Northern Brooklyn

Immigrants rally against President Trump in Sunset Park — and Cynthia Nixon slams Gov. Cuomo

May 6, 2018 By Andrew Katz and Gersh Kuntzman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York Communities for Change Coordinator Myriam Hernandez (left) spoke at Saturday's rally as City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon looked on.
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Scores of immigrants and their supporters — including gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon — rallied in Sunset Park on Saturday to protest Trump administration immigration policies mere days after hundreds were swept up in raids.

Roughly 150 people marched down Fifth Avenue to protest the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s “Operation Keep Safe,” which detained 163 people in the city between April 9 and 14 — 45 of whom had committed no crimes, the Daily News reported.

The number of marchers was deflated by fear, participants said.

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“There are lots of Mexican people here, but they don’t come out. They’re afraid,” said Jose LaFontaine, a native of the Dominican Republic who now lives in Bushwick and is a U.S. citizen.

Undocumented immigrants are constantly anxious, another participant said, because they can’t access basic services all residents should take for granted. 

“If we don’t have papers we aren’t safe because we can’t rely on the police to help us when something bad happens,” said one Peruvian native who gave only the name Teodorico.

Politicians used the march to call for passage of the so-called Liberty Act, which would essentially extend New York City’s “sanctuary city” status to the entire state. Under such a law, which passed the Assembly last year, undocumented individuals could not be detained without a warrant from a judge. And the law states that state and local law enforcement agencies “may not stop, question, investigate or arrest a person based on perceived immigration status or suspected violation of federal immigration law.”

“I want a better New York for all New Yorkers, not just for hedge fund billionaires … New York needs to stand defiantly against Donald Trump and his criminalization of immigrants!” Nixon, who hopes to unseat Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary, told the crowd — pausing to allow translation by City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park). 

“We have to pass the Liberty Act to prevent our state from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration.”

After marching behind a banner reading, “Ban ignorance, not immigrants,” Nixon singled out her rival by name.

“Andrew Cuomo hasn’t done enough for undocumented immigrants,” Nixon told the Brooklynb Eagle. “They need the protection of the Liberty Act.”

Cuomo issued an executive order last year prohibiting state law enforcement officers from inquiring about immigration status unless investigating a crime, but opponents say the order did not offer as many protections as a new state law would. The governor also created a $1 million fund and created a network of lawyers to represent immigrants for free.

Politics aside, many of the immigrants who were marching spoke of just wanting to be left alone to do their jobs and continue contributing to New York life.

“We have been many years in this place, living peacefully,” Oswaldo Mendoza told the marchers. “ But we need jobs with dignity that will enable us to support our families! And, most importantly, we should not have to live in fear that our families will be separated by the government if discovered to not have papers.”

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