In the face of President Trump’s promised raids against undocumented immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), activists and elected officials banded together in Queens on Sunday to call for the abolition of the agency.
A diverse crowd of hundreds of marchers also handed out know-your-rights flyers to local residents as they marched up Roosevelt Avenue from Jackson Heights to Corona.
Despite the fear and uncertainty unleashed by Trump’s threats, the march celebrated the diverse and vibrant Queens community and vowed to protect it. Cars honked their support, street vendors and passersby raised their fists and whistled. As the 7 train rumbled overhead, it was clear this community was unwilling to hand over its undocumented neighbors.
“Se ama y se defiende,” they cried, it is loved and it is defended.
While organizers and elected officials called for the abolition of ICE, ideas differed as to what an ideal immigration system could look like.
“The abolition of ICE means just that — tearing it apart, replacing it with something much more humane like we had before, the Immigration and Naturalization Service,” said Ingrid Gomez, one of the march’s organizers. “We need to have a more humane immigration system and not one in which we turn away people who are escaping violence and poverty and cage them.”
But some organizers went even farther, calling for the abolition of borders themselves.
“It’s insane to say that people don’t have the right to escape the violence that we created [in their countries],” said Jonathan Bailey of the Queens branch of the Democratic Socialists of America told The Indypendent. “We want freedom of movement for people. It’s absolutely immoral for us to insist otherwise.”
Sunday’s march also focused on the importance of keeping ICE out of New York courthouses, where its officers have been known to prowl the halls for undocumented immigrants who have business with the courts. Tiffany Cabán, currently locked in an ongoing recount battle in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney, cited the “incredible chilling effect” ICE’s presence has had on communities.
“When people are survivors or victims of a crime, they can’t go get help. When people are trying to get to their court dates, they are afraid to do so because of the risk of ICE,” Cabán said.
Legislative methods of protection are developing in Albany. State Sen. Jessica Ramos, whose district includes many of the most vulnerable immigrant communities, cited the important steps state government has already taken: passing the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students to receive college aid and scholarships, and the Green Light Bill, which extended the ability to obtain a driver’s license to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Still, according to Ramos, more work remains.
“We also need to keep ICE out of our courts, that’s the biggest problem we have right now,” she told The Indy, noting Protect Our Courts Act that would limit cooperation between courtrooms and ICE, will come before the senate when it goes into session in January.
After marching for a mile, the crowd gathered at Corona Plaza for a know-your-rights training. The mood was tense, as people of mixed immigration status huddled together in a semicircle. According to Ramos, this is the nature of true resistance.
“Before we talk about resistance, I think it’s important to talk about how we are telling undocumented immigrants to take care of themselves,” Ramos said. “Resistance-building means protecting our neighbors because we want to keep the fabric of our communities alive.”