Emergency immigration information forum addresses concerns

Haitian-Americans United for Progress (HAUP), the Empowerment Center and the New York Immigration Coalition held an emergency information forum Saturday evening at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Queens. Immigrant advocates and community electeds came together in the midst of confusion regarding status of immigrants.

Of particular concern to the immigrant communities are the new immigration and travel restrictions issued by the Trump administration at the end of January. HAUP will host another town hall meeting on Saturday, Feb. 11 evening at the Sacred Heart School Auditorium.

The measures initially focused on barring citizens of seven majority Muslim countries —Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. As many travelers were detained and even turned back at JFK and other international airports, immigration lawyers and interpreters rushed to JFK to assist while hundreds of concerned New Yorkers packed the airport protesting President Trump’s Executive Order.

This order affected permanent residents, refugees, visitors and special visa holders. Subsequently, a federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked President Trump’s executive order. Travel is allowed from those countries, temporarily. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit denied a Justice Department request to stay (suspend) the president’s order. This legal wrangling may well go to the Supreme Court.

Several elected officials serving Queens and Nassau County, as well as immigrant advocates spoke including NYS Senator Leroy Comrie (Jamaican heritage), Congressman Gregory Meeks’ Executive Director Joseph Edwards, members of the NYS Assembly, Michaelle Solages, Alicia Hyndman, and Clyde Vanel, as well as Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages.

In attendance were several attorneys — Jori Charles, HAUP’s immigration staff attorney, Hira Amin, and Jennie Kim from Queens Legal Services — as well as NYIC staff: Tiffany Wheatland-Disu and Max Hadler.

NYS Assembly member Michaelle Solanges, representing District 22, southwestern Long Island, holds some of the most responsibility. She was recently appointed chair of the Legislative Task Force on New Americans.

The open event, relevant to all immigrants, was attended by about 100 mostly Haitian immigrants. Jocelyn McCalla led and moderated the discussion.

Attorney Hira Amin described what was happening at the airport and how some visa holders, while on the airplane were signing official documents to redraw their visas. (It is thought that by willingly cooperating with authorities and withdrawing your visa you can reapply later without consequences.) Some did not know what they were signing.

Haitians are particularly concerned with T.P.S., the temporary protected status issued for immigrants following the 2010 earthquake.

T.P.S. was renewed under President Obama and will expire in July. it’s not expected to be renewed under this administration. There are about 50,000 Haitians legally in the United States under T.P.S.

McCalla explains that this current administration takes its plays from ideas expressed in websites like Federation for Immigration Reform. This simple name belies its true agenda which is “immigration laws must be reformed to better serve the needs of current and future generations” or in other words, make America white again.

He says, “Given the fast moving nature of this immigration emergency — we expect the Trump administration to issue more America First executive orders this week.”

HAUP will host another town hall starting at 6 pm on Feb. 11 at the Sacred Heart School Auditorium, located at 115-50 221 St., Cambria Heights, NY. If you live in Southeast Queens or anywhere in New York, attendance is an opportunity to interact personally with the speakers and HAUP’s staff.