State senator says he will help immigrants
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York has long held the status of “sanctuary city” and taking a page out of that book, a Brooklyn lawmaker is moving ahead with plans to have his office serve as a sanctuary district.
Charging that President Donald Trump’s actions are jeopardizing the rights of lawful immigrants in New York City, state Sen. Jesse Hamilton said he is turning his office into a “Sanctuary Senate District.”
Hamilton (D-Crown Heights-Park Slope-Sunset Park) said the Sanctuary Senate District status means that his office, located at 1669 Bedford Ave., will offer services aimed at protecting the rights of immigrants facing legal challenges to their immigration status, delays in citizenship applications and potential deportation orders.
“We have a Trump administration imposing draconian, unjust restrictions and promising more. As leaders in a city that has welcomed immigrant communities for hundreds of years, we need to fight back and reassure our immigrant friends and neighbors that we stand together in protecting them,” Hamilton said in a statement.
Residents who have questions regarding immigration status can call 1-800-213-6385 for information. Hamilton is also arranging for immigration specialists to be on hand to assist residents on certain days of the month.
Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said Hamilton’s work is vital in the current political climate.
“We applaud our strong ally Sen. Jesse Hamilton for unapologetically declaring his office a Sanctuary Senate District and opening it up to providing services for immigrants,” Choi said.
But Hamilton came under fire from protesters who held a vigil outside a town hall he had at the offices of Community Board Seven at 4201 Fourth Ave. in Sunset Park on the night of Feb. 16.
The demonstrators, including members of the group Love Trumps Hate Sunset Park, charged that Hamilton’s decision last November to join the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) will hurt the undocumented immigrant community because the IDC often sides with Republicans.
State Senate Republicans are blocking immigrant-friendly legislation such as a New York DREAM Act, the protesters charged. The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, would provide a pathway to permanent resident status and eventually citizenship, to young people brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents.
"Jesse Hamilton refuses to hear our voices — the voices from immigrant mothers who fear deportations. He also refuses to hear the voices of sons and daughters of these mothers who are voters from the district,” said Claudia Galicia, president of the group Sunset Park Latino Democrats.
“Sunset Park immigrant families need our state representatives to do more to protect vulnerable communities from the federal government,” said Rodrigo Camarena, a Sunset Park community activist, who helped organize the vigil. The IDC “can’t fool voters any longer,” he added.
Earlier in the day on Feb. 16, the nationwide “Day Without Immigrants” protest of Trump’s immigration policies enjoyed significant support in Brooklyn.
Members of Brooklyn-based group Worker's Justice Project (WJP) were among those taking part in the work stoppage.
In a letter to the community, WJP Executive Director Ligia Guallpa wrote that the group’s members are concerned about the plight of Latino immigrant workers, many of whom, she said, are exploited by bosses. “We are consistently forced to work longer hours, harder jobs, for less pay, under constant fear of retaliation,” she wrote in her letter.
The WJP operates the Bay Parkway Community Job Center in Bensonhurst, an employment program that brings together employers looking for workers and laborers seeking per diem work as construction workers, gardeners and house cleaners.
The Day Without Immigrants strike took place in response to Trump’s positions on immigration, including his vow to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, his recent executive order placing a temporary ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries and the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in various locations across the country in which undocumented immigrants are being rounded up.