Life on the margins: Undocumented Sunset Parkers scrambling after Trump election

Life on the margins: Undocumented Sunset Parkers scrambling after Trump election
Getting prepared: Amy Pont and Elizabeth Rieser-Murphy from The Legal Aid Society armed undocumented Sunset Parkers with information on how to protect themselves under a Donald Trump administration at a meeting on Nov. 28.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Undocumented immigrants in Sunset Park are on edge in the wake of Donald Trump’s election — and his various promises to deport people without papers — and are scrambling keep their families together.

More than 100 people packed into the auditorium of IS 136 on Nov. 28 for a town hall meeting where undocumented immigrants could consult immigration attorneys before The Donald takes office in January. Trump made deporting immigrants a centerpiece of his campaign — he has not solidified his policies, but people should be ready for anything, a legal counselor said.

“We don’t have a lot of information on what this administration’s immigration policies are going to be, but we want everyone to be as best prepared as possible,” said Amy Pont, with The Legal Aide Society. “If you’re concerned about your status, it’s very important that you take this time to consult an immigration attorney. There are steps you can take.”

Some undocumented Sunset Parkers have already begun visiting immigration centers and are taking advantage of legal services offered through local pols’ offices. One undocumented couple came to the meeting after Councilman Carlos Mencahca’s (D–Sunset Park) office suggested her family attend for legal advice. It’s the first step in a harrowing legal process, she said.

“Where do we even start? My husband and I are undocumented but our kids were born here. What happens to them if something happens to us? That’s what we’re most worried about,” said Leticia, who declined to give her last name for fear of being deported. “We’re going to try and speak to a lawyer like they suggested. We need to at least know what we’re walking into.”

Others who brought their children illegally into America are mulling over whether to begin the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process — an immigration policy that grants protections for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors that Trump has pledged to end — but many are fearful doing so will just put them on the government’s radar.

“DACA seemed like a good option for my kids, but now I’m scared that applying will make us vulnerable,” said Juana, an undocumented immigrant who also declined to give her last name for fear of being deported. “It’s overwhelming. We just have to do what we can and hope for the best.”

Officials told parents schools are safe places in response to reports that school staffers were telling immigrant kids to “pack their bags,” but they did not discuss specifics or how the Department of Education is investigating.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspiv[email protected]nglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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