38th District City Council Race: Menchaca Stands Strong For Immigrants

In the midst of an increasingly competitive 38th District primary, City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) this week argued the importance of supporting immigrant communities, and called for city and statewide changes to protect those vulnerable to deportation.

Joining Menchaca at a rally for this cause on the steps of Sunset Park were representatives from organizations including Make the Road New York, Mixteca Organization, the Chinese American Planning Council, Churches United for Fair Housing, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, and Love Trumps Hate, as well as local residents and student volunteers.

“We are a sanctuary city not just because we’ve declared ourselves as such,” said Menchaca. “We’re a sanctuary city because we work every single day, every single night to fight for our rights and make laws and policies that protect the civil liberties of our New Yorkers.”

According to a 2013 Department of City Planning report, 6-in-10 New Yorkers are either immigrants or children of immigrants. The foreign-born population of the city reached a peak of 3 million in 2013.

City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca rallies with members of Make The Road New York.

Immigrant rights is especially important in the district as 47 percent of Sunset Park’s 130,635 residents are foreign-born, according to a 2015 NYC Community Health Profile. At the same time, while the President Trump administration pushes for more punitive immigration enforcement, so-called “sanctuary cities” like New York City are faced with the task of noncompliance.

The group called on the city to keep Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents at an arm’s length, codifying strong confidentiality provisions into law and expanding the role of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

“The city claims to be a sanctuary for immigrants, and we appreciate the efforts,” said Giovanni Matos, from Churches United for Fair Housing. “We appreciate the measures that are being taken to protect our families, but there’s more that needs to be done.”

Mary Cosme, the director of Immigration Services at Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, a nonprofit with locations throughout the city, spoke on the work and needs of the organization’s Office of New Americans. She said the office helps 600 people a year with naturalization applications, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications, and English courses.  

“We’re low-funded. We have wait lists of over 700 people, we have people not able to afford their DACA application because they’re unable to work,” said Cosme. “We need support, we need everyone to stand together.”

Laura, an undocumented mother-of-two from Ecuador and a volunteer from Our Lady of Perpetual Help, spoke to the crowd alongside her 11-year-old daughter. She also works with Love Trumps Hate, a local group that organizes dinners with undocumented families and connects immigrants with lawyers.

“I love to be in Sunset Park,” said Laura. “I’m undocumented, and I’m not afraid to speak out, because if we’re united we are strong.

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