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Op-Ed: Don’t let hate and fear turn New Yorkers against each other

Aminta Kilawan-Narine (left) and Annetta Seecharran (right)

BY AMINTA KILAWAN-NARINE AND ANNETTA SEECHARAN

Earlier this month, Maria Fuertes, a beloved anchor in our Richmond Hill community known for her pleasant and kindhearted nature, was murdered. We mourn with her family and many neighbors. As women, we are gutted by this horrific crime that ended her life with such brutality.

While we must continue seeking hope and work towards a world free of violence, including sexual assault, we must also recognize how we as a community have failed and how the system has failed us. As Guyanese-Americans who have both dedicated decades to serving our community of nearly 140,000 Guyana-born New York City residents, we acknowledge that we need to do more to ensure the necessary supports for our neighbors to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. 

But in this time of our community’s mourning, we are sickened that our federal government is feeding on our grief to drive its anti-immigrant agenda. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has blatantly politicized the killer’s background as an undocumented immigrant to marginalize our community and dehumanize all immigrants.

Our community members are reaching out to one another to seek healing. And yet, our nation’s leadership chooses to use this as an opportunity to foster racialized fear and stoke anger while asserting that they know what keeps our communities safe. 

We are troubled by the Trump Administration’s blatant attempt to pit community members against one another based on immigration status and to take aim at New York City’s policies. Since ICE’s statements about the Fuertes tragedy, lawmakers in Arizona and Oklahoma have introduced legislation that would prohibit municipalities from adopting sanctuary policies. This is deeply concerning.

It’s clear that President Trump’s reckless deportation machine is determined to disseminate our community and our families. 

We stand by New York City’s strong local laws that ensure confidentiality and due process, build community trust, and keep our families and communities safe. 

As New Yorkers, we all have immigrant stories. We cannot let the federal government’s exploitation of this tragedy question our commitment to our values. We will not let fear and hate divide us.

Aminta Kilawan-Narine is a legislative attorney, community organizer in Queens, New York, and a co-founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus.

Annetta Seecharran is the Executive Director of Chhaya CDC, the former Executive Director South Asian Youth Action, and a long-serving board member of the New York Immigration Coalition.

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