Dear Friends and Supporters,
We have been as busy as ever in these summer weeks, adapting with our immigrant friends to the changing challenges they face.
At the base of these challenges is the failure of the federal government over many years to reform US immigration policy and live up to the standards of international human rights law that our government is obligated to enforce. But this year, the challenges have grown beyond anything we expected when UIDN began.
These Challenges Won’t Just Go Away
We are now deep in August, seven months since COVID 19 made its first appearance in the US. As both epidemiologists and economists warned, the pandemic and the crumbling economy that followed it did not – and will not – just “go away.” For New Yorkers, including the immigrant families among us, the COVID 19 virus has been brought under tentative control after strenuous efforts of officials and the general public.
With cautious re-opening, some jobs have come back and workers outside their homes are less likely to become ill. But the virus has spread dramatically into less cautious states in the South and Midwest. The overall economy is still reeling, especially for small businesses. Public schools everywhere are unsure whether classes can be held safely in person or effectively on-line. And the winter flu season is not far away, when a new wave of pandemic might come with it.
We have all been disrupted by the crisis, most especially those who became ill, or lost loved ones or a livelihood. As we noted last month the incidence of illness and mortality is 4 to 5 times higher for people of color. Their greater vulnerability is tied to more pre-existing health conditions, more residential crowding and more work-place exposure to infection.
So that is the context for our current efforts at immigrant defense. At right and on the following pages are descriptions of what we’ve been doing.
ICE Check-ins, Court Hearings Still on Hold
A nerve-wracking feature of UIDN’s early work was ensuring that local immigrants made it to scheduled check-in appointments with ICE or to hearings in federal immigration courts in New York City. We provided round-trip rides for 20 to 30 people each month – sometimes as many as 60. With COVID 19 the government shut down these events in March and has periodically scheduled resumptions, only to delay them further. The current resumption date is August 28. As coordinator Sara Henderson declares, “When they start up again, we’ll start up again!” Meanwhile we continue, about 5 times each month, to help people with medical emergencies travel to regional health centers.