By Mark Hallum
Korean community leaders and elected officials stood in solidarity against immigration policies imposed by the Trump administration last week at a news conference in Flushing led by the MinKwon Center for Community Action .
Many claimed that the new policies are making a bad immigration situation worse and said they would introduce legislation to keep the federal government from meddling in the affairs of newcomers in New York.
Proposals such as building a wall along the Mexican border and defunding sanctuary cities were topics of discussion at the Feb. 2 event, but the most profound injustice to the speakers’ vantage point was the executive order banning the entry of people from seven Muslim majority countries for 90 days and refugees for 120 days.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) spoke as well as state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), who announced an attempt to make New York a sanctuary state.
Kim said the government picking and choosing which immigrants it accepts is not only susceptible to xenophobic mindsets, but is counter-intuitive to creating a prosperous nation. He called for all Asian communities to stand strong with the Muslim community.
“President Trump ran on the platform of creating jobs. Why doesn’t he go do his job and focus on economic growth and creating more jobs instead of kicking people out of this country who are providing the work force?” Kim said. “So, come Monday, we’re doing a large push-back in the state Assembly to officially announce our state as a sanctuary state. We’re going to be introducing a whole list of policies in the Assembly that we’re going to pass to send a strong message to the entire country that here in New York state, we welcome all immigrants from all backgrounds.”
The following Monday, the state Assembly passed the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented students to qualify for financial aid, and the New York State Liberty Act, which ensures that legal status cannot be used against a defendant in immigration court.
Stavisky said she hopes to pass roadblocks in the Senate to protect undocumented students and make it law for the Port Authority not to enforce what she called “hideous” federal immigration policy. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey oversees the three New York City area airports.
“No. 1, is preventing the Port Authority from helping the federal government in any way in this climate to control the immigration issue,” Stavisky said. “Secondly, one that I’ve been very involved with and that involves the public colleges and universities in New York State. There was a floor amendment to prohibit colleges from reporting students. Quite frankly, the immigration status of students is not the concern of our public colleges and universities. Their purpose is to educate students, not check their immigration status. And I’m working on legislation to enact this into law.”
MinKwon Center Interim Executive Director James Hong spoke about how the immigration policy change does not address the real issues and only tears apart the pieces of the system that work.
“These executive orders do not help to fix the currently broken immigration system and only aggravate the problem by adding confusion and human tragedy,” Hong said. “ Mr. Trump has reinforced hatred against immigrants under the false notion of national security, and continues to pursue policies that create even greater division in our country. Along the way, his administration is literally breaking the law, setting very dangerous precedents of disregarding the checks and balances between the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government.”
He urged immigrants to get their citizenship as soon as possible and said lawyers with MinKwon can help free of charge.
Among other organizations represented at the news conference were the Korean American Association Greater New York, Korean Community Services, Koreans Americans for Political Advancement and the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall