NEW YORK — More than 30 immigrants and immigrant advocates demonstrated on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Wednesday to protest U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as she visited the Council on Foreign Relations. Napolitano was in New York to announce a new strategy to involve individuals in the fight against terrorism.
“By the end of this year, we hope he (President Obama) will have much more to show. He has to switch from talking to actions. Right now, statements are positives and actions are negative. There is a big gap,” said the director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), Chung-Wha Hong.
Specifically, advocates took issue with Napolitano’s expansion of the 287(g) program, which deputizes local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws, and the expansion of e-Verify, a data-base system to check the eligibility of people to work lawfully in the US.
Hong told FI2W,
“We hope she takes our criticism seriously and will talk to us about how to reverse course and stop that discredited and ineffectual enforcement tactic of the Bush years, and start taking steps towards comprehensive reform legislation — not more of the same, but change that is needed for America’s workers, businesses, and families.”
Hong said Napolitano’s office has not responded to a request for a meeting with immigrant advocates.
“So far, ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has not made any substantial changes,” said Daniel Cuates, community organizer for Make the Road New York, one of the groups that participated in the protest. “We are here to tell Napolitano that we need reforms that don’t tear families apart and don’t criminalize people who are not criminals.”
Demonstration organizers also noted a growing sense of betrayal among immigrants who supported President Obama in last year’s election.
“Last November, we voted for real change, but all we are seeing is more of the same when it comes to immigration enforcement policies. Our communities are suffering tremendously,” Sandy Placido, a community organizer with the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrants Rights, said in a press release.
“We want to remind the President that we voted for him. We come here to work. Our work helps the economy and we deserve a path to legalization,” said Saúl Sánchez, a resident of Queens who is a member of Make the Road New York.
The press conference was mainly attended by community media and foreign press including EFE, a Spanish-language news service that serves Hispanic media in the U.S., Latin America and Spain.