MEC Hosts Town Hall On Immigration Issues

Monday, November 13, 2017

MEC’s Center for Law and Social Justice is hosting an important town hall on immigration concerns from 6:30 -8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 15 in the Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at 1638 Bedford Ave. The community-wide meeting is intended to provide information at a time when many undocumented people face the fear of deportation. The forum is free and open to the public, with doors opening at 6 p.m.

Thousands of people across the country, including MEC students and Central Brooklyn residents, are threatened by changes in a Homeland Security Program. The Temporary Protective Status (TPS) program allows people from countries affected by violence, epidemics, environmental disasters or other unusual temporary conditions to live in the U.S. without facing forced removal.  The designation is always temporary but nationals under TPS are eligible for employment and may be granted travel authorizations.   

“People are living in fear,” said Esmeralda Simmons, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ). “Students don’t need to be documented to be students here at MEC but once they go off campus they don’t know will happen.”

Lurie Daniel Favors, general counsel for the CLSJ, said that because MEC and the surrounding community are home to such a large immigrant population the problems with TPS feel particularly pressing. The contested ban on travel from Muslim majority countries, racial profiling in general, and changes in provisions for young immigrants called Dreamers have heightened fears, she said.

“Black undocumented immigrants are the least discussed and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” Favors said.  “In the media, they are overshadowed by the large Latino immigrant population.”  

The town hall will provide information about support services available for those enrolled in TPS, raise awareness about changes to the TPS designations, and allow the community an opportunity to find ways to get involved.  Other issues of concern to immigrants will also be discussed.  The event is cos-sponsored by MEC CUNY Citizenship Now! (718-270-6292), Moms Rising/Mamas Con Poder, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, UndocuBlack and TheRoot.com.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have wide discretion to demand identification and take other actions, Simmons said.  Street peddlers have been locked up, people have been confronted in their homes, in the subway, at hospitals, among other places.

“Unless they can produce a green card or proof of citizenship they may end up in custody, in the back of a van,” Simmons said.

“MEC honors its connection with international students and the Caribbean countries,” she added. “We consider ourselves a sanctuary.”

The countries covered by TPS designations are: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

But the TPS status for Nicaragua nationals was terminated on November 6, 2017 and they have until January 2019 to leave the country. The designation for Haitian nationals was extended only until Jan. 22, 2018. Hondurans have until July 5, 2018.

The New York Times recently reported that the White House attempted to pressure the Homeland Security Department to end the program, which enrolls about 300,000 people.