Immigrant rights organizations from Queens, with representatives from all over New York City, rallied in Jackson Heights on Monday to call out President Donald Trump on his threats of mass deportation of families last week. The message was clear: Trump is playing a political game of which they want no part.
“Trump, you can tweet whatever you want, but we are here to stay. We will not play your political game,” said Tania Mattos of Queens Neighborhoods United.
President Trump tweeted last Monday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was getting ready to remove millions of undocumented immigrants, causing both severe backlash and panic among immigrant communities in the country. Then on Saturday, Trump tweeted that he was delaying the raids, saying he was giving Democrats and Republicans two weeks to work out an agreement.
At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019
At the rally, New York State Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz and State Senator Jessica Ramos, who both represent Queens, stood alongside over a dozen immigrant organizations representing diverse communities. The decision to hold the rally in the neighborhood of Jackson Heights was no coincidence. Ingrid Gómez from Queens United Independent Progressives (QUIP) told Latino Rebels that 48 percent of the people in Queens are foreign-born.
Mattos said that behind Trump’s threats is a push to give more money to ICE and detention centers.
“This is not new; this has been happening since Obama. What is new is the level of low,” Mattos said.
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, who is the first DREAMer to be elected into the State Assembly, instructed those present on what to do if ICE appears at their door, and emphasized that Trump’s intentions were not what they seemed. Cruz spoke with Latino Rebels, saying that Trump’s deportation threats are part of a formula he’s developed to satisfy his voter base.
“This is playing politics with the lives of millions of people in our country. Last year, it was ‘let’s put the fear of God by saying there’s a caravan of scary people coming into our country’, and now that the caravan fiasco is done, [it’s] ‘let’s put the fear on people about how we’re going to separate them from their families,’” Cruz said.
Cruz remembers what it was like as a teenager to live in fear that her mother would be snagged by ICE or deported.
“A 13-year-old should be planning where they should go to high school, not ‘what’s the emergency contingency plan if my parents are taken by ICE?’ With the president’s message, I can assure you there are 13-year-olds in my district thinking ‘what will I do if my parents get picked up?’” said Cruz, who was born in Colombia and raised in Queens.
Members of the organizations present made sure to emphasize that although some are undocumented, immigrants contribute to the economy and culture.
“We are in this country because we collaborate. Let us not be discriminated against, let us work and contribute to this nation. We Hispanics make New York great. Chinese, Indian, everybody works in this country,” said a man who goes only by Orlando. He has been a member of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), a union which works to end discrimination, for over eight years.
Members from the Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo also brought awareness to the violence transgender women and men —and other LGBTQ folks who are immigrants— face at detention centers and in their native countries.
Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed.