The annual Immigration Resource Fair at the Flushing Library was a little different this year, with a Speak Out session for those worried about the new administration coming to the White House on Inauguration Day. Borough President Melinda Katz hosted the session, which turned into an open mic for leaders from immigrant organizations throughout Queens to discuss the issues facing the people they serve.
The Immigration Resource Fair is organized by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Katz to give immigrants the assistance they need, such as legal advice and filing citizenship paperwork. This year the phrase on Katz’s lips was “Queens has your back.”
“Although this is an annual, long-planned event, this year’s seems to have become even more timely in light of recent events and the current climate,” Katz said. “In addition to a free, on-site legal clinic, as well as direct, one stop access to over 30 organizations and agencies, we’ve incorporated a public Speak Out session, a space for people to share their candid thoughts.”
Naheed Bahram from the Women for Afghan Women said many recent immigrants in her program voted for the first time on Nov. 8 and were deeply disheartened by the results. Many of the Muslim women have reported to Bahram fear of leaving the house wearing their hijab.
Her program educates women on the U.S. Constitution and American democracy. But classroom attendance has dwindled since the election, according to Bahram.
“We have lost some of our students, who have stopped coming to our classes just because of their appearance,” Bahram said. “Ninety-nine percent of the women coming to use our services are Muslims wearing hijabs.”
She pointed out that at the after-school program last week, “one of the mothers called and said, ‘I’m sorry I’m not able to come pick up my son. Can I send assign my neighbor to come pick up my children?”
This parent is known to Bahram as a mother who regularly picks up her children herself. After the election, however, her husband, concerned for her safety, said she should not leave the house.
Jesus Huerta came from Mexico as a child and did not know he was undocumented until several of his family members were deported. Now a student at Hunter College, Huerta said he would like to keep the education system to stay open to undocumented immigrants so they can have the same opportunities in the United States as everybody else.
According to Stephanie Mulcock from Cidadao Global, there was an influx of immigrants from Brazil over the summer because of political unrest. Now Brazilian immigrants are facing even more uncertainty.
Children are also facing bullying in schools, according to Rokeya Akhter, founder of the New American Women’s Forum.
“The fear that we feel right now is indescribable,” Akhter said. “I don’t how to describe how I feel when I hear my nephew asking me how we’re going to survive here when we’re at school and they’re telling us to go back to our country. This is my country.”
Katz remarked that the common word used during the Speak Out session was “uncertainty.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall
©2016 Community News Group
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