why New York City doesn’t have tent encampments, and it’s not that we’re any cheaper than west coast cities,” said Kathryn Kliff, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society. “Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, any of those places, you’re going to see a lot of people sleeping out. The reason you don’t see that here is because there is a right to shelter.”  The Guardian (10/4/23)

Some previous New York mayors, including Giuliani and Bloomberg, have viewed Right to Shelter as an unwelcome obstacle to their budget-cutting efforts. Today Adams, deploying his trademark hyperbole, proclaims that providing this right to asylum seekers will “destroy” the city. Even as he tries to gut the Right to Shelter, he uses it to dishonestly justify major spending cuts to a broad swath of other city social services.

 To advance his austerity agenda, which progressive legislators have called “manufactured scarcity,” Adams makes the inflated claim that shelter and services for asylum seekers will cost 12 billion dollars over three years. City Comptroller Brad Lander estimates the real cost at around 5.3 billion—or about 1.6% of the budget. Adams has loudly complained that “more than 122,700 asylum seekers [have] come through our intake system since the spring of 2022.” What he fails to mention is that only about half that number are actually in the care of the city, spread out among 210 sites. Many asylum seekers have left for other parts of the country or found housing on their own. In addition, 40% of asylum seekers arriving in New York are from Venezuela; most have recently gained federal Temporary Protected Status, which will allow them to get work permits and move out of the shelter system more quickly.

Adams’ Chief Advisor, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, has made the administration’s animus towards migrants obvious: “The right to shelter was intended for our indigenous homeless population, so we argue that we should not have to shelter all of these immigrants.” She didn’t mention the benefits migrants bring to the city. Nor did she acknowledge that there are 40,000 rent-stabilized apartments sitting vacant.

Initially, Adams tried to get the Manhattan State Supreme Court to approve a broad waiver of Right to Shelter. The waiver was to go into effect any time the city executive decided shelter services were too expensive. Since that blunt legal maneuver failed, the mayor has now asked the court to let him suspend the consent decree when shelter populations rise, as long as he or the governor declare a “state of emergency.” According to the latest news reports, the parties to the consent decree have been asked to enter mediation by Judge Gerald Lebovits.

Ignoring the pleas of religious leaders, Governor Hochul enthusiastically backs Adams’ play. She calls Right to Shelter “an open invitation to 8 billion people” to get a free bed in New York. This is the same right-wing narrative embraced by Curtis Sliwa and the New York Post, which urges outright defiance by the mayor of Right to Shelter law.

Rallying progressives to defend Right to Shelter, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society have circulated open letters of protest to Adams and Hochul. The letters reaffirm the human rights of unhoused people, and rebut false arguments about asylum seekers. For instance, they point out that comparable numbers of migrants used to arrive year after year before the Right to Shelter consent decree even existed—debunking the incendiary claim that Right to Shelter is a magnet for opportunist freeloaders. 

So far, 50 organizations, including JHISN, have co-signed the letters. The version addressing Adams states:

We, the undersigned organizations, are vehemently opposed to your efforts to undermine the legal Right to Shelter for both new arrivals and longtime New Yorkers, as you propose doing in your October 3, 2023 letter to the court, and see such efforts as an abrogation of your moral and legal duties as the mayor of a sanctuary city, a city that has been a proud beacon of humane and progressive values for its entire history, and where we, as community, have long been dedicated to the ideal that no one should be left to live, or die, on our streets. –Open Letter (10/11/23)

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. Adhikaar at 18 Years Old

Founded in 2005 by four women with $500 and a vision, Adhikaar today is the only women-led community organization in the US building the power of Nepali-speaking workers and immigrants. Located in Woodside, Adhikaar has become a transformative force at the national, state, and local level. The group continues to struggle for adequate protective legal status for Nepali immigrants nationwide. After winning the fight to extend temporary protective status (TPS) for Nepal until mid-2025, Adhikaar members traveled to the White House last June to meet with administration officials and press the need for more action beyond the automatic extension for existing TPS holders.

 At the state level, Adhikaar is a leader in the #AllHandsIn campaign to pass the Nail Salon Minimum Standards Council Act, which is currently stuck in committee in the NYS legislature. With close to 40,000 workers in New York State, 73% of whom are Asians or Pacific Islanders, the nail salon industry is a notorious site of wage theft and employee exploitation, as well as health risks from hazardous chemicals. “During my career, I had seven miscarriages in the industry. That’s the reason I want to protect my sisters who work in the industry,” explains Pabitra Dash, Adhikaar’s senior organizer. The legislation would create a Council that includes industry workers to establish statewide standards and protections for nail technicians. Adhikaar has mobilized hundreds of workers in Albany, media coverage, and support from electeds to try to keep the legislation alive and moving forward.

And here at the community level, Adhikaar launched an organization-wide initiative on community safety—what it means for members and how to achieve it. After conducting a member survey last April, Adhikaar held a series of self-defense trainings and member discussions in response to the rise in attacks and threats against Asian Americans in New York. “The training helped members who feel marginalized or vulnerable, gain a sense of empowerment and control over their own safety,” (Adhikaar May-June 2023 newsletter).

 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 09/23/2023

Dear friends, 

As the seasons turn, we turn again to addressing one of the most pressing issues of immigrant justice here in New York City: the arrival of over 100,000 recent migrants looking for housing, employment, and a livable future. Like you, we have had to wade through corporate media stories and the cynical moves of the Mayor, to try to understand what is happening. The story we offer here refuses to see an “emergency” for New York, and focuses instead on the politics and history of immigration that call for a 21st-century reckoning. We end with an extended “WHAT CAN WE DO?” section to help readers navigate the current moment.

Crisis Theater

Adams Says Migrant Crisis “Will Destroy New York City”New York Times, 9/7/23

Neo-Nazi Blog Daily Stormer Praises Adams’ “Insight”Alternet, 9/8/23

Restaurant Owner Drove Car Into Men at Brooklyn Migrant ShelterGothamist, 9/12/23

Suing. Heckling. Cursing. N.Y.C. Protests Against Migrants EscalateNew York Times, 9/15/23

In this moment of panic and crisis—manufactured and real—we offer a few facts to help maintain a sense of proportion and historical context:

  • Between 1900 and 1914, an average of 1,900 immigrants a day came through Ellis Island. In 1907 alone, almost 1.3 million immigrants entered New York Harbor. No special papers or permissions were required for entry, just ID documents. Most people were processed in one day, often in just a couple of hours. They were eligible to work immediately.
  • About a quarter of Ellis Island immigrants settled for good in the New York metropolitan area—several hundred thousand new residents, year after year. (Back then, New York City’s population was roughly half the size it is today.) These immigrants are often credited with helping the city become an economic powerhouse.
  • Between 1996 and 2001, an average of 111,828 immigrants a year came to live in New York City.
  • Since early 2022, about 449,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion have entered the US, causing minimal social disruption. Tens of thousands of them have settled in NYC.
  • Warsaw, Poland, a city of just 1.8 million, has processed 800,000 refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine. Those who decided to remain in Warsaw—about 170,000 people—are mostly sheltering in private homes with Polish families, who receive compensation from the government.

The arrival of 110,000 asylum seekers over the past 16 months is not actually a crisis for our city. NYC is one of the wealthiest places in the world and has certainly accommodated larger numbers of migrants. Modest adjustments to our regressive tax system—ending tax breaks for the wealthy—could guarantee decent housing and social services for all New Yorkers, including its newest residents. Instead, Mayor Adams has taken the opportunity to demand drastic cutbacks in city services, while blaming everybody else: the state, the federal government, the press, and immigrants themselves. He trapped asylum seekers on the pavement outside the Roosevelt Hotel in sweltering heat for no good reason other than ramping up panic.

What we are witnessing is crisis theater, manufactured by Eric Adams and other political representatives of disaster capitalism. They see the arrival of buses from Texas full of exhausted asylum seekers as a golden opportunity to undermine the right to shelter, slash the city’s budget, and set working-class people against each other to fight over whatever’s left. They would rather profit from chaos, division, and austerity than ask billionaires to pay reasonable taxes.

As Adams surely expected, his “asylum crisis” discourse has been seized on and amplified by the radical Right. Their propaganda machine celebrates Adams’ confirmation of the “danger” migrants pose to the city. They use his blame game as justification for their own favorite talking points: that asylum seeker men are a threat to “our” children, and that progressive Democrats are just scheming to gain new immigrant voters. 

And so Adams’ fake crisis theater has now contributed to a very real crisis: the growth of a fascist movement. The mayor has opened the door to their racism and xenophobia in order to gain more room to maneuver politically and to ingratiate himself with NYC’s billionaire elite. Texas governor and migrant kidnapper Greg Abbott must be laughing out loud at the spectacle; he couldn’t have hoped for a better result.

Unfortunately, putting a right-wing target on the backs of immigrants to boost political careers has a long history in New York. In Ellis Island days, there was organized backlash against Catholics and Jews, who were transforming what had been an overwhelmingly Protestant city. Anti-immigrant politicians demonized working-class “foreigners” who they considered “less than civilized and less than white.” (Ironically, Curtis Sliwa, today’s grotesque anti-immigrant provocateur, has Polish and Italian Catholic family roots.)

Across the US, the Right and the politicians of the corporate elite are using a human tragedy—people forced to flee their homes—as an expedient excuse for cutting social programs, dividing our communities, and militarizing our streets. It’s disgraceful that Adams, Hochul, and other New York politicians are joining in. This immoral and cynical demonization of migrants must stop. JHISN welcomes asylum seekers, and sees the struggle for their rights and dignity as a fight for the soul of our city. We reject the “asylum crisis” narrative spun by scapegoaters, budget slashers, and sensationalist media. And we call on New Yorkers to unite behind the grassroots immigrant justice organizations that are on the front lines of this struggle.

WHAT CAN WE DO? – SUPPORT FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS

As the images and news reports about the new migrant arrivals proliferate, caring New Yorkers are wondering how they can be of assistance. We offer this list of names and contact information of four organizations happy to accept your help and mutual aid.

1. South Bronx Mutual Aid   646-598-3526

Urgently needs volunteer translation services to help communication with migrants.

WHAT YOU CAN DONATE
  •  Hygiene products and toiletries like deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.
  •  New and used clean clothing for men, particularly in small and medium sizes.
  •  New socks and underwear for men.
  •  Baby diapers.
  •  Money. Use this website to donate directly.

Contact organizers to arrange donations of goods, which can be mailed to: PO Box 216, Bronx, NY 10464. Please contact South Bronx Mutual Aid before sending any items in the mail.


2. Team TLC infoteamtlcnyc@gmail.com

Team TLC runs the Little Shop of Kindness on 12 West 40th St. inside the Ukrainian Seventh-Day Adventist Center at Bryant Park. Donations can be delivered there on Mondays 1– 4 pm, and from Tuesday to Friday 9 am – 3 pm.

WHAT YOU CAN DONATE
  • Men’s clothing, specifically men’s pants in small and medium sizes. There is no need for women’s clothing at the moment.
  • Clothes for school-aged children. No infant or baby clothing.
  •  New or used shoes, like sneakers and walking shoes.
  •  Financial donations directly to Team TLC’s website.

3. African Communities Together (ACT)    347-746-2281

Call or email to arrange drop-offs of donations. ACT does not accept clothing donations.

WHAT YOU CAN DONATE
  •  Money, which can be donated directly through the group’s website.
  •  Items for “care packages” made up of nonperishable food, hygiene products, toothbrushes, deodorant, and lotion.

4. New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC)   212-627-2227   info@nyic.org

NYIC does not accept donations, but will direct you to other organizations that do.

However, if you have more time available, NYIC will soon host weekly “Key to the City” resource fairs on weekdays to help immigrants and low-income workers enroll in school, access city services, find health care, manage their immigration cases, and more.

Volunteers can fill out the online application to help the fairs by:

  • Signing people in.
  • Setting up tables and cleaning up at the end of the fairs.
  • Staffing tables.

To provide pro bono legal work, email the contact above.

 

In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

 

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JHISN Newsletter 09/09/2023

Dear friends,

JHISN has been around for just over six years—a youngster in relation to many local immigrant justice groups. But we are old enough to have learned the difficult lesson that many justice groups know too well: hard-won activist victories are also hard to sustain. In this newsletter, we report on how the Biden administration and corporate capitalism are undermining New Jersey activists’ successful attempt to shut down privately contracted immigrant detention centers in the state. La lucha continúa …The struggle goes on.

We are delighted to also offer an introduction to a new neighbor—The World’s Borough Bookshop just opened its doors on 73rd St and 34th Ave. We encourage you to visit and explore this wonderful community space.

Newsletter highlights:
  1. New bookstore comes to Jackson Heights
  2. Notorious privately-run detention jail in NJ supported by Biden’s DOJ

1. The World’s Borough Gets a New Bookstore

Seven years ago, Adrian Cepeda had a dream: open a bookstore here in Jackson Heights. Today that dream has an address: 3406 73rd Street. The World’s Borough Bookshop, located just off the neighborhood’s Open Street, launched for business on August 5. Its shelves are filled with Latinx and Black fiction and nonfiction, literature by Desi authors, Queens writers, manga comics, and a selection of used books. There’s a colorful kids’ room with children’s books in Portuguese, Bangla, Mandarin, and Urdu.

 “Por y Para La Communidad” (“for and by the community”) reads the banner at the entrance. With comfortable couches inside, and tables on the sidewalk, the world’s borough bookstore invites students-after-school, parents with excited kids, or teachers looking for an English translation of García Márquez, to linger for conversation, or to just sit and read in the late summer sun. Cepeda, who curates the store’s selection of BIPOC-only (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) books himself, is looking to the community for ideas and desires about what our local bookstore should be. “I want to make it a very Queens bookstore,” he smiles.

Growing up in Jackson Heights, Cepeda credits his mom—who also grew up in the neighborhood—with nourishing his love of reading with trips to the JH Public Library. But he is committed to making the World’s Borough Bookstore attractive to both readers and non-readers alike, a place where people can fall in love with books for the very first time.


2. Biden Continues Expanding 40-Year Policy of For-Profit Detention

In August of 2021, New Jersey implemented Sanctuary Law AB5207 banning ICE contracts with private detention facilities—a victory for the years-long activist struggle to close down private, for-profit detention. The law successfully resulted in closing three New Jersey detention centers, leaving just one operating: the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC). However, private contractor CoreCivic challenged AB5207 as unconstitutional for violating the Supremacy Clause, which gives federal laws precedence over state laws. The federal contract with CoreCivic to house migrants in EDC was set to expire in September of this year and was an opportunity for Biden to follow through on campaign promises to end private detention. 

As a presidential candidate, Biden said, “No business should profit from the suffering of desperate people fleeing violence,” and proclaimed private detention centers, “should not exist. And we are working to close all of them.” Although he signed an executive order last January to end the use of private prisons under the Department of Justice (DOJ), that order does not apply to immigrant detention because Homeland Security is not under the DOJ. 

Last March, after President Biden’s 2024 budget proposal increased ICE and Border Patrol funding, Make The Road NY joined with New Jersey-based immigration support groups NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ), Wind of Spirit NJ, MinKwon Center NJ, and AFSC Immigrants Rights Program to condemn him. Erik Cruz, of the NJAIJ, accused the Biden administration of supporting “a rollback to his predecessor’s worst and cruelest policies.” Soon after, 223 organizations signed a letter demanding asylum seekers and other migrants not be placed behind bars in immigration detention.

After Title 42 was repealed in May, a new set of immigration restrictions was introduced, and a review launched by senior immigration officials identified about two dozen detention centers to be scaled back, reformed, or closed. Only three closed. During 2022, the Biden administration actually increased the number of detainees held in private facilities to 90%–compared to 80% at the end of Trump’s administration. Revenues for one private prison company, GEO Group, reportedly jumped by more than $1 billion (an almost 40% increase).

Then, in July, the CoreCivic case against AB5207 gained a boost from Biden’s DOJ which filed an amicus brief supporting the CoreCivic injunction. The DOJ called the Elizabeth facility “mission critical” because of its proximity to Newark and JFK airports; they described direct flights out of the United States as “crucial” for removals. Instead of acknowledging that detainees could be released to family and community, Biden’s DOJ filing highlighted the increased costs for out-of-state relocations and transportation to alternative detention facilities which limits access to families and legal counsel. It also focused on possible worst-case scenarios saying shutting down the center could lead to the release of “dangerous noncitizens.”

50 local groups, including DetentionWatch, called the Biden administration’s support of the CoreCivic suit “bitterly disappointing but unsurprising.” They called on NJ Governor Murphy to shut down EDC, reminding everyone that detainees had long complained about problematic conditions at EDC: the facility is set up to have just one bathroom for every 40 people; birds inside reportedly defecated on beds; people were abused by staff; and there has been a lack of sanitary pads. 

A “free them all” rally was held on August 20th to defend AB5207 and demand the facility’s closure. Five days later, ten New Jersey congressional leaders joined with 41 immigrant support organizations and delivered a letter to the DOJ expressing concern for the Biden Administration’s support of the private prison company. Li Adorno of Movimiento Cosecha said later of Biden, “He could actually shut down the Elizabeth Center at any moment, any given day …This is it—his time to shine, and he’s not shining.”

Instead of shining, Biden did nothing to close EDC, nor end the contract. At the end of August, Judge Kirsch declared AB5207 unconstitutional and within a day a $20 million 12-month contract between ICE and CoreCivic was signed. Judge Kirsch had ruled the NJ law was “naked interference” with federal immigration enforcement and was “a dagger aimed at the heart of the federal government’s immigration enforcement mission and operations.” Kathy O’Leary, the Director of Pax Christi and one of many activists, including Unidad Latina and Movimiento Cosecha, protesting the ruling outside the federal immigration building in Newark, responded to his grotesque dagger statement:

“We cannot stab a dagger into the heart of ICE. It has no heart, it’s not a person. The people in ICE’s cages—they can bleed, they can shed tears. That’s who we should be concerned about.” 

Yanet Candelario of The Mami Chelo Foundation, who spent time inside the walls of the Elizabeth Detention Center, said when Biden was elected president, she was happy. “I thought he would end the Trump era of terror, where children were separated from their parents and kept in cages like animals.” She continued, “I believed he would make a difference in a country where immigrants have fewer rights…I don’t think Biden knows that people are dying in immigration detention because they have been denied medical attention, but I also expect him to keep his promises and end a system that denies us our humanity.”

WHAT CAN WE DO?

 

In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

 

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JHISN Newsletter 07/15/2023

Dear friends,

We write today’s newsletter at the intersection of local, national, and global politics—a dense intersection where all immigrants dwell. We update you on the current struggle of the local group Adhikaar to secure extended Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for members of the Nepali-speaking community, many of them neighbors here in central Queens. And we draw a connecting line between the imperial histories that drive current migration, and the national failure of the US to abide by international asylum laws. A source of immense human pain at the US-Mexico border, and in local immigrant communities like ours.

Please note that the JHISN newsletter also appears on our website in Spanish. Share the link!

Newsletter highlights:
  1. Asylum politics today
  2. Adhikaar fights for TPS

1. Asylum Is a Human Right

Step by step, the US and other wealthy nations are undermining the right to asylum—a vital right established by the international community in the wake of the horrors of World War II. Today, mainstream political discourse in the Global North treats seeking asylum as a crime and treats offering asylum as a burden.

>>Seeking Asylum Is not a Crime

US and international law clearly specify that any person can request asylum, and will be treated with respect and dignity, no matter how they arrive—including if they simply walk across a border. This solemn obligation has been reaffirmed by the federal courts, the UN, and the Geneva Convention.

It is the US government, not asylum seekers, that commits crimes when it:

>>Offering Asylum Is not a Burden

Imperialism creates refugees. Around the world, the US government and US corporations invade, provoke civil wars, export gang violence, generate economic devastation through “free trade” laws, destroy the environment, and sponsor dictators and death squads. These predatory policies, which profit rich North Americans and corporations, are responsible for chaos, violence, and persecution and cause millions to flee their homes. Ironically, the US admits far fewer asylum seekers for its size than many other nations. Our government also callously discriminates against those whose lives are impacted the most by imperialism, prioritizing expedited or privatized arrangements for refugees who have money, connections, or white skin.

Nevertheless, what politicians from both major parties prefer to talk about is how costly it is to host asylum seekers. These are the same “leaders” who promote subsidies for real estate interests and monopoly corporations—corrupt handouts which are bad for working-class people and staggeringly expensive. Politicians’ complaints about refugees inadvertently shine a harsh spotlight on their own lack of compassion and their comfort with radical inequality.

We are constantly lectured that we “can’t afford” asylum or any other social needs of oppressed people. We are told that “The Budget” is a zero-sum game with a fixed limit. But the wealthiest country in the world (and NYC, its wealthiest city) can certainly afford to welcome many more asylum seekers than it does today. To meet this need—this human obligation—there is really only one political decision required: making the rich pay their fair share.


2. Adhikaar Defends TPS before the Ninth Circuit Court

“The TPS extension has again given us temporary relief but we cannot continue our life on one to two-year increments. We have made the U.S. our home, and we are here to stay. We will fight tooth and nail to secure redesignations for all four countries and permanent protections for all.”  Keshav Bhattarai, Plaintiff, and Adhikaar Member Leader

As part of its anti-immigrant crusade, the Trump administration declared an end to Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for migrants who fled dangerous conditions in Nepal, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. On Tuesday, June 20, President Biden reversed that decision, announcing instead an 18-month extension of the programs. As a result, existing TPS holders from those four countries will be protected until 2025 as long as they re-register.

Biden’s decision came just two days before a previously-scheduled hearing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle to review a major TPS case known as Ramos v Mayorkas. The plaintiffs are three Nepalis (Keshav Bhattarai, Saijan Panday, and Sumima Tapa) and two Salvadorans (Krista Ramos and Cristina Ramos)ee. Adhikaar—the Jackson Heights based group supporting the local Nepali-speaking community—plays a leading role in the case.

The history of Ramos v Mayorkas begins in 1990 when Congress established the TPS program, permitting migrants from unsafe countries to live and work in the US for a temporary, but extendable, period of time. Countries have been deemed unsafe due to natural disasters, political unrest, or armed conflict. Currently, there are approximately 400,000 holders of TPS in the US. Many of them have lived and worked here for decades.

When the Trump administration terminated TPS for Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, El Salvador, Nepal, and Honduras in 2017-2018, they were challenged by multiple lawsuits. A district court judge issued an injunction to prevent any of the terminations from going into effect, arguing that they were motivated by racism and failed to consider the current unsafe conditions in the affected countries. The Trump administration appealed, and in 2020 a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him that the injunction was improper. Lawyers from the ACLU, Adhikaar, the National Day Laborers Organization, and Unemployed Workers United asked for the entire Ninth Circuit to review the case, which they agreed to do, scheduling the hearing on June 22. 

Once the Biden administration’s June 20 extension was announced, the June 22 hearing turned into a debate about whether the court should still issue a decision and if so what it should be. Adhikaar argues that the court should return the case to the district court, allowing it to reaffirm its original decision that the Trump terminations were motivated by racism and therefore unconstitutional. 

On June 24, during an Adhikaar online town hall, Emi MacLean, an attorney on the case, reminded the audience about the intense anti-immigrant hostility coming from the Trump administration at the time of the TPS terminations.

“It’s important to remember how brave it was for people to come forward: those who were in the streets marching, those who went to Congress, and those who are willing to put their names on this lawsuit and share their stories publicly so the judges and the media and public would be aware of what was at stake and to force judges to make a decision about the legality.”

As things stand now, people from the four countries who had TPS protection at the time of the Trump terminations must re-register during a specific 60-day period to extend their TPS and work authorizations (EAD). 

DHS will extend TPS as follows:

  •  Nepal from Dec. 25, 2023 to June 24, 2025 (60-day re-registration period: Oct. 24, 2023 – Dec. 23, 2023)
  • El Salvador from Sept. 10, 2023 to March 9, 2025 (60-day re-registration period: July 12, 2023 – Sept. 10, 2023);
  • Honduras from Jan. 6, 2024 to July 5, 2025 (60-day re-registration period: Nov. 6, 2023 – Jan. 5, 2024);
  • Nicaragua from Jan. 6, 2024 to July 5, 2025 (60-day re-registration period: Nov. 6, 2023 – Jan. 5, 2024).

The National TPS Alliance and immigrant advocates are pleased that Biden reversed Trump’s plan to end TPS. But they are pushing the administration to do more than just extend the deadline for those who were already covered. They want him to “redesignate” the four countries, resetting the clock to include new immigrants in the program. They are also lobbying Congress to grant a legal pathway to citizenship for TPS holders. In the meantime, a ruling from the Ninth Circuit is awaited.

WHAT WE CAN 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.