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Queens stunned by Supreme Court deadlock on immigration

By Bill Parry

In all corners of the World’s Borough immigrants and elected officials were speaking out after last week’s bombshell announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court of a deadlocked decision on President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

The 4-4 tie in the case of United States v. Texas, upholds a lower court’s decision to block Obama’s efforts which would have protected millions of parents of U.S. citizens from deportation and granted them work permits under DAPA, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program.

More than 50 South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immigrants took to Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights last Friday to speak out against the ruling that makes 220,000 people vulnerable to deportation, many of them here in Queens. South Ozone Park resident Rishi Singh, from Trinidad, director of organizing for DRUM, or Desis Rising Up & Moving, and other members called for a moratorium on deportations.

“Given the recent expansion of raids, with nearly 3 million deportations in the last seven years, the ongoing abuse in detention and the spectre of a possible Trump presidency, it would be reckless for President Obama to pass the current immigration system onto the next president — whoever that will be— without taking major steps to halt deportations,” Singh said. “Even with DAPA, only a fraction of us would be protected. With it now blocked, many more of us still face the threat of the deportation machine that it is incumbent on President Obama to begin to dismantle.”

Another DRUM member, Elmhurst’s Nadira Khanum from Bangladesh, is one of the many who fought for the campaign to win DAPA.

“Today New York City families are more angry than fearful. We are tired of waiting for justice in this country,” she said. “We call on the President and his potential successors to take us out of deportation’s crosshairs. I should not have to worry about my husband being deported every minute of every day. We need a firm end to deportations before the president leaves office.”

The Supreme Court’s decision reverberated from Jackson Heights to Corona, two of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country where 167 different languages are spoken within a mile of Roosevelt Avenue.

“The communities I represent—the sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers—deserve better than this,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Our resolve is only strengthened to continue to fight for these families, who are American in all ways but their immigration status.”

City Councilwoman Julissa Fererras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst), born and raised in Corona, agreed.

“The families in my district, in New York City and across the country who will stay in limbo as a result of this decision deserve to live without fear of separation and with dignity,” she said. “This decision only affirms how important it is for localities like New York City to protect immigrant communities in the face of such a broken federal system. I will continue to lift my voice and fight for a system that values immigrant contributions and keeps families together.”

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) called the case of United States v. Texas a political lawsuit designed to block Obama’s executive actions to grant specific, discrete immigration relief for millions of families. Twenty-six Republican governors sued to block the deferred programs announced in 2014.

“Despite the clear legality — and logic — of this action, Texas and other states put politics above people and turned to the court system as a way to continue their anti-immigrant agenda,” Crowley said. “I am disappointed the Supreme Court was not able to affirm what we all know — that the President’s actions were in line with the well established legal precedent and the use of executive discretion. On yet another issue, this lack of a decision makes clear how important it is for Republicans to stop their record of obstruction and confirm a Supreme Court justice so that these important matters can be fairly decided.”

In Nov. 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio came to the heart of Corona to sign legislation that requires immigration officials to present a judicial warrant before the city can hold an immigrant in custody and reduce cooperation the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on detentions an deportations if undocumented immigrants. The signing ceremony took place in front of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, which serves the largest immigrant community in the city, according to de Blasio.

After the Supreme Court deadlock, the mayor brought together community leaders, advocates and labor activists at City Hall.

“Almost a quarter-million of our fellow New Yorkers are hurting right now, whose rights and opportunities were taken away by our Supreme Court, de Blasio said. “It’s an affront to our values, but we don’t just get mad, we organize. We’re going to work together — everyone here– to right this wrong.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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