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CRE Spotlight Series: Immigration panel wrap up

September 28, 2018

This CRE Spotlight Series: Immigration panel discussion, moderated by Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, was held at LMHQ. The audience of roughly 60 people included CRE clients, nonprofit staff with an interest in immigration, as well as CRE staff and Board members.

The panel of experts comprised of:

  • Jamila Hammami, Founder of the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project
  • Manny Castro, Executive Director at New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)
  • Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Executive Director at the Arab American Association of New York
  • Salina Guzman, Immigrant Youth Advocate at The Door – A Center of Alternatives
  • Zeinab Eyega, Executive Director at Sauti Yetu Center for African Women

 

Their participation gave way to a rich discussion about the challenges and realities of immigration, and those working on behalf of immigrants’ rights, in this current moment. Panelists unanimously called for increased funding to nonprofits, as these organizations know what the communities affected by immigration policies need. In order to understand the reality of what is needed, there is a need for elected officials need to get out into the community more, and for people to vote for candidates who support immigrants.

Panelists also shared the ways in which their workload has increased and how needs for their organizations, and the immigrants they serve, have shifted. The fears many immigrants have around accessing services and being seen as a public charge are very real, which increases the work load of nonprofits, as many immigrants turn to nonprofits for help instead of the government. Additionally, the rules for immigration applications have changed and are constantly changing, which makes it harder for nonprofit staff to do their job correctly. The stakes of their work has never been higher—one mistake could result in an application being denied, and could start deportation proceedings.

The conversation turned to the narrative surrounding immigration in this country, as well as possible solutions for the future. Panelists expressed that the narrative around why people flee their country and seek to immigrate to the United States needs to change. Many people are fleeing only because it is not possible to stay in their home because of war and violence. Many of the people trying to immigrate are lawyers, teachers, farmers: people with skills that could enrich this country. Panelists expressed the need for open borders, as well as conversation around how this could become a reality and the fact that immigration should be a right.

Finally, panelists also talked about how abolishing ICE is a real and tangible goal that we could be aiming for in the next few years.

This panel was generously supported by Agnes Gund.