Brooklyn pols to worried Kensington Bangladeshi immigrants: We’ve got your back

November 15, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Election worker Rozina Akter talks with a voter on Election Day in Borough Park. Akter, a Muslim, is originally from Bangladesh. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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Bangladeshi Muslims in Brooklyn’s Kensington community who — like immigrant groups across the U.S. — harbor fears of deportation in the wake of the election of Donald Trump had those fears eased somewhat by their local leaders and elected officials last week.

Councilmember Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Kensington), assisted by Community Board 12 member Mamnunul Haq, state Assemblymember-elect Robert Carroll and several local activists and organizers, gave an outdoor pep talk to dozens of Muslim residents on Friday at Avenue C Plaza. 

They issued assurances that despite tough immigration-related talk from President-elect Trump, local Muslim residents have sympathetic area officials they can turn to for support.

“We don’t want to live in fear,” Haq, a longtime Kensington resident, told the audience. “We want you [elected officials] to make sure you fight and hold this [Trump] administration accountable.”

Turning his remarks to his fellow Bangladeshis, Haq urged them to back those local politicians who have committed to supporting their community. According to the 2010 census, some 50,000 Bangladeshi immigrants live in New York City, the overwhelming majority — 60 percent — in Queens, with nearly 20 percent living in Brooklyn.

“Voting is your big power,” Haq said to the crowd gathered on the windswept plaza. “You have to register to vote. We are a big community and we want to show our power.”

That sentiment was echoed by City University Law School Professor Tarek Ismail, who insisted that immigrant communities need to know that there are legal services available to those who may face deportation.

“People assume that they don’t have rights,” said Ismail. “When equipped with that knowledge [that they do have rights], they’re quick to wield it.”

“It’s a scary and painful time for many people throughout the country,” Lander said in his remarks. “That fear is so much in … Muslim communities because so much of this election was about demonizing Muslim and immigrant communities in order to win votes. We are going to find ways to show that we stand with this community.

“Your elected officials have your back,” the councilmember continued. We will not let this country become a place that is characterized by hatred or Islamophobia. We will not let this country become a place that forgets freedom of religion.”

Lander made a point of noting that the NYPD “does not participate with [federal] Immigration and Customs Enforcement to turn people over [for deportation proceedings]. We’re a sanctuary city. We have those wonderful NYC ID cards, and we built that program in a way so that no one’s information will be turned over to the federal government for use for evil purposes.”

At one point during his campaign, Trump had vowed that as president he would ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. as a way of keeping terrorists from entering the country, although reports from the president-elect’s camp say that he is no longer considering that move.

Meanwhile, like Lander, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have made it clear that New York’s immigrants — documented and undocumented alike — will be protected from unwarranted deportations.


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