Immigrants Protest Napolitano as She Asks the Public to Join Fight Against Terrorism

Advocates are getting frustrated with Obamas immigration policies. (Photo: New York Immigration Coalition)

Advocates are getting frustrated with Obama’s immigration policies. (Photo: New York Immigration Coalition — Click to see more photos.)

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.

The demonstration, which ended with a press conference, is one of the most visible signs to date of immigrant advocates’ growing frustration over the Obama administration’s immigration policies.

“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.

Dont put our communities in ICE, Saúls sign says - Photo: Maibe Gonzalez Fuentes

“Don’t put our communities in ICE,” Saúl’s sign says – Photo: Maibe Gonzalez Fuentes

“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.

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AboutMaibe Ponet
Maibe Ponet is a Venezuelan-American journalist. She is currently the Opinion Page Editor for El Diario La Prensa, the oldest Spanish-language daily in the United States. She has worked as a reporter for leading Venezuelan national publications and was a staff writer for the Spanish language newspaper Hoy, where she covered local politics and NYC City Hall from 2002 to 2005. Following her departure from Hoy, she served as a press person for candidates, elected officials and city agencies, including the 2005 Democratic mayoral nominee Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Education. Maibe is a former Independent Press Association Ethnic Journalism Fellow. She holds a BA in Journalism from the Central University of Venezuela, and a master's degree in Urban Policy and Management from The New School University.