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Politics and Popcorn

Karen Yi Jun 14, 2009

Gearing up for his final deportation hearing, Jamaican immigrant Roxroy Salmon together with Families for Freedom sponsored an event on May 5, to talk about immigration politics — with a mouthful of popcorn.

Families for Freedom, a New York City based organization fighting against the deportation and subsequent separation of families, hosted the event “Politics and Popcorn” at First Presbyterian Church to educate the community about the immigration system and tell the story of one immigrant facing deportation and separation from his American born children.

Having been in the U.S. for more than 30 years, Roxroy Salmon risks being sent back to Jamaica for minor drug convictions from 20 years ago. Under the 1996 immigration laws, minor crimes, including drug offenses, are an automatic reason to deport immigrants — illegal and legal — and curtail the immigration judges’ discretion to take other factors, such as family ties, into account.

Supporters of Salmon have been on a rolling fast since March, where one person fasts every day in solidarity with his struggle. “It’s to help us have a sense of what sort of loss we’re talking about, what is the extremity of the system we’re talking about. In the end of the day it’s to help us show the system that there are a hell of a lot of people in this community that want him to stay here,” said Janis Rosheuvel, director of Families for Freedom.

Salmon has been actively fighting his deportation order since 2006 in order to stay with his three American citizen children in Brooklyn. “I’m no terrorist, I’m a member of this community. I live in the neighborhood, I’m the next-door neighbor, I’m the person that sit beside you on the train, that walk down the block and say ‘hi.’ I’m not no criminal or no terrorist, I love this country,” he said.

During the event, David Wilson author of The Politics of Immigration debunked some of the myths of the immigration system, attributing the problem to “the idea that people in this country have that immigrants are criminals.” Wilson said now is the time to reach out and re-educate people. “People are more open to new ideas than they’ve ever been…because they’ve been told things that aren’t true,” he said.

Part of the outreach by Families for Freedom is to rally support for the Child Citizen Protection Act. Introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in 2008, if passed, the bill would allow discretion for immigration judges when deciding deportation cases that involve the separation of families. As the system stands, “the judges hands are tied,” explains Rosheuvel.  “All the judge can look at is his status and his criminal convictions are. For someone who’s been here for over 30 years, should they not have a chance to have a judge actually judge? It’s a very clear and precise intervention that we’re asking for.”

The bill has so far garnered 16 co-sponsors and is in the House Judiciary Committee.

Edolphus Towns, U.S. Representative of the 10th District of New York was also honored for having been a leader in the fight for immigrant rights and a co-sponsor of the Child Citizen Protection Act. Samuel Pierre, a representative from Towns’ office said “65 percent of the cases that come out of the 10th congressional district deal with immigration, so we take this very seriously.”

“It’s not just about hosting an event; it’s about looking at the fate of an immigrant and 32-year Brooklyn resident from a political, legal, and personal standpoint,” said Rachel Soltis, coordinator of the New Sanctuary Coalition, an interfaith organization working with Salmon’s case.

Salmon’s final deportation hearing is scheduled for July 7. “While I am fighting, I am going to campaign on others’ behalf because what is going on in our communities is uncivilized, it’s oppression,” said Salmon. “We have to put a stop to it now.”

Families for Freedom will host a children’s vigil at Union Square on June 20 at 11 a.m. to urge support for the Child Citizen Protection Act.

For more information on Salmon’s case visit: www.familiesforfreedom.org.

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