Monday, February 20, 2017

Immigration raids on Liberty Avenue raising fears (Stabroek News)

Immigration raids on Liberty Avenue raising fears 
February 20, 2017

 Guyanese and Trinidadians have reported that Federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Agents of Homeland Security raided restaurants, stores and other job sites on Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill (dubbed Little Guyana) a few days ago picking up undocumented immigrants. Names of restaurants, vegetable and fruit stores, and other work places were provided (but are not being mentioned to protect their identity).

It is not clear how many out of status immigrants were picked up and how many were Guyanese or Trinis or South Asians. But news of the raids swept through the tight Indo-Guyanese and Indo-Trinis communities of the greater Richmond Hill area and Jamaica and Queens Village where tens of thousands of Guyanese and Trinis are settled.

Tens of thousands of Afro-Jamaicans and Afro-Guyanese are also settled in the neighbouring St. Albans area of Queens where conversations can be heard of immigration raids. Queens is home to tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, including hundreds of Guyanese. These immigrants contribute billions of dollars in productivity; they engage in low level and low paying jobs (like picking fruits and vegetables and stacking shelves of groceries and factory work) that “regular or native” Americans refuse.

The illegals live among their ethnic communities to blend in and avoid attention. Because of their physical appearance and thought to be non-Americans, minority communities are targeted for ICE raids.

As one community leader noted, Indo-Caribbeans and South Asians are easily distinguishable and often mistaken for Middle Eastern Arabs or Hispanics and their communities are targeted for ICE raids.

ICE agents have been raiding immigrant communities all across the US since Donald Trump was sworn in as President a month ago. The new President issued an executive order for the arrest and deportation of illegal (undocumented) immigrants. Since his swearing in, thousands of illegals have been arrested.

Already the Caribbean immigrant community is on edge in the wake of Trump’s travel ban. The raids, travel ban, detention, and denial of boarding of aircraft bound for the US have left Guyanese and other immigrant communities worried and confused about Trump’s immigration policy.

Elected officials and community leaders say the raids have created tremendous amount of fear among immigrants regardless of status. Officials note that immigrants who committed minor offences including evading transportation fares run the risk of being arrested and their record made available to ICE.

However, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said the city will not turn over illegal immigrants to ICE and that anyone arrested or in public schools will not be asked about their status. Community leaders from Richmond Hill were interviewed on NY TV One about recent raids. These were condemned by all community leaders and politicians.

An ICE spokesman said the agency is after criminal immigrants wanted for deportation out of “public safety threats”. But hundreds have been picked up with no criminal record and not on a deportation list. Their only “crime” is an immigration violation for overstaying their visa or entering the country illegally.

This has not allayed fears as to whom the president is targeting. Everyone who is out of status is picked up during a raid. They have to show cause to a court why they should not be deported in a due process hearing.

In Richmond Hill there are no known wanted criminal immigrants. So the raid in Richmond Hill fuels fear even among “immigrant citizens” (including those born in the US), green card holders, and those with student visas of being picked up. Almost everyone is panicking said a community advocate. These dragnet immigration raid undermine public safety and create psychological instability among all immigrants.

Pro-immigrant advocacy groups are advising immigrants how to respond to raids at their work places and homes. ICE agents are not supposed to raid work sites or homes without arrest warrants. Raids on public schools and churches are prohibited by federal courts. Some churches have offered sanctuary to illegal immigrants. Community advocates say Gurudwaras and temples are considering offering sanctuary to illegals, but they lack adequate space for living quarters.

Yours faithfully, Vishnu Bisram

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