It’s a bodega without borders.
A Fort Greene deli owner who immigrated to Brooklyn from the Middle East as a toddler turned his storefront into a passionate rebuke of President Donald Trump’s contentious immigration policy that ripped thousands of youngsters from their parents as the migrant families arrived at the country’s southern border.
Entrepreneur Ralph Jawad said he hung signs declaring “Holding kids hostage is an act of terrorism” outside and in the windows of his Lafayette Avenue bodega Ralph’s Deli last week, denouncing the policy he blasted as cruel for tearing apart families that illegally crossed the border — sending the kids and adults to separate detention facilities — even after the Commander-in-Chief signed an executive order on Wednesday that permitted kin to be detained together.
“It’s inhumane,” Jawad said. “People should be speaking up more, but they are scared.”
Jawad arrived in Kings County with his mother, father, and siblings nearly 50 years ago after immigrating from an area in the Middle East he said was then considered part of Jordan, and with his dad opened the deli at the corner of S. Portland Avenue sometime after, he said.
The 54-year-old entrepreneur received his citizenship as a child, he said. And he believes those immigrant children now facing uncertain futures after being taken at the border from their parents — some of whom came seeking asylum for their families — deserve the same opportunities he received back then.
“Everybody needs a chance in life,” Jawad said.
The critical signs decorating his store already sparked a lot of reactions, but all have been positive, according to Jawad, who said neighbors including borough son and filmmaker Spike Lee, whose production company’s offices are just blocks away, quickly took to social media to share photos of the banners after spotting them.
“Customers love it, and people are Instagramming it,” he said. “They’re thanking us for putting it up.”
Jawad said the recent events made him ashamed of the country he calls home — where he had his own tussle with the criminal-justice system after cops busted him for pot and weapon possession in 2012 — because they contradict certain unalienable rights it was founded upon.
“It’s so sad,” he said. “Freedom and justice for all, are you serious?”
And he isn’t the first local entrepreneur to get political — last year, a contingent of business owners on nearby Myrtle Avenue pacified that corridor by placing signs that read “Hate Has No Business Here” in their shops’ windows.
©2018 Community News Group
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