Occupy Kensington intends to contribute to a fightback on any front that presents itself: women’s rights, worker’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, healthcare, and more.
For the immediate future, the consensus decision of our group is to focus our efforts locally here in Kensington, where our immigrant neighbors are at daily risk. We will be focused on:
Political pressure on the Mayor and City Council
The Mayor proudly declares that New York is a sanctuary city, but the reality is that the NYPD routinely refer people who are charged with any crime on a list of 170 offenses to ICE and that the Mayor has said he is open to expanding that number. It is also the case that anyone arrested by the NYPD is fingerprinted and added into a database that ICE has access to, and given the continued focus on “broken windows” policing this means many people of color arrested for minor quality of life offenses. We need to put pressure on the Mayor and our City Council members to take a stand and declare New York a real sanctuary city with no cooperation with ICE and an end to broken window policing. This means joining the ongoing protests aimed at the Mayor and City Council, and it means putting pressure on our local representatives by calling, petitioning, and demonstrating.
Legal defense and assistance for those facing deportation
The Trump administration is moving to change the rules governing deportation so that only immigrants who have been in this country two years or more will be entitled to a hearing, (currently only those in the country less than 14 days can be deported without one). They are doing this because they realize that as they ramp up the level of deportations the immigration court system, already overloaded, may become backlogged to the point of stagnation. This presents a challenge both for the government lawyers and for those providing services to immigrants – every part of the system will be overstretched. OK is working with the New Sanctuary movement who provide free legal services to immigrants facing deportation and who are training volunteers with no legal background to accompany people to their hearings, take notes and provide basic legal advice. Hearings for those without legal assistance end in deportation more often and more speedily. According to a study from 2014*, undocumented minors who had legal representation were deported in 53% of cases, whereas undocumented minors with no legal representation were deported in 90% of cases. We are looking to work with other immigrant rights organizations, such as Black Alliance for Just Immigration, on accompanying immigrants to hearings.
Community level resistance to ICE
When ICE comes knocking at a family’s door, they need to relocate at speed. In the 80s, New York had a network of churches and other places of worship which offered sanctuary to undocumented immigrants caught up in the Reagan deportation efforts. Along with the New Sanctuary Movement and Brooklyn Defense Committee, OK is working to get places of worship to sign up as sanctuary spaces and to find private homes that would be prepared to take people.
The ICE raids in the New York area over the last few weeks, while horrifying, have not yet exceeded the level of raids under the Obama administration. Over the next few months, if the Trump administration sticks to its plan, we will see a massive surge in ICE raids heavily aimed at cities like New York, LA and Chicago, also a return to the mass workplace raids seen under Bush and the earlier part of the Obama administration.
We are joining with other organizations to create rapid response networks both boroughwide and locally. These would mobilize large numbers of people with secure immigration status to arrive speedily at the scene of any confirmed ICE raid in order to assist the target community, with the goal of minimizing the number of people apprehended by ICE.
We will be working with DRUM to help make Kensington a Hate Free Zone. We will soon have access to their branded Know Your Rights (KYR) material that we will be able to distribute to individuals and businesses etc. Stay posted for those and hold off on putting up other ones so that we can work in collaboration with DRUM.
Want to learn more about Know Your Rights? See DRUM’s current material
More information to come about how we can participate in rapid response to ICE raids, including verifying rumors of raids and police harassment.