Town Hall at MEC Protests Immigration Changes

Tuesday November 21, 2017

Write your Congressman and the White House to demand a “Clean Dream Act.” Support the efforts of local immigration groups.   Keep the sense of community going by attending rallies demanding the extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for thousands of immigrants in danger of losing the designation. 

That advice came out of a community town hall hosted on Nov. 15 by MEC’s Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ).  The Edison O. Jackson auditorium in the AB1 Building was transformed into an information center, with speeches and testimonials intended to provide guidance at a time when many undocumented people face the fear of deportation.  The Trump administration announced on Monday, November 20 that 59,000 Haitians will lose TPS. They face deportation unless they leave the U.S by July 2019. 

About 300,000 people across the country are threatened by changes to TPS, a Homeland Security Program.  TPS 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.  

Several speakers at MEC’s town hall said they saw a racial tinge to TPS politics, given that four out of the 10 countries on the TPS list are predominantly black.

The countries covered by TPS designations are: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.  Haiti, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia are predominantly black. The end of protections for Nicaraguans was announced last month.

MEC and the surrounding community are home to a large immigrant population.  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, according to Lurie Daniel Favors, the general counsel for the CLSJ.

“It’s personal for us,” said Favors. Of the 25 percent of MEC students who are foreign born, 15 percent were born in Haiti, for instance. Many more students have immigrant parents and relatives.

The town hall offered information about support services available for those enrolled in TPS, raised awareness about changes to TPS designations, and allowed the community an opportunity to find ways to get involved.   The event was co-sponsored by MEC CUNY Citizenship Now! (718-270-6292), Moms Rising/Mamas Con Poder, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, UndocuBlack and TheRoot.com.

The speakers stressed that deporting immigrants comes at a high price: to the economy, communities where immigrants live, and to families who have lived in the U.S. for years. The average TPS recipient has lived in the U.S.  for 19 years and in New York City alone, TPS recipients are the parents of 8,000 children who are U.S. Citizens, speakers said.

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