BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
After President Barack Obama announced expanded deportation relief last Thursday, some Queens residents breathed a sigh of relief, while others still hold their breath.
DRUM South Asian Organizing Center, as well as ally activists and organizations, gathered at Jackson Heights’ Diversity Plaza on Friday to celebrate the executive order that creates temporary deportation relief for about five million eligible undocumented immigrants, but also to demand further action.
They argued that Obama’s executive order will bring stability and safety to millions of immigrant families, but even more still need to be reached.
“This is a huge victory for our communities,” DRUM acting executive director Fahd Ahmed said. “At the same time, there are many other people … who continue to face risks of detentions, of deportations, of working substandard jobs.”
Among several reform efforts included in the executive order are the expansion of deportation relief and reprioritization of deportation targets. Roughly, undocumented residents who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years, as well as the undocumented parents of citizens or legal residents, can apply for temporary reprieve from deportation contingent on passing a criminal background check and paying taxes.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation, has also been expanded as a part of the new program.
DRUM youth member Nushin Tarannum cheered the executive order for the relief it might bring to her father, an undocumented immigrant from Bangladesh.
“My dad might benefit and will no longer have the fear of being deported. I am very happy for this because our work paid off. But I am also worried about the other people who aren’t going to be benefited,” Tarannum said in a statement.
“We want something that will benefit all the undocumented immigrants and their families so they can come out of the shadows,” she added.
DRUM leader Amana Begum spoke about the stress and frustration her family has experienced as a result of her husband’s undocumented status. She said that he has not visited his home country of Bangaldesh in two decades, even for his father’s funeral.
“I also have not visited my country for the past 11 years for fear that I would lose my husband through deportations,” she continued. “This fear is not just my own, but it is the same fear that 11 million undocumented people and families have in the United States.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) came to speak about application of the policy in Jackson Heights, but not before receiving some tearful hugs from members of the crowd, reflecting much of the emotion that has rippled through the City’s immigrant community since Obama’s announcement.
While noting like the other speakers that he believes the policy is too narrow, Dromm said, “five million people will be helped by this, and that’s something that I think we have a right to celebrate.”
Dromm went on to say that he has local concerns regarding the follow up to Obama’s announcement.
Because all the details of the immigration program have yet to be delineated, the Councilman warned against using lawyers who offer apparently cheap legal services that could cost thousands in the long term. Dromm’s office has already received calls from constituents regarding this type of fraud, he said.
Applications for deportation relief are expected to open in the spring of 2015. DRUM will hold a free information session about the executive action Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at their office, 72-18 Roosevelt Ave., and another Dec. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m at the same location.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.