Members of the Upper Manhattan community came together on Thursday to hand out flyers in English and Spanish at the corner of 136th Street and Broadway to spread the word about the March for Immigrants’ Rights to be held in the neighborhood in two weeks.
The image on the leaflet was a picture of women from different cultures and ethnicities with their fists raised as a sign of resistance. The logo was designed by 27-year-old Mechi Estévez-Cruz, who was living in Cabarete in the Dominican Republic when Donald Trump was elected president.
“I did not feel very good sitting there on the beach enjoying life when so many people were here suffering,” said Estévez-Cruz, who returned to Washington Heights – the neighborhood where she grew up – a few weeks after the election.
She is now one of the organizers of the demonstration scheduled for Sunday, April 23, which will begin at 145th Street and march down St. Nicholas Avenue. The objective is to bring residents of Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights together to show their opposition to the policies that have affected immigrants for decades, which are now amplified by the way the new administration at the White House is criminalizing people of color.
“The first thing we need to do is stop deportations – halt the existing deportations quota – and also make sure that there is no more collaboration between the local police and ICE,” said Ángela Fernández, executive director and supervising attorney with the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR), an organization that helps individuals navigate the immigration system.
The Detention Bed Quota mandate is a federal law that requires detention centers to have 34,000 immigrants sleeping there every night.
“We cannot wait until ICE knocks on our neighbor’s door to say no to this profoundly anti-immigrant and profoundly inhumane policy,” said Luis Rodríguez, known in the community as Radhamés. The Dominican-born activist, who is involved with a number of community groups and has lived in New York City for 35 years, said he is worried about the emotional and economic effect of deportations in the neighborhood.
The protest is being organized by a coalition of groups such as NMCIR which have served the community for years. They have been joined by new neighbor-led and community movements created after Trump was elected.
One of the latter is Rise Uptown, a movement founded after the election by a Dominican mother, according to Mexican-American Alyssa Gutiérrez. “We have been resisting since then,” said the math teacher and mother.
Many of the people who helped distribute leaflets on Thursday are U.S. citizens, but they spoke about the fear expressed by their neighbors, friends and immigrant relatives who are either undocumented or non-permanent residents.
“I am definitely scared now. Not just for myself, but for other people in the same situation. What will happen with DACA?” said Alison Brady, who is a DACA recipient.
Community in fear
Residents of the area confirmed the dread felt by the community. “People are very nervous because they don’t know when their family will be split, something especially distressing for Latinos, as we are very tight-knit,” said Víctor Solís, 77.
The Dominican father, who has lived in New York for the last 48 years, has legal status but said that he was undocumented at some point. Upon receiving the flyer, he said that he will attend the demonstration. “Not participating would be to deny myself,” he said.
By the same token, fruit vendor Rogelio Pérez said that “now with Trump there are people who are very afraid, many people who don’t want to go out on the street.” The 37-year-old Mexico native said that he would like to be at the march to support Hispanics and to combat the existing negative perceptions.
“Many Hispanics earn an honest living,” he added.
The March for Immigrants’ Rights aims to be a preamble for the nationwide protest to be held on May 1.