President Obama’s executive action on immigration echoed along Roosevelt Avenue, where hundreds of newcomers gathered to view the speech at watch parties last week. The corridor is famous for its ethnic neighborhoods like the old Irish and new Filipino communities in Woodside that abut the heavily Hispanic population in Jackson Heights and Corona.
At the packed offices of Make The Road New York, at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave., immigrants celebrated the policy that will shield 5 million from deportation and enable families to stay together.
“The president’s announcement gives me confidence that I won’t be separated from my family,” undocumented immigrant Sene Vasquez said. “I came here for my family, because of poverty and violence in my country. My family faced many challenges here in the United States because of my immigrant status. Now I hope to obtain a Social Security number which would allow me to get a job and provide for my kids, give me a sense of security.”
Make The Road New York member Jorge Cedilio, a Queens resident whose undocumented wife has American-born children and will likely benefit from the policy, said, “As I understand it, this will greatly help my wife and oldest son who currently live in fear of deportation. This would keep my family together, and that’s the most important thing for us.”
Not everyone was pleased with what they heard from the president, whose message had particular resonance in Queens, the most ethically diverse county in the nation and perhaps the world.
Queens resident Lina Pacio, an undocumented transgender woman said, “With the new executive action from the president, I feel excluded because I’m from the LGBT community and likely will not benefit because I don’t have U.S.-citizen children. I’m disappointed that the executive action will not include all 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country and their families.”
Make The Road New York, an advocacy group for immigrants, will begin screening community members for eligibility immediately, as the first step in helping community members apply for relief.
The day after the president’s Nov. 20 announcement, the South Asian Organizing Center known as DRUM held discussion with other grassroots organizations in their offices near Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. Leaders credit the 1-1/2-year-old #Not1More campaign grassroot groups ran in order to pressure the Obama administration to halt deportations, end programs that criminalize immigrants and expand the relief granted to young people in 2012.
“The national consensus turned against hateful politics and for inclusion,” DRUM Director Fahd Ahmed said. “Nationwide cities are limiting local involvement in federal deportation efforts, including New York City. With ICE’s abusive actions being rejected across the country, it was only a matter of time before the president had to act, Now, with more of our community safe, we have to fight for everyone left out. Every single person in our communities is fully deserving of relief and equality.”
DRUM members passed out flyers that warned the program doesn’t begin until spring and further warned of scams asking for money to begin paperwork. DRUM will also hold upcoming information sessions.
At the Emerald Isle Immigration Center at 59-26 Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside, meetings were held in the Walter McCaffery Conference Room Monday, to plan their own information sessions that will be held next week.. They plan one at the Sunnyside Community Center at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2 followed by another at the St. Sebastian Parish Center Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“Thanks to the president’s order now ‘The Irish Can Apply.’ Our work is just beginning,” EIIC Chairman Brian O’Dwyer said. “We look forward to continuing to provide comprehensive and solid advice to immigrants in need, especially with this much-needed and important program.”
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