During “Know Your Rights Week” from June 25 to 29, legal services groups are opening their doors to immigrants facing an array of issues, from deportation proceedings to naturalization.
The legal clinics and information sessions will take place in five different neighborhoods in Queens, culminating with a large immigration resource fair at Queens Center.
“Queens is once again leading the way when it comes to immigration rights,” said Borough President Melinda Katz, whose immigration task force organized the week. “This is what we are made of, this is what we do.”
Noting the anti-immigrant policies coming out of Washington, Katz said the borough has seen immigration officials show up at local schools and courts. Katz said officials and organizations should use their resources to protect immigrants.
“Queens has your back,” she said. “We’re going from neighborhood to neighborhood for one week so that servicers can come to you, you don’t have to come to the services.”
The week starts on Monday, June 25, when the Legal Aid Society will host screenings and legal advice on removal proceedings at the Jackson Heights Library. Attorneys will be available from 6 to 8 p.m.
Leena Khandwala, supervising attorney for the Immigration Law Unit at Legal Aid, asked attendees to bring as many immigration documents as possible for a comprehensive screening. She said given that ICE enforcement is at “an all-time high,” it’s important for immigrants to have safe and reliable multilingual services.
“Even people who may have legitimate claims for relief in an immigration matter are afraid of coming forward,” Khandwala said, “and often get caught up with unscrupulous attorneys and providers and notarios.”
On Tuesday, June 26, Queens Legal Services will host a naturalization clinic from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 89-00 Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica. Interpretation services will also be available in Spanish and Korean.
Nadia Gareeb, executive director of the organization, is a first-generation Muslim and Pakistani immigrant. She said many people in the immigrant community face language barriers, poverty, lack of access to resources, or even abuse at home or in the workplace, which is why it’s important to have these clinics.
“The changing and shifting nature of the laws right now make clients feel like they are under siege,” she said. “They feel unsafe.”
On Wednesday, June 27, the MinKwon Center for Community Action will host a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clinic from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 136-19 41st Avenue in Flushing. DACA is an Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
But President Donald Trump ended the program in March and called for a legislative fix. The program is currently caught up in a legal dispute.
John Park, executive director of the MinKwon Center, said the Flushing-based group has processed 7 percent of all Korean applications for DACA in the entire country. He said of the 1.2 million Asian Americans in New York City, 78 percent are foreign-born, many of whom are undocumented.
“The immigration issue is not a border issue, it’s not a Latino issue,” Park said. “It affects immigrants all across the country, including Asian-Americans.”
Catholic Migration Services, based in Sunnyside, will host one-on-one consultations for those in removal proceedings or seeking asylum on Friday, June 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Their office is at 47-01 Queens Boulevard.
David Colodny, director of legal services for the organization, said their lawyers will provide assistance not just on immigration, but also housing and other legal matters.
The week will culminate on Thursday, June 28, with the immigration resource fair in Macy’s wing of Queens Center Mall. Immigrants will have access to legal clinics on housing and employment.
Katz noted that all services are confidential and protected under attorney-client privilege.
“We want folks to know their rights,” Colodny said, “and not be taken advantage of by notarios or unscrupulous providers.”