Protesters gather in Flushing in support of immigrants (Times Ledger)
By Gina Martinez
At least 200 people gathered in Flushing Monday afternoon to demand that Congress act on DACA, the Obama-era program that protected nearly 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The event was organized by Minkwon Center for Community Action, Asian American Dreamers Collective and the New York Immigration Coalition along with 30 other organizational sponsors. Protesters gathered on the corner of 39th Avenue and 138th Street before marching. Their goal was to put pressure on Congress to finally act on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that provides work permits and other protections for Dreamers who came into the country as children and have no criminal record. The hundreds of protesters condemned President Donald Trump and his administration for their anti-immigrant stance.
Things were set in motion in September when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his plans to phase out DACA and end the program by March 5. Congress still has not passed legislation to protect DACA recipients. A recent study showed that at least 80 percent of Americans support the program.
The Minkwon Center, a non-profit Korean-American advocacy group based in Flushing, accused the White House of attempting to hold DACA recipients hostage and “proposing extremist immigration policies, such as the end of family reunification visas and billions of dollars to fund a southern border wall. Without action from Congress, hundreds of DACA recipients are at risk of being deported each day.”
Minkwon said sponsors chose to hold the rally in Flushing because it is one of the country’s most vibrant immigrant communities. John Park, co-director at Minkwon, said Congress must act to protect young immigrants and the country must resist Trump’s calls to cut back on Temporary Protected Status.
“We refuse to sit silently as the Trump administration vilifies our communities and uses DACA recipients as pawns for their xenophobic policy goals.” Park said.
One group at the rally included 30 students, young and old, of Korea Taekwondo, a martial arts studio located at 130-30 31st Ave. The group stood out in red shirts that read “We’re here to stay.”
Regina Im, executive director of Korea Taekwondo, said it was a privilege for her and her students to participate in the day’s events. Im said she believes they will feel forever proud that they were part of such a momentous turning point in American and human history.
“My students — some from immigrant families, some not — are proud to be American, and see their friends and schoolmates who are Dreamers to be as American as they are,” she said “When I told them of today’s rally and march, many expressed the wish to add their voices to the pleas of fellow children.”
After marching down three blocks community leaders addressed the protesters and denounced Trump.
Pastor Brian Ellis, interim executive director of Faith in New York, a faith-based community organization, said that the White House’s anti-immigrant policies are acts of self-preservation rooted in fear.
“The fight is far from over,” Ellis told the crowd. “Our immigrant families and neighbors are under attack by a government that is laying the foundation for mass deportations. May the source of all life transform this moment that moves us closer to giving life to dreams of freedom and justice.”