Tag: Trump

JHISN Newsletter 01/28/2023

Dear friends,

We are excited to bring you news about recent changes, and accomplishments, at Damayan—a local immigrant justice group that some of our readers already know well. With Woodside now home to ‘Little Manila’ and over half of all Filipino New Yorkers living in Queens, Damayan’s grassroots work is vital to our community. We also introduce you to public events organized by the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility housed at The New School, with a summary of their recent webinar on US border politics and Biden’s new asylum policy.  

Newsletter highlights:
  1. Damayan celebrates 20 years of Filipino organizing
  2. Public webinar on Biden’s betrayal of asylum seekers

1. DAMAYAN at 20

“Sa loob ng 20 dekada, nanatili ang Damayan na matatag sa pananaw na anti-imperialista, bumuo ng malinaw na vision at mission, at mga strategies para gumabay sa mga tulad nating domestic workers… [For 2 decades, Damayan has remained steadfast in its anti-imperialist vision, developed a clear vision and mission, and strategies to guide domestic workers like us…] Rose Alovera, Damayan Board Member

Damayan Migrant Workers Association’s mission is to “organize low-wage Filipino workers to combat labor trafficking, promote human and worker’s rights, and develop social justice leaders.” At the end of 2022, Damayan—many of whose 1500+ members live in Queens—made several major announcements at their 20th Anniversary and Annual Holiday Party.

Perhaps the most important news was that Riya Ortiz, a long-time organizer with Damayan, has been selected as the group’s new Executive Director. Ortiz said, “My family’s experience of forced migration and years of organizing and activism convinced me to embrace the vision and mission of Damayan.” Co-founder and outgoing ED Linda Oalican will transition out of office in the first quarter of this year, after two decades of what Damayan praised as “providing critical services, educating, organizing, and mobilizing Filipino migrant workers in New York and New Jersey.”

One of Damayan’s key accomplishments in 2022 was to help more than 200 Filipino workers receive a total of over $3 million from the New York State Excluded Workers Fund. Last year, Damayan assisted a record number of workers to gain visa approval, and secured financial assistance for 26 trafficking survivors through the federal Trafficking Victims Assistance Program. In a display of the group’s broad community support, Damayan’s recent holiday fundraiser easily surpassed its goal, raising over $22,000 from more than 170 donors.

JHISN congratulates Damayan and outgoing ED Lina Oalican on 20 years of impressive achievements in the fight for social justice. We extend our solidarity to new ED Ortiz, and to all Damayan’s Directors, activists, and members. 

WHAT CAN WE DO?
  • If you are able, please donate to Damayan!
  • Attend the tribute to outgoing Executive Director Linda Oalican on February 25th.

2. Asylum Betrayed: Biden’s Border Politics and Title 42

On January 13, The New School’s Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility here in NYC hosted an important webinar, “Asylum Betrayed: Biden’s Border Politics and Title 42.” The Institute offers courses, sponsors lectures, and events, and supports critical scholarship on all aspects of migration. The webinar discussion featured Eleanor Acar, director of the Refugee Protection Program at Human Rights First, Alexandra Delano Alonzo, professor and chair of Global Studies at The New School, and Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. 

Participants reviewed multiple aspects of US immigration policy and highlighted problems with President Biden’s January 5 announcement of a new “parole” plan for migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti. This scheme will allow up to 30,000 migrants per month to enter the US for a period of two years and receive work authorization, but will require everybody to apply from their home country, have a sponsor in the US, and pass background checks. Anyone trying to enter in any other way will be expelled under the controversial “pandemic emergency” authority of Title 42 and will be disqualified from the program in the future. Mexico has agreed to accept 30,000 of those expelled each month. 

All webinar participants appreciated the value of providing migrants with a legal path for entry, but rejected the use of Title 42 to punish those unable to meet the requirements of parole. The Biden program is designed to favor people with family connections in the US and with financial resources. Some migrants with good cases for asylum will likely be expelled–-a violation of international law.

The webinar offered updated information about cross-border immigration to the US: 

  • Of the “2 million migrants” said to have recently crossed the southern border, many are actually people who were expelled and who then re-crossed, getting counted two or more times. Ms. Acer explained that the restrictive policies of former president Trump are the main cause of the ballooning numbers, not the weaknesses of Democrats’ border policy.
  • Among migrants recently expelled to Mexico under Title 42, some 13,400 are victims of kidnapping or rape. 
  • For the past three years, there has effectively been a halt to asylum—a clear violation of international law and stated US values, according to Mr. Gelernt.
  • The Mexican asylum system is already overburdened and underfunded and will have difficulty absorbing 30,000 additional migrants per month. It is not known why Mexico has agreed to accept people expelled by the US, but Dr. Delano Alonzo said the Mexican administration might be anticipating some sort of economic quid pro quo.

Biden’s new parole plan has been strongly criticized by many immigrant justice and advocacy organizations as well as by four Democratic senators who are usually White House allies—Senators Alex Padilla (California), Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (New Jersey), and Ben Ray Luján (New Mexico). One biting public statement against “parole” came from Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition:

“President Biden’s plan to expel those who attempt to cross the border … is an attack on the humanitarian values and obligations of the United States. This plan needlessly endangers the lives of those crossing the border in search of basic freedom in our country, and succumbs to the fearmongering espoused by anti-immigrant conservatives. . . . Rather than limiting humanitarian parole for just a select few with family connections and financial privilege, the Biden administration must expand additional protections for all asylum seekers, so that our country can fulfill its humanitarian obligations and provide opportunity and freedom for all.”

 

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 10/29/2022

Dear friends,

 As the sun drops earlier in the sky, and as communities around the world draw in their final harvest, it is time to join in the festival of lights. Diwali, and the related festival of Tihar Utsav, were celebrated this past week throughout South Asia—and here in Jackson Heights. Over 200 people gathered on October 22 in Travers Park for a day-long Diwali event, featuring food and performances, a lamp-lighting ceremony, and speakers including a young climate justice activist and the director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Bhairavi Desai.

 And on October 27, Adhikaar held its Fall Utsav festival. As a Queens-based, women-led immigrant justice organization for the Nepali-speaking community, Adhikaar has much to celebrate: their statewide nail salon workers campaign; the fight for economic justice for domestic workers; and the urgent work to extend Temporary Protective Status for thousands of Nepali immigrants. Adhikaar is also marking a change of seasons in leadership as executive director and long-time community organizer Pabitra Khati Benjamin transitions out of her role, and the search for a new director begins.          

Our newsletter this week features an in-depth article on the status of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The fate of tens of thousands of young DACA recipients here in New York is at stake as legislative and judicial wrangling continues, and real lives are upended by uncertainty and the threat of deportation.  

Newsletter highlights:

1. No Protection for DACA’s Young Dreamers

DACA Recipients Still in Limbo

“We were promised immigration reform in the first 100 days [of the Biden administration]…Those 100 days came and went, and we have nothing”Catalina Cruz, the first former DACA recipient elected to NY State Assembly

President Obama inaugurated the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in June 2012. It has been under attack by right-wing Republicans ever since. Today DACA’s future is unclear, leaving hundreds of thousands of people and their families in limbo, including tens of thousands of Dreamers here in NYC. Many are unable to work, and some face the prospect of deportation if DACA is not renewed or replaced with other pathways to legal status.

DACA has been the subject of a seesaw battle involving executive orders and litigation. In 2017, President Trump attempted to end the program by barring new and renewal applications so that DACA holders’ protections would expire over time. In July 2021, a Houston court ruled that DACA was illegal because it had not gone through the proper public notice and comment process. This month, shortly after DACA’s tenth anniversary, a Federal Appeals Court upheld the Houston decision, returning the case to the Houston court and ordering further review. As a result of the court’s recent decision, DHS policy will only allow current DACA recipients to renew their application and work authorization; no new applications will be processed. The hundreds of thousands of young people eligible for DACA can still submit a new application, but it will be set aside and not acted upon by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Which States Have DACA Recipients? As of June 2022, USCIS reports there are 594,120 DACA recipients nationwide, with over 1,150,000 eligible. There are 25,580 in New York state, with 56,000 eligible.

The states with the highest number of DACA holders are:

California 169,590 Texas 97,760 Illinois 31,480 New York 24,580
Florida 23,240 North Carolina 22,670 Arizona 22,530 Georgia 19,460

 

Where Did Their Families Come From? The most common countries of birth for DACA holders are: 

Mexico 480,160 El Salvador 23,080 Guatemala 15,710 Honduras 14,390 Peru 5,610
South Korea 5,540 Brazil 4,530 Ecuador 4,230 Colombia 3,690 Philippines 2,900

According to the Migration Policy Institute, most states have more people eligible for DACA than are currently enrolled, and eight states have twice as many people eligible for DACA than are enrolled in DACA.

This is an extraordinary number of people.

What Can Dreamers Do? DACA recipients can legally live, work, and go to college in the US. They have married, had children, bought homes and cars, completed college degrees, started businesses, and worked in a variety of fields. Their taxes and labor have made substantial contributions to the US economy.

According to data from the Center for American Progress, DACA recipients boost the US economy by paying federal, state, and local taxes, buying homes, paying rent, and spending money. Nationwide, DACA recipients and their households each year pay $5.6 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes. Based on 2018 data, their contributions in New York state include:

Federal taxes State and local taxes Homes owned Mortgage payments Annual rental payments Spending power
$374.1 million $238.8 million 800 $16.4 million $132.8 million $1.3 billion

But they do not benefit equally from the taxes they pay due to their precarious status.

What Are DACA’s Education Benefits? In many states, undocumented students have to pay the same tuition rates as international students. Such high rates can prevent people from going to college. To address this problem, in 2019 New York state passed the Senator José Peralta New York State DREAM Act which gives undocumented and other students access to New York State administered grants and scholarships that help pay the cost of higher education. DACA allows people to join licensed fields (like nursing and education), which improves their ability to get a well-paying job with health benefits.

Where Do Dreamers Work? In a 2020 survey, 89.1% of DACA recipients 25 and older who responded were employed. DACA allowed them to move to jobs with better pay and better working conditions with health benefits, and 12.9% were able to get professional licenses. Higher wages and financial independence increase their contributions to the economy.

The Center for Migration Studies, using data from 2018, reported that DACA employees were concentrated in the following industries: health care (including hospitals and nursing care facilities); retail trade (including supermarkets and pharmacies); transportation and warehousing; restaurants and other food services; support and waste management services; and manufacturing. In 2021 the Center for American Progress reported that 343,000 DACA recipients were employed in essential jobs during the pandemic, primarily in health care, education, and the food supply chain.

What’s Next? According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2020, about three-quarters of US adults favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants who came illegally to the United States when they were children, with the strongest support coming from Democrats and Latino/as.

In 2012, DACA  was intended to be a temporary solution until Congress provided a pathway to citizenship. But congressional attempts to pass a solution have failed, even though there is some bipartisan support. As a result, undocumented teenagers graduating high school this year will not have protection from deportation or the ability to work. According to Neil Bradley, chief policy officer for the US Chamber of Commerce: The inability to hire tens of thousands of high school graduates comes amid a ‘massive shortage’ of labor that has developed partly because of the country’s aging population and low birthrate” (June 2022, New York Times). Ending DACA would put families in danger of job loss, deportation, and separation from their US citizen children, and have a deleterious effect on the US economy.

Many immigrant justice organizations, including the National Immigration Law Center, United We Dream, and Make the Road NY, continue to fight for legislation to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants. But for now, hundreds of thousands of young DACA recipients are constrained by the program’s two-year increments, forced to live in limbo and in fear.

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 09/17/2022

Dear friends,

As the seasons turn, we return to a dramatic story that we covered in our last newsletter: the deeply local and global story of migrants being bused from Texas, Arizona, and Florida to northern sanctuary cities. Led by grassroots immigrant justice groups, New York City struggles to respond to the immediate needs of thousands of new arrivals. It is hard to think of a more important issue than how we can, concretely, create the structures and community that will embrace all migrants who find themselves living among us, here, in this city built by immigrant labor and immigrant cultures and immigrant power.

1. NYC response to red-state busing—refusing the anti-immigrant storyline

This weekend, historical documentarian Ken Burns premiers a film series on PBS about the Holocaust. Co-produced and co-directed with Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein, the trio highlight how Germany based its anti-Jewish laws on US Jim Crow exclusionary laws. The docuseries also shows how anti-immigrant sentiments shaped the stark fact that the US opened its borders to only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of Jews seeking refuge from Nazi Germany. At that time, North Carolina’s Senator Robert Reynolds said, “If I had my way, I would today build a wall about the United States so high and so secure that not a single alien or foreign refugee from any country upon the face of this earth could possibly scale or ascend it.” Burns says he purposefully tried to leave it to viewers to see parallels of current-day attitudes to immigrants at the border with the past.

Fifty percent of Texans support Governor Greg Abbott’s current political spectacle that places asylum seekers crossing into Texas on buses to sanctuary cities in the north, including NYC. He attempted to secure funds via private donations for the charter bus rides so he didn’t face criticism for using taxpayer money, but so far has raised just over $300,000. His supporters may not realize that the bused migrants are more likely to be granted asylum in these sanctuary cities, or that his approach contradicts a fiscally conservative policy proclaimed necessary by the Republican party:

  • According to TRAC analysis at Syracuse University, the newly-arrived migrants are more likely to have their asylum cases approved in New York City courts than in Texas. In the past 10 months, Houston judges approved only 17% of asylum cases and 33% were approved in Dallas. In NYC asylum was granted to almost 4 out of 5 applicants—over 82%. 
  • A Greyhound bus ticket from Texas to New York would cost an individual just under $300. Abbott’s taxpayer-funded coach rides average $1,300 per passenger, while Arizona’s chartered bus trips cost over $2,000. Immigration rights experts like Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of the Central American Resource Center, have pointed out that “the Republican governor who is working to crack down on illegal immigration is actually establishing one of the nation’s most generous publicly funded services to assist immigrants.”

As Abbott performs his public posturing by filling buses, NYC Mayor Adams and Manuel Castro from the Office of Immigrant Affairs are welcoming immigrants at the Port Authority. Their show is about fulfilling the city’s legal obligation to provide same-day housing for any adult who requests it, regardless of immigration status. They are enforcing the law by placing migrants in shelters and 14 hotels with the support of immigrant organizations and volunteer groups like Grannies Respond. However, not all migrants can secure places to sleep, especially if they want to remain as a family. Also, some Republicans in New York suggest that using hotel rooms in this way is hurting tourism, but the hotels themselves state they have the space since occupancy still lags behind pre-pandemic levels.

Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, noted that some stories and images coming out of the Port Authority bus station were being falsely used to stir up bigotry and xenophobia. “Just to be clear, we’re not condemning Governor Abbott for busing people to New York City,” he said. “We’ve condemned him for busing people under misleading information to places that they do not want to go to. For treating people inhumanely.” Abbott’s decision to not send information to NYC about who was on the buses and when they would be arriving was, according to Awawdeh, a purposeful effort to create chaos.

Abbott has been looking to secure $4 billion for his border security efforts including Operation Lone Star which, deploying misinformation and criminalizing border-crossing, authorizes the Texas National Guard to arrest migrants who trespass on private property. New York City on the other hand launched Project Open Arms, a multi-agency plan to enroll over 1,000 migrant children in public school districts 2, 3, 10, 14, 24, and 30—which includes Jackson Heights. The children are placed in schools with low enrollments and given backpacks and supplies; their parents will be provided with MetroCards. School officials say that most of the children need intense language instruction, special education assessments, and mental health support.

In addition, New York’s Immigrant Advocacy Groups have promoted a $40 million dollar campaign called Welcoming New York, to cover medical services, interpreters, legal assistance, and resettlement services for the new immigrant population. The campaign aims to help “rebuild the welcoming system for asylum-seekers and refugees gutted during the Trump Administration.” Working at federal, state, and local levels, it seeks to create structures—beyond Homeland Security—that will support and sustain new arrivals to the US.   

Despite such actions, NYC is not all-welcoming. A Republican Councilwoman in one Queens district announced that the immigrants should be further bused on to Greenwich, CT, instead of staying in hotels in her district. In some cases immigrants do not find the shelter system safe and choose to leave it; in one recent case, in Brooklyn, a security officer was suspended for striking one of the Texas-bused asylum seekers from Venezuela. 

No one knows how this busing action might disrupt the asylum application process because it is unclear exactly how the migrants got onto the buses. They have 90 days to apply for asylum at their destination and the location to which they were bused may not be their final destination. Of the migrants bused to Washington, DC, around 10% didn’t have any contacts in the US. Some of the addresses on their paperwork were scribbled in by Border Patrol agents, and Abel Nuñez’s organization had to coordinate transportation for them to be returned to Texas. About 30-40% of people bused to New York City from Texas do not want to be here and need support to get to Louisiana, Ohio, Washington State, Oregon, Wisconsin, or even make their way back to Texas!

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 07/23/2022

Dear friends,

Small victories, temporary defeats – the local landscape of immigration politics is complicated. We bring you our newsletter in hopes it can help you navigate the terrain. Let’s celebrate with DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), the recent decision by Queens DA Melanie Katz to drop all charges against Prakash Churaman, a young Queens resident and immigrant from Guyana falsely charged and held for six years at Rikers. DRUM, together with several other grassroots groups and Prakash himself, worked tirelessly to defeat the injustice of an incarceration system that disproportionately imprisons black and brown youth, including those who are innocent. Welcome home, Prakash.

And let’s note the recent defeat, for now, of a progressive move by the City Council to grant municipal voting rights to hundreds of thousands of immigrants with legal residence in NYC. A Republican judge from Staten Island, one of 324 elected judges composing the New York Supreme Court, just ruled that the new law violates the state Constitution. Activists who have worked for decades to secure noncitizen voting in NYC have vowed to appeal the ruling.

This week’s newsletter surveys a dystopian landscape of immigration politics at the global level, focusing on the history of the international asylum system, and the struggles today of migrants trying to navigate what’s left of it.

1. Asylum: A Human Right Under Attack

Over the last few decades, the world’s wealthiest nations, led by the US, have moved to shred the established global system of asylum and protections for refugees. Catering instead to racist and xenophobic domestic politics, they blatantly violate international law. “This system, once held up as a universal and legally binding obligation, is now treated as effectively voluntary,” writes Max Fisher. The practical repercussions of this change for the world’s hundred million plus refugees are staggering.

In the aftermath of World War II, which created approximately 60 million refugees, world governments met to establish unified asylum policies rooted in international law. The result was the 1951 Refugee Convention, later folded into the “1967 Protocol .” During the Cold War, the US, eager to be seen as a defender of refugees, promoted the Protocol and cemented it into national law as the US Refugee Act of 1980.

The Convention and Protocol require nations to provide asylum to anyone fleeing their home country because of persecution, or reasonable fear of persecution, on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political views, or membership in a particular social group. In conjunction with other international law, the Convention and Protocol extend asylum to refugees fleeing extreme danger from armed groups or because of civil strife. Although the right to asylum does not apply directly to economic or climate refugees, it may apply indirectly if they are endangered by social conflict in the wake of economic or climate catastrophes.

The Convention and Protocol, signed by 148 countries, demand that refugees be treated with dignity and respect. Two key provisions include the principle of “non-refoulement,” which prohibits the return of refugees to a country where they face serious threats to life or freedom; and the fundamental principle that asylum is a human right.  Refugees hold specific rights as well: the right not to be expelled (except under strictly defined conditions), the right not to be punished for illegal entry, the right to work, housing, education, and public assistance, the right to freedom of movement, and the right to obtain identity and travel documents. Any refugee seeking asylum must have their claim considered on its merits.

But today, wealthy countries go to cruel and elaborate lengths to deter asylum seekers, many of whom are fleeing social disasters caused by imperialism. Turning back desperate refugees at sea has become one increasingly common practice. This abuse was pioneered by the US, which began intercepting fleeing Haitians and Cubans in the 1990s. Using “international waters” as an excuse for denying asylum, the US imprisoned refugees in camps at Guantanamo or sent them to other countries. In a 21st-century version of this policy, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (who comes from a Cuban migrant family) made it clear to Haitians and Cubans that “if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.” The European Union directs similar harsh practices toward Arab and Central African refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean. It has negotiated agreements with Libya and Tunisia to intercept and detain migrants before they can reach land and request asylum.

International law is also ignored for refugees fleeing by land. Mexico has been enlisted to capture and deport migrants from Central America and other parts of the world before they get to the US border. At the border itself, many refugees are turned back by US Customs and Border Patrol on the grounds that they should have stayed in the first country they passed through, something generally not required by the Convention or Protocol. Central American, Haitian, and African migrants who apply for asylum are being illegally forced to wait in dangerous, unsanitary encampments in Mexico. The Trump administration created many new unlawful ways to deter asylum seekers, insisting that the government has the authority to “meter” the flow of refugees and to deny admittance because of Covid 19 using Title 42.

Britain recently announced that thousands of asylum applicants, mostly people of color, will be sent to Rwanda, a continent away. (This while immediately welcoming 100,000 refugees from Ukraine.) Other European governments send asylum seekers to Sudan and Libya, where they face uncertain futures. Greece is violently deporting asylum seekers to Turkey; Spain is confining refugees in Morocco. Israel is imprisoning and deporting African asylum seekers. Australia pays Pacific island nations to detain refugees who wish to make asylum claims, keeping them at arm’s length and isolated. As Laila Lalami summarizes

“Across the Global North, wealthy countries are outsourcing their border enforcement to poorer countries in exchange for economic, military or diplomatic support. Saddling poor countries with moral and legal responsibility, this collaboration strands refugees thousands of miles away from the safe havens they seek.”

It’s impossible to overstate the brutality and violence that accompanies this racist abandonment of international law and basic human rights. Desperate migrants are literally throwing themselves against the walls and fences put up by rich countries and their allies, and are being pushed back, beaten, gassed, and shot down in response. Refugees are drowning by the thousands, as the navies of rich countries refuse to rescue them. The camps where asylum-seekers are warehoused are often bleak, lacking basic services and even minimal safety. Millions of refugees languish in these camps for years or generations, with little or no prospect of asylum.

In recent days, the US Supreme Court has ruled that the Biden administration will finally be allowed to dismantle the “remain in Mexico” policy initiated by Trump–but only if they want to; it’s not illegal, they say. The administration also seems belatedly poised to end phony Title 42 Covid restrictions. These would be positive steps. And yet Biden has deported more than 25,000 Haitian asylum-seekers. In May alone, 36 deportation flights carried 4000 Haitians back to extreme danger. Only 12,000 refugees of all nationalities have been resettled this year in the US, despite an announced refugee ceiling of 125,000. The US, after its precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, is rejecting 90% of Afghans seeking asylum. In other words, the carnage continues.

“If there were only one thing that could be expected from the Biden administration, it would be a more open, welcoming America after four years of his predecessor’s callous disregard for suffering abroad. We don’t have the hostile rhetoric from back then, but the numbers tell us we’re getting pretty much more of the same.”  —Marcela García, Boston Globe

WHAT CAN WE DO?
  • Take action with Human Rights First which provides free legal representation for asylum seekers and refugees in New York City.
  • Join Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project–with a membership of over 350,00 asylum seekers–to build legal, digital, and community support services.
  • Support Immigration Equality, a nationwide group promoting the rights of LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants and asylum-seekers.

In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

Featured image: Photo by Sandor Csudai, borders added, licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0.

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 07/09/2022

Dear friends,

As we enter the thick of summer, we wish you all extra ease and an expanded sense of what’s possible. Our newsletter takes a look at the complicated situation of Dreamers and the tenth anniversary of DACA. And we offer a cautiously hopeful report on changing city policies around street vending in NYC. As we collectively re-dream what immigrant justice might feel like, we are grateful for your support of JHISN. Please put our newsletter to good use!

Newsletter highlights:
  1. Reflecting on DACA Ten Years In
  2. Street Vending Re-structured in NYC?

1. DACA – Still temporary after 10 years

In 2022, it is time to appreciate the good outcomes from ten years of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, while recognizing the limitations that urgently need to be overcome. Congress failed to pass the DREAM ACT in 2010, refusing to legislate a path to citizenship for even a narrowly defined group of youth who came or were brought to the United States as children. As DACA recipient from Yonkers, Brian Aguilar Avila, commented, “They always say they have a plan, that congress has a plan, and that Trump had a plan, but it always dies.” 

Joana Toro created a photographic journey of DACA activism in Queens from 2012 to 2022, highlighting both Make the Road New York – which initiated a class action lawsuit to protect DACA-eligible immigrant youth – and the MinKwon Center in Flushing. One of MinKwon’s current Immigrant Justice Organizers, Woojung “Diana” Park, a DACA recipient, stated that being undocumented can make you more a bystander than an activist.  Even so, after the DREAM ACT failed to pass, it was undocumented youth that took action to influence Obama (who was deporting in greater numbers than any president before him) into signing the executive order creating DACA on June 15, 2012. Janet Napolitano, the former Homeland Security Secretary, said she did not expect the policy would still be in place 10 years later. 

Many DACA stories reveal that the eligibility to work without fear of deportation presented the opportunity to obtain a higher education. Although DACA youth were not eligible for state-provided financial aid and had to pay out-of-state tuition costs charged to international students, they could now work to obtain a degree. NY State, seven years after DACA began, passed the Jose Peralta Dream Act, giving undocumented students the ability to qualify for NY state aid for higher education.

Diana Pliego was living in South Carolina, where undocumented people were prohibited from attending public institutions to study. She had to apply to private institutions and, although she received a full-tuition scholarship to Columbia University, could not afford the additional housing expenses. But she and her DACA recipient siblings could now all work, and so could cover those costs. Pliego now works at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and was conflicted by the 10-year anniversary because, while DACA has changed lives for the better, the renewal process is problematic: “The past 10 years I’ve kind of had to live my life in two year increments, not knowing if one day someone is going to take this away from me and I won’t have any control over that decision.” 

DACA renewal, required every two years, is perhaps manageable for a college-age student, who can tackle life in short increments. But there are now more DACA recipients over the age of 36 than there are under the age of 20, and over 300,000 US children now have one parent who is a DACA recipient. Bruna Sollod notes, “Now that I’m a mom, now that I have a career that I really love, thinking in two year increments doesn’t work anymore.

Family insecurity is an outcome of bipartisan political dysfunction and anti-immigrant sentiment in mainstream U.S. political discourse. The Trump administration failed, thanks to a court order, to end the DACA program – not because there were issues with the proposed termination but because the change was implemented by an improperly appointed acting secretary of Homeland Security. Ending DACA now would create another US government attack on immigrant families, just like separating families at the border, and would directly impact US citizen children. 

This week a Federal court in Louisiana heard testimony from New Jersey’s state solicitor urging 3 Republican-appointed judges to rule against a lawsuit brought by 9 Republican-led states claiming DACA was improperly created by the Obama administration. If the lawsuit is successful it would shut down the entire program based on administrative procedural rules not on the program’s value or purpose. Terminating DACA would ignore these economic benefits: 94 percent of the DACA-eligible population in the labor force are employed; 45,000 own their own business, and in 2015 working DACA recipients boosted local economies by over $655 million. It would set up the deportation of 542,000 DACA-eligible essential workers, 62,000 of whom work in health care, and almost half of which were employed on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic

As NILC stated, “DACA has served as a lifeline, but DACA recipients need lasting stability. Voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly favor a permanent solution, and lawmakers have a mandate to deliver.Surveys of the US public show consistently that three-quarters of the population are in favor of granting a path to citizenship for young people brought to the US illegally as children. Esder Chong, who received DACA at 15, and had experience at NILC as she worked towards her two Masters degrees, said, “If and when DACA is rescinded, we need a plan for the undocumented community at large. Congress has no plan. Immigrant rights organizations are not in agreement on what the plan should be.” Chong suggests giving up the idealistic “citizenship for all” solution and pushing instead for “a pathway to residency — a legal status for all” in order for people to stay in the country, to pursue education and a good life, and be able to work and contribute to local and national economies.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
  • Sign the NILC petition to Pass Permanent Protections for Immigrant Youth.
  • Attend the Off-Broadway show ¡Americano! about a DACA recipient who learned of his undocumented status when he tried to become a US Marine after the attacks of 9/11.
  • Retweet the four op-eds that United We Dream created with media company Popsugar to highlight personal stories of DACA.

2. Justice for Street Vendors in NYC

“Just let us work with dignity. We are immigrants, we’re not hurting anybody … We’re out working and trying to provide. All I want is a place to work safely.” –Maria Falcon, street vendor arrested April 2022 

Maria Falcon was born in Ecuador and now lives in Queens. For over ten years, she has worked selling goods from a street cart. On April 29, Maria was on an outdoor subway platform in Brooklyn selling mangoes and melons from a laundry cart when two NYPD officers handcuffed and arrested her. She spent two hours in a police station.  She was partially strip-searched for weapons and drugs, her cart and goods were confiscated, and she was ticketed and released for ‘unauthorized commercial activity.’ Her daughter’s video of the arrest went viral.

Maria’s story is a snapshot in the political panorama of NYC street vending. As an informal sector of the local economy, largely fueled by the work of immigrants and people of color, street vending is regulated through city permits for carts and trucks. NYC caps the total number of permits granted, creating a huge waitlist and an “underground black market” in permits. For years, immigrant justice groups like The Street Vendor Project, and elected officials like Jessica Ramos, have fought to decriminalize street vending and empower street vendors, establish a fair and equitable permit process, and end police harassment of vendors.

In a promising step forward, a report and set of recommendations developed by a new Street Vendor Advisory Board (SVAB) are being embraced by the City Council and Mayor Adams. The SVAB, created in 2021 by City Council mandate, aims to balance the interests of street vendors, small businesses, community organizations, and consumers. It also recognizes that the street vending ecosystem in New York is a vibrant part of neighborhood life and a vital support to the economy.  

In May, the Mayor publicly announced that the city will start implementing several SVAB recommendations including: repealing criminal liability for mobile food vendors; exploring the expansion of street vending opportunities in pedestrian plazas, city parking lots, and metered parking spots; and introducing business supports for street vendors through city agencies.

 Mohamed Atia, director of The Street Vendor Project and a member of the Street Vendor Advisory Board, sounded an optimistic note: 

“For centuries, street vendors have been an essential part of the fabric of New York City. From the Bronx to Queens, street vendors ensure under-resourced communities have access to fresh, affordable food, commercial corridors have diversity of business, and tourists get the iconic New York City experience. And now, for the first time ever, street vendors are stakeholders in deciding the future of the industry … We look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Adams and the City Council to modernize the vending system, ensuring all street vendors are permitted, and cutting the red tape so our city’s smallest business can truly thrive.”

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 05/28/2022

Dear friends,

Sometimes the face of violence is stark and hypervisible … like the latest nightmare massacre in a US school where, this time, 19 children are gunned down in a Texas border town. Or the spectacle of mass murder the week before in Buffalo, with 10 people killed by an avowed white supremacist with a semiautomatic rifle.

But violence can also be slow, and unspectacular, even invisible – at least to those who are not its target. This week we look at two scenes of less visible violence. We highlight the story of immigrant women of color, denied abortion rights and reproductive health care. And we report on an NYC-based immigrant justice group fighting the state violence directed at queer and LGBT detainees in the US.

Newsletter highlights:
  1. Reproductive Justice for Immigrants
  2. Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP)

1. Migrant Women and Abortion Rights

The destruction of abortion rights in the US has the biggest impact on women of color, a fact that is often missing in mainstream media. Even less widely reported are the specific obstacles faced by immigrant women of color who seek an abortion.

Black, Brown, and Asian immigrants often face reduced abortion access due to language barriers, a problem that only grows as the number of community-based clinics declines. Traveling to find an abortion provider is difficult, expensive, and risky, especially for undocumented people. Medical insurance may be hard or impossible to get without legal status. For women locked inside the public/private US immigrant detention system, regulations governing reproductive health are confusing, vary widely from facility to facility, and may change overnight when a detainee is relocated.

 Already struggling against a wave of racist violence, Asian American immigrant women are subjected to an extra layer of scrutiny as a result of anti-choice laws that target “sex-selective” abortions. Supreme Court reactionary Clarence Thomas has alleged that this sort of “feticide” is a common practice among “certain populations in the US,” even though this racial profiling myth has been thoroughly debunked. (Asian American women actually give birth to more female babies than white women do.) Legislation denying abortion if there is “suspicion” that it is being used for sex selection is popular on the Right as a stepping stone toward the complete elimination of abortion rights. This profiling is already enacted as law in several states and has been proposed in many others (including New York), as well as at the federal level.

The lack of abortion rights for migrants is particularly dire today along the US southern border. According to advocates, a large percentage of the Latina, Caribbean, African, and Indigenous women who risk the dangerous land route through Central America are sexually assaulted or raped while in transit, making abortion access even more urgent.

However, migrant women who reach the US needing abortion services find little urgency. The Trump regime was able to populate the immigration system with anti-abortion fanatics, pushing already conservative agencies even farther to the right. Right-wing anti-immigrant agents and administrators treat immigrant women’s reproductive health rights as one more reason to criminalize and punish them. Immigration bureaucrats often drag their feet on making medical appointments, finding excuses for denying or delaying even emergency reproductive care.

“The Trump administration’s efforts to undermine access to reproductive health care for women and girls in immigration custody is exemplified by former Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement Scott Lloyd. During his tenure, Lloyd did not approve a single request for a minor seeking abortion care; those who were able to obtain abortions did so only after court intervention.” –Center for American Progress

Lloyd is gone, but other anti-choice zealots remain, such as Roger Severino who, ironically, is head of Health and Human Services’ Office for Human Rights, which is supposed to oversee refugee resettlement programs for the Biden administration.

Immigrants incarcerated by federal agencies like ICE and the Border Patrol are subject to the abortion laws of the state where they are held. The drastic time limits imposed on abortion in Texas and other border states will result in the exclusion from reproductive care of even more migrant women who became pregnant during their journey north.

 Texas and other states are also trying to criminalize easy-to-use medications that would allow safe abortions at home, painting women into a corner. They are aware that immigrant women of color often lack the money, childcare, and employment flexibility needed to seek abortion care in another state. For undocumented people living in border regions, this kind of travel is especially risky because of a web of Border Patrol checkpoints deployed as far as 100 miles inland. Today more than ever, large numbers of immigrant women are forced to weigh the risk of deportation against their abortion and reproductive health needs.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. Queer Politics of Immigration

“I think ultimately this is what we’re fighting for … the ability to be human. The ability to just laugh, and just get up in the morning and not worry that you’re going to get killed if you step out your door. We’re fighting for the ability to not have to worry about food, or not have to worry about shelter, or not have to worry about making the hard choices of, stay in my homeland, experience violence, [or] go to places like the US, experience a different kind of violence …. And I think at the very basic level, it’s just the ability to be human, and be in community, and not be afraid.”Ola Osaze (interview, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, 2019)

 Immigrants detained in the US face a host of dangers and vulnerabilities. But queer and LGBT and HIV+ detainees often face more specific challenges related to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Sometimes those challenges are, literally, life-threatening. In 2014, Jamila Hammami founded the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP) here in NYC to address the state violence and structural barriers that target lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA+) migrants. Operating in the first months out of Hammami’s living room in Brooklyn, QDEP has grown into a vibrant organization providing direct services to queer detainees and fighting for systemic change through community organizing.

 “LGBTQIA+ migrant rights are invisible to the public,” notes Ian Zdanowicz, Co-Director of Direct Services at QDEP. “They often immigrate from their home country without family or support due to their identity not being accepted. When they are incarcerated in detention centers, there is an abundance of transphobia and homophobia.” With most advocacy and legal services for immigrants amplifying a ‘heteronormative’ narrative—one that presumes heterosexual marriage, family, or sexual practices—LGBTQIA+ immigrants lack a collective voice advocating for the specific resources that they need. QDEP is committed to building that voice.

 In March 2022, QDEP in solidarity with Families For Freedom joined a national “Communities Not Cages” Day of Action, calling for an end to all deportations, and the closure of immigrant detention centers–including Orange County Correctional Facility in NYS. In 2021, the group distributed $240,000 to over 370 queer and trans immigrants in NYC to pay for rent, groceries, utilities, medication, and mental health services during the pandemic. They also connected over 40 queer and trans detainees with free legal representation for asylum hearings, and parole and bond proceedings.

 Uchechukwa Onwa, the current co-director of QDEP, came to the US in 2017 after the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in Nigeria, his home country, criminalized LGBTQ relationships. Upon arrival in the US, he learned a quick and brutal lesson in ‘American’ racism and xenophobia when he was shackled at the airport, then driven to an ICE detention center where he was incarcerated for three months. “I know that there are so many other people like me who want to be safe,” Onwa says. How to promote that safety?

“At the end, it is our stories, as migrants. Our stories matter. And at the end it is our stories that are going to change that narrative.”U. Onwa (2020 Deep Dive Interviews)

 WHAT CAN WE DO?
  • Volunteer with QDEP, or Pen Pal with QDEP members in detention. Email eliza@qdep.org for information.
  • Join Immigration Equality to support the recent complaint filed with Homeland Security to investigate the Houston Asylum Office’s handling of Credible Fear Interviews for asylum seekers, including LGBT migrants. 

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.