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Know Your Rights
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Bushwick Rallies for Immigration Reform

The Republicans took Congress earlier this month, and with the change, comprehensive immigration reform is probably off the table for a few years.

But that hasn’t dampened the urgency among Brooklyn’s immigrant communities, which were demanding immigration reform — in the form of the Dream Act, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented minors — to be passed by the lame-duck Democratic Congress.

This is why a lively crowd of several hundred Brooklyn and Queens immigrants gathered on Sunday afternoon in the basement of St. Brigid’s Church for a two-hour policy pep rally organized by Make the Road New York and the New York City Immigration Coalition.

The church, led by longtime pastor Father James Kelly, has become a haven for Ecuadoran and Dominican immigrants from Bushwick and Ridgewood in recent years, so it was undoubtedly a well-chosen setting for the rally — a notion pointed out by Make the Road’s executive director Ana Maria Archila.

"We’re here today in Bushwick, a community that has seen a wave of immigrants that has made this city," said Archila, setting the tone for the day. "It is in places like Bushwick where immigrants build their dreams and churches like St. Brigid’s where immigrants restore their faith and their faith in humanity."

Archila was followed by a wave of city and federal officials who attended the rally, including special guest Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrrez, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem), Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush), Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Comptroller John Liu, Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Sheepshead Bay) and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-Bushwick), who urged the throngs to keep the pressure on her colleagues to pass the Dream Act.

"We as Americans like to lecture on family values, and this is a value," said Velázquez. "This is the right time to do this. If not now, when? How can we look into the eyes of our children and say, ‘I’m sorry, with the economy the way it is, this is not the right time to pass immigration reform.’ When is the right time?" Even if the Dream Act stalls in Congress, city leaders, led by Christine Quinn, pointedly rebuked the aggressive policies of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers within city jails, the subject of a City Council hearing two weeks ago.

"Twenty years ago, we asked ICE to come to Rikers and come into the city," said Quinn. "If we did it, we can change it. We are not going to take no for an answer. We are going to find a way to reform the ICE relationship. We will find a way."

Both campaigns were on the minds of New Yorkers in the church this week, though passing the Dream Act took precedence.

Gladys Puglla, a member of Make the Road and Bushwick’s Community Board 4, may be organizing trips to Washington, like comrades in other organizations around the country are doing in the coming weeks for just that purpose.

"We’re getting signatures and going to a rally in Washington though it isn’t scheduled yet," said Puglia. "We have to take advantage of a small window to make it happen. And getting ICE out of the city is another campaign. Immigrants are being deported just for getting a parking ticket or drinking a beer in public, or even loitering; when they go to court, ICE is waiting for them."