U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a town hall meeting on immigration issues at a public school in Corona, Queens July 20. AAFE’s co-executive director, Jennifer Sun, joined other community advocates for a panel discussion during the forum and AAFE staff provided immigration and housing information to community members.
The event followed President Trump’s racist tweets last week aimed at Ocasio-Cortez and three congressional colleagues, all women of color. Ocasio-Cortez vowed to keep fighting on behalf of immigrants and emphasized the critical need for New York’s diverse communities to remain active and cautious in the face of the administration’s anti-immigrant attacks.
The panel discussion included representatives from several groups, including AAFE, African Communities Together, Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) and Make the Road NY. Ocasio-Cortez’s 14th Congressional District includes Corona and Jackson Heights, two neighborhoods served by AAFE. The congresswoman attended the opening our new community center in Jackson Heights earlier this year.
During the town hall, AAFE’s Jennifer Sun referenced the Trump administration’s efforts to counteract the president’s demeaning statements by invoking the name of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “We denounce the administration’s use of the tokenism of Elaine Chao,” said Sun, “as a way to deflect the administration from taking responsibility for the racist attacks made against the congresswoman and her colleagues. It is clear to us that it was divisive. In fact, the president is intimidating people of color from being able to be critical of the administration and calling out abuses of power. The congresswoman and her colleagues are doing their jobs and we support the important work she is doing in Washington, D.C.”
Sun also talked about the impact of Trump administration policies on immigrants in New York City. She noted that fewer community members are seeking help from AAFE’s offices in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and in Jackson Heights and Flushing in Queens. Specifically, proposed rule changes in how immigrants are considered a “public charge” have created fear and confusion in our communities. The consequences of this misguided plan, said Sun, “are that people are no longer using food stamps. They no longer have health insurance and they no longer have Section 8 housing to support their families, put food on the table, have a safe home for their families or to be able to go to the emergency room or to see a doctor when they are in need.” She also highlighted the fact that some unscrupulous landlords are increasingly using tenants’ immigration status to extort more rent from low-income immigrant residents.
It’s been an especially important time for activists and organizers to stand up in defense of immigrants.
Our communities have been on high alert this month as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) planned raids in cites nationwide. AAFE joined City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, city officials and community advocates July 13 to denounce these raids and make sure New Yorkers understand their legal rights.
While the ICE raids weren’t as widespread as some feared, federal agents were spotted in some of New York’s immigrant neighborhoods. We urge residents to remain vigilant. If you require legal assistance, please call “311” and ask for “Action NYC.” Also see these informational flyers in Chinese, Spanish and English.
Informational flyers created by United We Dream.