Thriving communities built on the backs of immigrants, and with their blood, sweat and tears, have become ghost towns, retreating in fear and panic as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service (ICE) launched macabre raids, presumably to rid the USA of “these terrible people,” although America itself is a “nation of immigrants.”
It is as draconian, as it is un-American, and will only divide the nation further. It is evil. Some people conveniently ignore our history that we are a great nation because of immigration, to score cheap political mileage. Some even feign amnesia that their closest families are immigrants themselves. What hypocrisy!
In these communities, which receive little city, state and/or federal funding, immigrants are treated like orphans and step children. They deserve better! Yes, immigrants have paid their dues in political, economic and historical ways, but continue to be exploited, marginalized and ignored. Most politicians see their communities as milking cows for campaign cash, and then slither away when issues confront these communities. They cannot be found. So when you see these so-called leaders, ask them, “What have you done for me lately? Where were you when ICE struck?”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. advised, “We have to demand our check!” This great civil rights leader meant that immigrant communities, like everyone else, have to demand what the USA has promised. Their check is good, and their track record is irrefutable. In 2008, the Richmond Hill- Ozone Park community made the gut wrenching sacrifice to help Democrats re-capture the NY State Senate since 1965, a watershed moment in our political history, when I assisted State senator Joe Addabbo defeat Serf Maltese after 20 years in office. “The road to the Senate majority passed through Baldeo’s people in Richmond Hill, Democratic leaders gleefully gloated then.” Where are they now?
Immigrants have developed flourishing communities from decaying neighborhoods to the thriving economic engines that now contribute massively to the national and local economies.
So where are these people when we need their help and their voice? Sadly, they are missing in action. The holy scriptures caution us that ingratitude is a major sin. We therefore demand that all of our elected officials, from Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio to our Senate and Congressional Representatives, State Senators, Assembly members, City Council members and others, Community Boards, NGOs, political, religious, cultural, social and economic organizations-indeed everyone, come out and denounce this barbaric initiative to make immigrants the whipping boys of American politics.
You know who you are. You need to say in unison loudly to ICE that NYC is a sanctuary city, and that you condemn and demand an immediate halt to the despotic and mean measures that have disrupted the local economies, businesses, fellow Americans and visitors-indeed, everyone, living and working in this nation that belongs to so many.
(Albert Baldeo is a civil rights activist and community advocate. As the President of the Baldeo Foundation and Liberty Justice Center, he has continued the fight for justice, equal rights, dignity and inclusion for all. He can be contacted at the Baldeo Foundation: [email protected] or (718) 529-2300.)