President Donald Trump had barely finished his inaugural address when representatives from numerous city agencies and community organizations kicked off a forum to describe the services they offer for immigrants and others who may be adversely affected by the new president’s policies.
Legal Hand, a legal clinic operating out of a Jamaica storefront, organized the meeting for community residents, and staff attorney Jennie Kim said she was ready to work.
“What does it mean to be a sanctuary city for all?” she asked the group. “It’s a safe place, regardless of your immigration status, your religion, or how you identify yourself. It sounds like the place America strives to be and what we present ourselves to be.”
Kim was joined by representatives from Queens Legal Services, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the NYC Human Rights Commission, among others. Kim said the event was scheduled on Inauguration Day to reaffirm the organization’s commitment to the communities it serves.
“We have to take back the power to protect our own and continue to expand services to include as many people as possible in that community,” she said. “Even if the federal government turns their backs on these rights, these gains and this diversity, community organizations, service providers and local governments have to make those commitments to do more.”
Kim relayed the story of a family with four children between the ages of four and 10 who had visited the clinic two days before the election. The father had owned a small business in Colombia, and the family had been targeted by a gang who threatened to kidnap the 10-year-old child and sell the youngster into slavery. They made the decision to flee and crossed the Mexican border.
“To them, America was a promised land,” Kim said.
The family and Kim had spoken about what could happen if Hillary Clinton won the general election. Kim thought comprehensive immigration reform, a goal that eluded Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, could finally become reality. The family and Kim were to meet again after the election.
“They haven’t come back,” she said. “I’m sure they know there is no option right now.”
Kim said she was worried Trump would rescind Obama’s Deferred Action on Children Arrivals executive order, which halted actions on undocumented immigrants brought to the United States at a young age. Kim said she did not know what a reversal would entail, but it would likely mean that any work permits issued to DACA applicants would not be renewed.
“We had a lot of young people who we educated in this country and have been working, and they will lose their means to support themselves and their families and not be able to go on with their future,” Kim said. “We’re talking about a lot of promising young people who are going to be losing their status.”
Immigrants enrolled in the DACA program supplied the federal government with information that could make them easier to locate, according to Kim. Trump had previously expressed a desire to start deportation procedures on 2 million to 3 million people, arguing he would target ‘violent criminals,’ but Kim worried that DACA applicants with more information on file could be caught in the crossfire.
No one doubted the severity of the challenge, but Legal Hand Volunteer Coordinator Jose Torres said the collected agencies and New York City were up to the task.
“The world changed on the 20th, but we’re here on the 21st,” he said.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona
©2017 Community News Group
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