Queens-based immigrant group launches political platform for 2020 elections

Theo Oshiro speaks at the Make The Road rally in Queens. (Twitter/MaketheRoadNY)

A coalition for immigrant rights in Queens unveiled a campaign on Tuesday aimed at supporting state lawmakers next year who will work to protect foreign-born residents and help them achieve success.

Make The Road New York launched its “Respect and Dignity” platform, which calls on the state to pass legislation that fully removes ICE from courthouses, requires good cause for evictions, ends discriminatory school discipline practices, decriminalizes sex work, restores worker protections, and taxes the rich in order to fund vital health, education, and housing services.

One mother in attendance for the launch, Patricia Rivera, spoke about how her landlord in East Elmhurst raised her rent $1,000 while she was pregnant and refused to negotiate to allow her to stay in the apartment until after having the child.

“He kept bringing up any little excuse to try to get us out of the apartment before that,” Rivera said through a translator, noting that she felt powerless to protect her rights as a tenant.

Since moving out, she now shares a crowded space with friends, family, and her three daughters — but is also facing constant rent increases, Rivera explained.

“Even now, the rent was pushed up $150 a month ago,” she said.

Rivera charged that having a “good cause” law for property evictions would help her and other residents stand up to any landlord who tries to push them out of their homes.

Kathy Garcia, a transgender resident of Queens, also called for greater protection for the trans community.

“We should be able to express ourselves and walk in our neighborhoods without being targeted simply because we are trans,” she said in a statement following the rally.

Make The Road New York Deputy Director Theo Oshiro said many immigrant communities live in fear of being captured by ICE officials, who have increased their presence at local courthouses. 

The “Respect and Dignity” platform, Oshiro explained, would empower community members and catalyze lawmakers into advancing these desired reforms into state law next year.

“Strength in numbers,” he said, specifically noting that the communities that Make The Road New York allies with have the leverage to compel local politicians into acting on behalf of New York’s immigrant population.

One of the coalition’s largest victories for immigration rights this year was the state passing laws to allow drivers licenses to undocumented people, Oshiro explained, saying “2019 was a successful year.”

“We still have a lot of work to do, we have to keep pushing,” he said.