Targeted by ICE, Sunset Park connects to resources
by Benjamin Fang
Jul 24, 2019 | 703 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Federal immigration enforcement agents sought to detain undocumented immigrants with deportation orders in New York City last week, but walked away empty-handed, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Speaking at an unrelated event last Wednesday, the mayor said there were eight specific situations where ICE agents attempted to arrest someone, but “none of them were successful.”

Four of the attempted arrests occurred on July 13, three last Tuesday and one the following day. De Blasio said four of those attempts took place in Sunset Park. Other affected neighborhoods include Harlem, Midwood, Far Rockaway and Bay Ridge.

“It’s a very painful reality for everyone out there, there is a lot of fear,” de Blasio said. “We have an administration in Washington that makes these bold announcements, and then backs off of them and you never know what reality is.”

Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), said that in Bay Ridge, an ICE and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official was looking for someone who no longer lived in that location.

In Midwood, agents knocked on a family’s door, but no one answered. The owner of a bakery across the street, Mostofi said, witnessed the activity and confirmed it with city officials.

In Sunset Park, a building super received a knock on the door as well, but did not answer. MOIA officials later spoke with him and his wife about the incident.

“It is important that we’re staying vigilant,” Mostofi said. “We’re not increasing fears, we’re making sure we’re being responsive to the needs of the communities as we see them, and we’re sharing reliable reports as we get them.”

In the aftermath of the ICE raids, local elected officials convened residents with community and legal groups at Sunset Park High School for a resource-sharing session.

Organized by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Councilman Carlos Menchaca, the event sought to equip community members with more tools to protect immigrants in the community.

Velazquez shared that the previous weekend, she went with 20 other members of Congress to the southern border, where she saw the conditions of the detention centers holding migrants attempting to enter the country.

The congresswoman observed children crying without their mothers and felt “a sense of pain.”

“I cannot put into words how painful it was for us to watch the treatment of human beings,” she said. “It will stay with me.”

While away, Velazquez was following ICE activity in her district through social media and updates from city agencies.

She told the crowd at Sunset Park High School that the immigrant-heavy neighborhood is a “target,” and that agents will likely come back.

She urged neighbors to stay calm and not panic throughout these raids.

“ICE will leave without any arrests,” Velazquez said. “Because our work here today is to empower everyone with information that they need.

“New York City is a city of immigrants,” she added, “and in New York we take care of our neighbors.”

Menchaca noted that after the raids took place in Sunset Park, the community was notably quiet.

“People weren’t out in the parks, on the streets,” he said, “and you felt that.

“For me, that’s something we’re never going to forget,” Menchaca added. “Because that’s what happens when the community is traumatized.”

On the bright side, the Brooklyn councilman said, years of “know your rights” trainings in churches, schools and elsewhere proved helpful. Menchaca also praised community activists for working to ensure their neighbors were protected.

“No arrests will happen in Sunset Park, today or ever,” he said.

More than a dozen organizations, including the New York Immigration Coalition, Mobilization for Justice and Brooklyn Defender Services, shared what they’re doing to help immigrants during the ICE raids.

Mostofi, who also attended the Sunset Park strategy session, said the ActionNYC hotline is active and responsive to people who have questions about their rights. It also provides support with family planning in the event that a family is separated, as well as legal counseling.

MOIA has also worked with 311 to ensure that, at all hours, anyone who calls about an immigration-related emergency will be connected right away.

“There were calls that our staff fielded after hours over the weekend,” she said. “We’re going to keep that in place for a period of time to make sure community members know that at any hour, if you need support, you can call 311 and get connected to somebody who can help you.”

Mostofi said the city will continue to be responsive to reports or enforcement activity or ICE in any neighborhood. They will be handing out flyers with “know your rights information” in different languages, and canvass neighborhoods to spread the word.

“I think there’s always more work to be done,” she said.
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