At a candlelight vigil in Jackson Heights two days after the Paris terrorist attacks, a Queens lawmaker said the diverse neighborhood is a prime example of tolerance for the rest of the world.
Muslim clergy, elected officials and community activists of many stripes gathered at the appropriately named Diversity Plaza to mourn the dead and wounded in the ISIS assault on the French capital.
Queens wept for Paris.
The massacre of innocent people sent a shudder through the borough, which lost several hundred police officers, firefighters and other residents in the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
The old fears about whether the city was the next terrorist target were uncorked. And when the attackers in Paris were identified as ISIS radicals, the borough’s Muslim community was on edge once again.
“They hijacked my religion,” an angry Local 100 union leader who is Muslim said at the Diversity Plaza observance. “A terrorist is a terrorist. We have to stand together.”
After the Paris carnage, Muslims across the globe took to social media to condemn the ISIS perpetrators while many governors vowed to bar Syrian refugees from their states. Other quarters sounded like a cheering squad for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who says all 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States should be sent home.
The immigrant neighborhoods in Queens—well beyond the Muslim community—could be collateral damage if Trump’s solution gets widespread traction.
President Obama’s executive order to give a temporary reprieve to 5 million undocumented immigrants by providing work permits already is stalled and could be blocked by the courts amid the outcry over the Paris onslaught.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently released a study that found immigrants contribute about 31 percent of New York’s gross city product. They also represent about 44 percent of the city’s workforce. And with immigrants accounting for nearly half of Queens’ population of 2.3 million, a move to deport the undocumented would be folly, impractical and a blow to the borough’s economic clout.
Jackson Heights—site of the vigil—Corona, Elmhurst and Flushing have the city’s highest concentration of immigrants and the strongest economic growth, DiNapoli said.
“If only the world could take a look at what happens in Jackson Heights,” state Assemblyman Francisco Moya told the vigil. “When we see this tragedy, we stand right here with our Muslim brothers and sisters to send a message that we won’t stand for this.”