AND SPEAKING OF “AFTER SCHOOL”…
When Chambers School closed down in March, our After School volunteers decided to divide the crafts materials, books and games in our storage cabinet into gift packs for the 27 children in the program. Every other week in May and June, volunteers have driven to the homes of the children, ages 5 to 9, and each time gave them a bag with educational activities, arts projects, books and snacks. The meetings were brief but delightful for all: Some kids took their new books and immediately sat down to read them to younger children. If school reopens in the Fall, we will be glad to get back to Chambers on Wednesday afternoons.
BUT WHAT IF SCHOOL DOESN’T OPEN?
All NY school districts are making plans, but the planners know that the coronavirus gets a vote. Re-opening public schools would be a big step toward normalization everywhere, if it’s safe. For children who are English language learners, the lack of an in-person classroom setting is a major educational setback.
For working parents in low-income households, open schools give an opportunity to seek employment while the children are at school. We don’t have a ready solution to the need for educational or child care options. As school districts take steps to combine reopening with safety for children and staff, we will be looking for ways to support their efforts and the special needs of children from immigrant families.
ICE IN JULY AND AUGUST
The notorious ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) did not close down this Spring, along with the economy. ICE has continued to incarcerate asylum seekers, keep small children separated from their parents, and move arbitrarily detained individuals from location to crowded location, leading to multiple Covid hotspots, according to evidence reviewed by the New York Times. But administrative immigration courts did shut down, which left ICE fewer opportunities to harass our friends pursuing asylum as they had a respite from court hearings and “check-ins.”
As the economy and government reopen, ready or not, ICE will be prowling more actively to deport our friends. Federal administrative courts will resume hearing applications for asylum and applicants will be required to “check-in” with ICE between hearings. That means many Ulster County residents seeking asylum status will need to make periodic trips to NYC. UIDN will once again be ready to help them meet their appointments and avoid giving ICE any excuse for disrupting their lives or those of their families.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
We’ve helped start a sewing circle that is providing some income for immigrant participants making masks at home, and another potential project would make bicycles more available to families without cars.
It’s been an intense and disorienting season. All the trees and flowers bloomed. But so did the virus. And then the economy crashed. We stayed at home and missed our friends; and also went to work, protested, volunteered, and wore masks. At UIDN we saw critical needs and tried to fill them. And often our reach exceeded our grasp. Here is how two poets have captured, and responded to, such moments: