They will not take this quietly.
Faced with an uptick in hate crimes, increased action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to round up immigrants and the polarizing policies of President Donald Trump, hundreds gathered at a special town hall meeting in Long Island City on Wednesday night on the “resistance” movement in Queens.
The event at MoMA PS1 was led by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who pledged to continue leading the fight against the Trump administration in Queens.
“I want you to know that as long as Donald Trump is president, I will be a member of the resistance,” Van Bramer told the audience. “A lot of bad things are happening in our country, but I want everyone to know that this gathering here, the marches, the rallies, the people rushing to airports, those are very beautiful, wonderful things that are happening in this country as a result and in response to those bad things.”
The recent deportation scare hit close to home when four fake ICE officers swindled a Woodside man out of $250, claiming that if he did not pay them, they would deport him. The victim then reached out to Van Bramer’s office, who quickly held a rally outside the man’s home, denouncing the fake officers for trying to profit off of fear.
“I am extremely proud that someone who was terrified and who was not yet been able to talk to the police, felt comfortable calling my office for help,” Van Bramer said.
The lawmaker reminded everyone in attendance that no ICE officer should ask for money in exchange for not being detained.
Van Bramer invited Cheryl Andrada of The Legal Aid Society to explain what people should do if they are confronted by, or witness someone being confronted by an ICE officer.
One of the first thing Andrada said was to not spread rumors, such as the rumor that quickly spread across social media about ICE raids taking place near Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. The immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York said there was no proof that ICE agents were at that location.
If you do happen to see someone being approached or arrested, “be a witness,” Andrada said. You will not be able to stop the arrest, but be aware of what is going on, take the officer’s badge number and car number down, just in case there are unconstitutional actions taking place.
Andrada said that ICE agents are focusing on illegal immigrants who have any type of involvement with the criminal justice system, which doesn’t only mean being arrested and convicted of a crime.
“What we are telling our clients and their family members is to just be prepared for that situation,” Andrada said. “Make sure that you set aside all of your important documents like your passport, and anything that might be important … have phone numbers on you of a family member or friend or attorney.”
The final thing Andrada advised was to not let anyone claiming to be police or ICE into your home without a warrant signed by a judge, and to remain silent until you have a lawyer.
One audience member asked a very important question, noting that Barack Obama, as president, deported a record number of undocumented immigrants, and wanted to know what the difference between the former president’s policy, and Trump’s.
Although it is too early to really tell with Trump’s policy, Andrada said, one difference is the priority of who they are focusing on. The Trump administration is prioritizing undocumented immigrants with any type of criminal encounter as an enforcement priority; the Obama administration focused on deporting undocumented persons who were convicted of a crime.
Members from several local organizations then took to the podium to let everyone know of the many different events going on across the city that people can get involved with if they want to help make a difference.
Some of those groups include Sunnyside Woodside Action Group (SWAG), LIC Opposition, LIC Coalition, Astoria March, the organizers of a unity rally in Forest Hills later this month, Indivisible, and more.
Van Bramer also noted that his office is thinking about holding civil disobedience training sessions to inform people of their rights during nonviolent protest, as well as offering translation services during rallies and meetings to reach a wider audience throughout Queens.