New York Pols and Activists Vow to Fight Trump’s Plans for Mass Deportation of Immigrants; LA Next
A prospect of events to come during Trump presidency; Cops, protestors and Trump protesters in Union Square:
Photo Credits 2016 to Mary Reinholz
By MARY REINHOLZ
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These famous lines from Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The Great Colossus,” composed in 1883 and engraved in a hall within the pedestal holding the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, have long been a siren song beckoning immigrants, refugees and exiles who believed in the promise of America as a land of freedom.
Today, after an election that has shattered many naive notions about democracy and the American largesse, her words seem quaint. Indeed, Lazarus may have struck a tragically false note to the Chinese laborers who were banned from the U.S. by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1881 and to those aging citizens who still remember how president Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized the internment of tens of thousands of people of Japanese American ancestry, forcing them into military prison camps shortly after Imperial Japan ordered a deadly air strike against Pearl Harbor in the Pacific on Dec. 7, 1941.
Now comes president-elect Donald J. Trump, the rotund Manhattan developer from Queens who has been talking about building a wall on the southern border of the U.S. from the outset of his manifestly racist campaign. He also has boasted that he will deport millions of undocumented immigrants his very first day in office on Jan. 20.
Trump seemed to soften his magical thinking during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Nov. 13, reducing the numbers of alleged illegal aliens from the 11 million he promised to remove to upwards of two and three million. Trump noted he would have his deportation force immediately focus on immigrants who have been convicted of violent crimes– like “gang members, drug dealers.”
Both figures he has cited are huge and difficult to verify. But Trump’s utterances have struck fear in immigrant communities across the country even though it appears he is likely to follow President Obama lead on this incendiary issue.
Obama has already deported about 2.5 million immigrants from 2009 to 20015, more than any other president in U.S. history, claiming he was focused on “felons, not families” and acquiring the grim title of “deporter in chief.” This estimate does not include the number of immigrants who “self-deported” during Obama’s administration or were turned away and/or returned to their home country at the border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).And it doesn’t take into account the number of immigrants deported during 2016, Obama’s last year as president.
Trump, a newbie to public office, has suggested that he can just snap his fingers and get agents from U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, to round up illegal immigrants in their homes or workplaces. That’s not likely to happen, especially in sanctuary cities like New York and Los Angeles where local police are prohibited from acting as an arm of the federal government.
“Trump says a lot of things that don’t make sense,” said Anne Pilsbury, a public-interest lawyer who directs Central American Legal Assistance, a nonprofit law service operating out of the basement of Transfiguration Roman Catholic Church on the south side of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. She has a caseload of thousands of undocumented Latino immigrants, many of them seeking asylum in the U.S after having fled violent gangs in South America.
At the mayor’s address at Cooper Union’s Great Hall. Photo by Edwin J. Torres / Mayoral Photo Office
“Every immigrant who he wishes to deport is entitled to his or her day in court,” Pilsbury stressed.
But the attorney, who once worked in Washington, D.C. in decades past and successfully sued the FBI for its illegal surveillance program COINTELPRO against anti-war and civil rights activists, also believes that Trump will make life harder than it already is for undocumented immigrants living in the shadows.
“Things are going to get very bad for them because we will have someone in the White House who is very hostile to immigrants — he could do tremendous damage,” she said. For example, Trump has vowed to ask congress to cut funding for sanctuary cities. He also said he would end president Obama’s 2012 initiative, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a 2012 executive action that allows young people who came to the U.S. before age 16 and have been living continuously in this country for five years to apply for work permits, Social Security cards and other benefits, including three years of temporary relief from deportation.
Pilsbury explained that while New York is “immigrant-friendly, benefits and resources for immigrants and whether they will continue are in the hands of Congress. And both houses are now under the control of Republicans,” she said.
Rosie Mendez, a veteran New York City council member, whose district covers the East Village and part of the Lower East Side, acknowledged that Trump’s surprise election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton — who won the popular vote — has left many of her constituents “numb and in fear.” She noted reports show an uptick in hate crimes nationwide after the Nov. 8 election.
“So many of us are filled with anxiety, given that the winner of the Electoral College ran a campaign of intimidation which was xenophobic, sexist and racist,” she said in a statement. “Hate crimes were a problem in this country before Trump was elected. Therefore, the fear of an increase in bias-related crime and harassment is very real since the message that Trump ran on reinforces bigotry and bullying as the new normal.”
Mendez, who chairs the City Council’s L.G.B.T. Caucus and is a member of its Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, pledged to continue to “enforce our laws and work on protecting those individuals that are being targeted.”
On Nov. 16, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a staunch left-wing progressive who has clashed with Trump in the past, sat down with the billionaire businessman for a reported 62-minutes at the president-elect’s 26th-floor office at Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. to express his concerns about the anxiety gripping New York’s immigrants and others. De Blasio gave few details to reporters but said the talk was respectful, substantive and “very candid.”
“The ball’s in his court,” he added.
Earlier, during a press conference at City Hall on Nov. 11, the mayor made it known that the city would resist any draconian effort at mass deportation of immigrants by the Trump administration.
“We are not going to sacrifice a half-million people who live amongst us, who are part of our communities, whose family members and loved ones happen to be people, in many cases, who are either permanent residents or citizens,” the mayor said. “We’re not going to tear families apart. So we will do everything we can to resist that.”
At Cooper Union college in the East Village on Nov. 21, during a 40-minute speech that ramped up his plans to keep New Yorkers safe from Trump’s authoritarian policies, de Blasio said the city would not allow him to create a register for Muslims or subject African-Americans to a resumption of stop-and-frisk by the New York Police Department (which has 900 Muslim cops). He also pledged to protect women and the L.G.B.T. community, at one point stating: “Hillary Clinton won 1.5 million (the popular vote), so Trump doesn’t have a mandate.”
“We will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people,” he said to cheers from the crowd, which filled most of the 965 seats in Cooper’s Union’s Great Hall, the same spot where Abraham Lincoln gave his legendary speech against slavery on Feb. 27. 1860. “If all Muslims are required to register, we will take legal action to block it. If the federal government wants our police officers to tear immigrant families apart, we will refuse to do it. If the federal government tries to deport law-abiding New Yorkers who have no representation, we will step in, we will work and build on the work of the City Council to provide these New Yorkers with the lawyers they need to protect them and their families.”
Added de Blasio: “If the Justice Department orders local police to resume stop and frisk, we will not comply. We won’t trade in neighborhood policing for racial profiling. If there are threats for federal funding for Planned Parenthood in New York City, we will ensure women receive the healthcare they need. If Jews or Muslims or members of the LGBT community or any community are victimized or attacked, we will find their attackers, we will arrest them, we will prosecute them.”
The mayor’s defiant stemwinder brought him a standing ovation. He denied later on a cable news program that his address was the opening salvo in his bid for re-election, claiming he simply sought to reassure New Yorkers anxious about the impending Trump presidency, that the city had their back. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued similar assurances.
Rosemary Boeglin, a mayoral spokesperson, said the city has a number of laws in place to ensure that immigrant residents’ rights are protected and that federal requests for detention and transfer of custody of an immigrant are “carried out constitutionally.”
She noted that two laws signed in 2014 by de Blasio require that the city only honor federal detainer requests for individuals in city custody if the person has been convicted of a violent or serious crime or is identified as a possible match in the terrorist screening database.
In addition, the requesting agency must provide a judicial warrant showing evidence of probable cause.
Boeglin said the conviction of an immigrant must have occurred within the last five years, or must have resulted in incarceration that ended within the last five years, “and it must be for one of a defined list of violent or serious felonies or hate crimes enumerated in the laws,” she noted.
Wing Lam, executive director of the Chinese Staff and Workers Association, a militant labor rights group on 345 Grand Street in Chinatown that has sued Asian restaurants and sweatshops for a minimum wage violations and led demonstrations with coffins, expressed little anger towards Trump during a phone conversation with reporter. He seems to view Trump as a minor league showman who floats rhetorical balloons.
“Everyone knows he’s bad and a bully,” Lam said. “But the Democratic Party–and the Republican Party–are falling apart. People need to find ways to organize and get rid of him. We’ll do that but not with a demonstration. A lot of folks want to have a third party. You need alternatives. The (two) parties are much the same. Pretty soon Trump will sound like Hillary (Clinton).”
Asked about Trump’s threats to prosecute Mrs. Clinton, from which he has since retreated, Lam replied with two words, “hot air.”
Elizabeth Plum, director of special projects at the New York Immigration Coalition, at 131 W. 33rd St., said some of her colleagues once regarded Trump’s fiery bombast as just “hot air,” but then came the reports of hate crimes after his election.
“There have been multiple acts of intimidation and reports of individuals — particularly Muslim women — who have been threatened,” Plum said. “The Southern Poverty Law Center has recorded 200 since Election Day.
“There was a point where we wrote off Donald Trump as hot air. But at this point, who knows what he will do or say? It’s a risk having him hold one of the most powerful positions in the world.
“We can’t make assumptions,” she said.
“We are absolutely planning for the worst and praying for the best.”
ANOTHER VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE VILLAGER, A MANHATTAN WEEKLY.