BY EDITORIAL STAFF
The life of an immigrant in Queens in 2017 is a combination of hope and fear, said borough immigrants and advocacy groups.
Immigrants in the borough said that the United States remains a beacon for people around the world, although the current atmosphere—in which President Donald Trump has taken tough stances on immigration —is a cause for concern. However, they said that Queens plays a significant role for immigrants.
“Queens is one of the major gateways to the USA and serves as a transit hub that welcomes immigrants to America from the earliest of days,” said Harbachian Singh, a member of the Queens Civic Congress who hails from Malaysia.
Linda Lee, executive director of Bayside’s Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, echoed Singh’s assertion that Queens was often the first stop for new Americans.
“We have a lot of immigrants who come to Queens first—we have both of the city’s airports,” she said. “A lot of immigrants start up shop in Queens and try to make money to help their kids get good educations. Especially in the current climate, it’s often believed that immigrants are taking up resources—but they are contributing to the economy and paying taxes.”
Lee said that many of her center’s constituents have been unsettled since Trump took office.
“We’re not as outwardly affected as the Muslim community, who are being targeted much more, but we have a number of people who are DACA [Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals] and many who are undocumented,” she said.
One Queens resident—a twenty-something from Corona named Nicholas—said that he was raised in Bogota with his parents and two sisters. The family moved to the United States when he was 8 years old and Nicholas’s father was told that with a tourist visa, he’d be able to apply for citizenship before his visa expired.
Since he was exempt from scholarships, Nicholas attended the City University of New York and, during his senior year, he was told that his family’s application for citizenship was ready for review. However, the family had to go back to Colombia for the interview.
“When they went back to Colombia, they were denied because of their unlawful stay in the United States,” said Nicholas, who was able to return since he had applied for humanitarian parole, while his mother and sisters were allowed reentry since Nicholas’s grandmother was severely ill.
Other Queens immigrants shared similar stories. Corona’s Octavio Cuba said that his family had been victims of immigration fraud and malpractice after they had relocated to the borough from El Salvador while seeking asylum and been counseled by an attorney with a suspended license. And Yemeni immigrant Ali El Saidi said that he continues to wait for visa approvals for his wife and four children after having been given “misguided counsel.”
“The times call for strength and resilience in the face of threats of deportation and other inhuman acts,” said Mazeda Uddin, a Bangladeshi immigration advocate for Jamaica’s SAFEST.