Tuesday, May 16, 2017

UFT Immigration Forum May 15th

UFT Educational VP Evelyn DeJesus welcomes us, welcomes panel. Says you can see Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from here, reminders to immigrant history. Says in NYC our kids speak 150 different languages but tonight we speak in one. We are family now.

Introduces UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Mulgrew welcomes us, thanks Evelyn. Says this is simple for us. We heard what happened in Queens last week, trying to get actual story. Says we’ve spoken about it a lot here. Very proud of diversity. Hard to find a teacher who doesn’t have dreamers in classroom. Fact that we are dealing with this is surreal to us.

We always hear attacks on teachers, but every teacher knows we’re responsible for kids in our classroom. We will not stand aside. We protect and educate. Proud that we are doing this, in national debate this is big issue.

We have no idea what will be in the news. So much uncertainly. For a child to deal with this is absurd, immoral, wrong. Introduces Juan Gonzalez, moderator.

Praises Gonzalez for his writing. Says he found truth in his columns, as opposed to alternative, fake news, or lies.

Gonzalez—Tells UFT he is now member of AFT. Retired from DN, still hosts Democracy Now, but is not Professor of Journalism at Rutgers and union member.

Pleased to discuss this topic. Recognizes his HS social studies teacher, George Altomare, from Franklin K. Lane. Didn’t know he was union activist, but remembers his lessons.

Immigration critical issue with admin that wants a wall and to deport people. Human rights watch says 10K parents of immigrants being detained by ICE each year in CA only. Reported about man in Austin who as teenager marched with parents, now councilman in Texas, arrested last week sitting in while they were outlawing sanctuary cities in Texas. Arrested in protest of law that would have him arrested for enabling sanctuary cities.

Sanctuary cities and feds on collision course. One side must persevere. Crime rates in sanctuary cities lower than in others.

Nisha Agarwal—Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs—Bridge between city govt. and diverse communities. Mission to promote programs that improve well-being of immigrants. Feel more strongly now, since election.

Immigrant inclusion should be DNA of city life. Example is Municipal ID program, ID NYC, available to all, free. Important to get into schools, open bank accounts, over 1 million signers. Do pop up enrollments with schools. Emergency contacts on back for parents.

Access to justice—free, safe immigration legal services w schools. Action NYC based in schools. Students, faculty parents get services. Know Your Rights Forums established. Have done 100. Makes school safe place.

Advocacy—Can just be having right policy at right time. Protocol for non-local law enforcement. SSA must call principal and lawyers. Without warrant they are removed. Happened Thursday. School followed protocol, turned them away. School are place where children are protected, safest place for kids to be. Credit to educators.

Steve Choi—NYC Immigration Coalition—Umbrella agency for state orgs. President ran most anti-immigrant candidate in US history. Wants pointless stupid border wall, Muslim ban, declared war on immigrant communities. Disheartening he’d do that, but heartening that so many allies said this is not USA, not NY.

One week after he took office, signed Muslim refugee ban. Later we heard people were detained at JFK. Started hearing more and more being detained. One was Hamid Darwish, Iraqi translator who put life on line for us. Plane in air when order was signed. Kept him for 18 hours until Congress reps got him out. Hundreds, thousands came to protest.

At some point, they wanted to capitalize on this. They asked people to come to Battery Park next day. 30K people showed for rally and march. Still, President doubles down and attacks, but there is incredible response.

How can we protect immigrant community? Schools are the most trusted places. Thought about how to keep them that way. Weren’t pleased with original guidance from mayor. Wanted to make sure teachers and principals didn’t have to deal with ICE. To mayor’s credit, they listened. Said ICE agents were not to be let into schools.

But we can see there is more work to be done. Want schools to be trusted places, teachers and principals to be allies. There is still a lot more we can do. Mayor and city council have been champions. Need state to do more, need it to be sanctuary state. We can do that but have not yet. Cuomo can do it. This is critical in next few years.

Carlos Menchaca—City Council, Brooklyn—Chair of council on immigration—Today is important, but hopes it sparks dialogue. The sailboat we’re on, in tumultuous waters, that are dynamic and changing—we need to have trust. City Council reaffirms us as sanctuary city, is vision card for future. We’re not there yet. Hopes Trump is impeached, but meanwhile we need open dialogue.

Beyond legislation, wants people to have access to health care, legal service, education for all including adults. Wants to invite people who have been marginalized. Asks about participatory budgeting, says schools have benefited from it. Now there are more smartboards, more tech. This is what we can do to move forward.

We have to participate at local neighborhood level, block by block. In Sunset Park people are opening homes because some are scared to go elsewhere. This is where Know Your Rights sessions are happening.

José Luis Perez—Deputy General Council, Latino Justice—45th year of fighting for civil rights for Latino community. Big issue is increased immigration enforcement. President may have ideas, but can’t do it alone. Feds can’t do it alone so they pressure localities. Have succeeded in creating fear.

We are in communities and immigrant families are afraid to walk children to school. Says they are staying in more. “Sensitive locations” where ICE may be, want to restrict their presence. They may go to schools and hospitals, courthouses, though they should not, as they are emboldened. Says government must take stand against that.

Immigration warrants are not criminal. We ask that they follow constitution. ICE takes rogue actions. We saw them go into homes, but immigration warrants permit only consensual entry. They point weapons and take that as consent. 14th amendment says equal protection for all, not only citizens. At this time I’m happy and proud to be a lawyer.

President stopped for most part in courts. We will sue when we have to. Looks forward to engaging.

Tania Romero—School Social Worker, Flushing International High School—We are one of several international schools in city and country. Thanks us for being here and for our work. Says we have power to shift society.

Her students come from over 45 countries, speak over 25 languages, very diverse. Recent policies had huge impact. AT least 50% undocumented, and growing. Young people come for safety, to pursue dreams, but now all at risk. Big fear level. Hard for parents to come to workshops—they are afraid.

Academic impact as students drop out. They leave and save money in case they are deported. Level of trauma increased, even after what they’ve seen in home countries. Now facing more discrimination and oppression. Task is huge and will get bigger.

How do we move from crisis management, fear, to place of action. One is education. We need to train ourselves, attend staff development, understand how to serve diverse students. We need to know their history.

How do we move into action? We use counseling and groups, offer socio-emotional support. We want to move from fear to empowerment.

Student Faiza—Senior from Pakistan. Part of school’s dream team and various clubs. Says school is friendly. Whenever she’s lonely she can go to any teacher. They are friendly and supporting. They do circles and advisories due to political climate. They also do projects. Students focus on rights and share messages, for example.

Caremer Andujar—President, UndocuRutgers—Started it to provide resources for undocumented students. Had to appear before ICE on Tuesday. Was afraid, and was during finals. Interview May 9th, one day after last final given to accommodate her.

Came here at 4, does not know home country, English her best language, struggles in Spanish. Considers America home and wants to help others in her situation. Believes being undocumented shouldn’t hinder people. Majoring in chemical engineering.

Gonzalez—She got enormous support from AFT and NJ US Senators.

Randi Weingarten, President, AFT—When Caremer’s hearing was over, at AFT Executive Council meeting, I got an email saying you were out and not detained. Whole room applauded. What’s happening in AFT is your fight is our fight.

Met Carlos at JFK on line, lawyers inside kept telling us those of use who were outside were heard inside. Says of all protests she’s attended, terminal 4 at JFK was most important. People asked what they could do, and they went. Uber lost business when taxi drivers were in solidarity and Uber exploited it.

Trump knows what he’s doing, May not look like it, and thank God for lawyers, independent judges, AGs who take on flawed laws, but he spent a long time finding way to scapegoat.

Wants people to stand up if they are first generation American. 2, 3, 4, 5—Almost everyone up. Says if you were Jews coming from Germany in 1939 you wouldn’t have gotten in because of rules. When we say never again, we’ve already had this experience.

Scapegoating and demagoguery are about division. What’s happening now has happened to everyone who’s stood up. As educators we need to know this history. It’s not criminal malfeasance, it’s scapegoating intended to divide for political reasons.

People here care or wouldn’t be here. We must make others care to. I can talk about what we do, and we are doing things like training, preparing families, telling rights, pushing cities and communities to be sanctuaries, but also trying to educate.

Sanctuary city means community policing more important. Not about harboring criminals Fox 5 demonizes rather than educates. We are country of immigrants. Those of us who have been here, and have climbed ladder of opportunity, have obligation to lay it out for others.

We need to be there for our students to deal. We have to debunk scapegoating and demonization. Many newcomers worry rights will be taken away at any moment. Last admin said we need to protect those kids. This nation of immigrants cannot turn its back on this generation of immigrants.

Gonzalez—To members of govt.—on NYC ID—whose idea to give discounts, and what about attempts to grab documentation and use it to target immigrants?

Agarwal—Has been collaboration among communities, but wants to make sure NY residents all get ID, and are all members of NYC. Also, to democratize access to culture, we offer discounts. We have more than a million cards, half million who used it for discounts.

Was lawsuit asking for personal documents. Case moving through courts, but we won state Supreme Court decision. Still will go through appeals. We also changed policy to evaluate whether we hold on to copies. Now info is not even stored. ID card still in demand.

Menchaca—Wanted to build strong legislation, energy around ID came from grassroots. De Blasio and others had political will to do this. Came from community.

Gonzalez—looming collision between sanctuary city and feds—what are you doing to preempt?

Menchaca—outspoken commitment, on budget side, we are all doing several things. Making sure they have ed. and health care. Wants a good rainy day fund just in case. Thinks there is no constitutional ability for 45 to remove funding. Think it will be court battle, will be won.

Perez—Have already been court battles, bluster from 45 to throw fear into communities. Hollow promises and threats that they will remove funding. Will not happen, We must be outspoken, demand Cuomo do right thing and make NY sanctuary state. This is the Empire State.

Detainers are a request. Local law enforcement need not comply. Lawyers will be busy.

Weingarten—US Senators from NY and NJ, and Pelosi, say Senate could stare down obsessions and keep funding for sanctuary cities.

Gonzalez—Spoke to AFL-CIO Prez—expected to keep Trump out. In aftermath how do you feel?

Weingarten—Our membership voted 80% for Hillary. Notion that people are monolithic, but you have to earn trust. In election, what Trump did was run as populist but govern as corporatist. Those who don’t know him, how much did people put their own aspirations and hope into Obama? Think about when NYC voted against him by 95%.

Most people know Trump only from Apprentice. Got letter from member who regretted voting for Trump. Thought he would do something for economy, and asked for help. Thinks what we’ve been embarking on is talking about how elections have consequences.

GOP has effectively swift boated candidates. You need high level of trust. Comey’s actions hurt. When Trump can act like anti-free trade guy and labor is dismissed it’s about values and trust.

Gonzalez—Asks students—Conversations you’re having as you see dragnets, what are you talking about?

Andujar—When I initiate convo, people say, “Wow, you’re undocumented.” When I say I’ve been here since four it changes perception. We come for better life, create jobs, businesses, and go to school. People must see me as peer. They don’t know how many people they know who are undocumented.

Stereotypes are not true. I don’t fit, but I tell them I am. Much of what’s being said isn’t true. Many people set on notion we broke law, but don’t understand that sometimes law is unjust. They ask why I wait so long. But if there were way, I would have done it. Our system needs reform. People think it’s flawless and don’t understand gray areas.

There are no means for us to become documented. Our goals are the same. You don’t want undocumented people in your country and I don’t want to be undocumented.

Let’s fix this system. It needs reform.

Fazia—We speak about feelings and Regents. We are stressed. I always have this fear about how media shows Muslims. People wary when I don’t like school food. They think it’s because of my religion. Makes me angry when my religion or family is blamed for my mistakes, but I have to deal with it.

Gonzalez speaks of new book. Speaks of progressive movements and progressive people elected in cities.


Don’t think anyone on panel didn’t mentioned fear—What can we do to avoid predatory legal services—where can people go.

Menchaca—City agencies cracking down, and we also have to get word out. Some communities hard to reach, including Asian and Latino. Gap we need to fix.

Choi—Action NYC, free legal, call 311. Office of New Americans on state level. 1 800 566 7636.
Critical resources.

Romero—council says we can’t ask but school counselors may know and can help. We have partnerships with non-profits. They come during parent-teacher conferences. They are perfect space. Translation important.

Q—We underestimate Trump in NYC, when 48% of us didn’t vote. How do we combat it?

Perez—We need to galvanize. Most who voted for him aren’t in his tax bracket. We must get out the vote, before they try to further erode our voice.

Choi—90% of city voted for Hillary, but every other county, almost, voted Trump. Many people don’t live with immigrants. They are susceptible to stereotypes. We are not getting our message out, have to do better job. This is hard task.

Q—Undocumented mother, to combat community problems, begins with parents. She’s been working in her community. It’s difficult, especially with fear they have now. I would like to keep working as volunteer, but it’s difficult without support or resources. How can we fix that? Forum isn’t enough.

Menchaca—We need to focus on what each community needs, we will connect you with your council member. Changes in each neighborhood.

Q—I understand if ICE shows with no documentation it’s one thing. What is proper?

Agarwal—Judicial warrant. DOE’s lawyers have to accept warrant. Says it’s high bar. Says principal would call lawyer while they wait outside of school. Sometimes they have administrative warrants. Confusing for people who don’t know.

Marjorie Stamberg—UFT committee in her school to defend immigrant students. We have to mobilize, not just GOP, 5 million deported under Obama. Doesn’t think judicial warrant is adequate, we must keep them out of schools. NYPD with broken windows defines crimes and criminalizes poverty. Has to be ICE out period.

Menchaca—agrees, everyone must have legal access. How we navigate will require ingenuity.

Gonzalez—Thanks us for being here, thanks panelists.

Evelyn de Jesus—AFT has outstanding training on immigration. On September 14th we will do that workshop. We had clinic in Bronx with lawyers to help people. Doing different things. Check UFT website. We are here to help. Thanks Gonzalez, panel.

Says dreamer told her, “I might not have the right papers but I have the right values.” Urges us to get involved.

Menchaca—June 26 ten AM hearing on dreamers. Asks us to come to city council chamber.

Weingarten—says there are really courageous people around country. Says city is ensuring it puts DOJ through all hoops in terms of probable cause. Difference between civil disobedience we will train people to do, and ensuring cities do all they can do to repel ICE. What city is doing is pretty terrific and we should give them some honor for it.
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