“Muslim children have been telling their parents to lie about being Muslim, for fear of reprisals.” Hamra Ahmad, Hudson Valley Justice Center
By Dawn Evans Greenberg
The executive order issued Friday effectively blocked travel by citizens of seven countries for 90 days as well as created anxiety and fear for immigrant members of local communities.
Many are outraged and determined to speak out.
One such individual is Hamra Ahmad, a resident of New Castle since 2008 (“just after Obama was elected”) and Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Justice Center* (HVJC) which provides free civil legal services to immigrants “so that they may achieve economic and social justice,” she explained.
Ahmad has practiced immigration law for over 16 years and previously helped victims of domestic violence and human trafficking at My Sisters’ Place, Inc., also here in Westchester.
Ahmad is also a mother of two daughters in Chappaqua and relayed her appreciation to the town. “We love our community and I am grateful to be raising two Muslim daughters of immigrants in a warm, welcoming place!”
She expressed her concerns about the actual policies being implemented by the Trump administration, including his executive order for a travel ban, and outlined the effects they are having on our immigrant community.
- “The climate of fear is both forcing undocumented immigrants into the shadows as well as creating an immediate need for services for thousands of immigrants and their families.”
- “Both immigrant children and U.S. born children of immigrants have been saying goodbye to their friends, afraid their families will be deported. Muslim children have been telling their parents to lie about being Muslim, for fear of reprisals.”
- “Even naturalized U.S. Citizen clients are afraid to travel for fear they will not be allowed to return. I advised my own mother, who wears the hijab, to always carry her U.S. passport when she travels, even on domestic flights.”
- “Immigrant victims of crime, domestic violence, and human trafficking who may be fearful of reporting the crimes and abuse committed against them for fear of deportation, exposure, or retaliation. “
“We are seeing an increase in calls for direct legal services as well as more requests for “know your rights” presentations to community groups,” she concluded. “Immigrants are often vulnerable to exploitation by people promising relief they cannot deliver, at a cost of thousands of dollars.”
When asked how Westchester residents can best support our immigrant community, both short and long term, Ahmad offered: “It is important that immigrants and other vulnerable communities feel safe and welcome. Get to know your immigrant neighbors. Ask them about their experiences. ‘Hate has no home here.’ is a wonderful message. Connect them with resources, like ours so that they have accurate, up to date information to make informed decisions. Volunteer with different organizations that work with immigrants. Nearly 25% of Westchester residents are foreign born.
For more information and/or to assist with the Center’s efforts, visit www.hvjc.org. You can also ‘like’ them on Facebook and sign up for email alerts.
Chappaqua’s Dawn Greenberg is a founding member of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival and Chappaqua Cares. She is proud of the new group Up2Us , born from Chappaqua Friends of Hillary. With over 3100 members, Up2Us will fight on behalf of populations targeted by the new administration as well as oppose policies which threaten to endanger freedom and equality for all. Visit Up2Us.us.
*In furtherance of its mission to aid immigrants in achieving economic and social justice,
The HVJC helps immigrants:
* Obtain legal status, allowing them to stay with their families;
* Naturalize to U.S. Citizenship to further engage in the civic process through voting in local, state, and national elections;
* Pursue higher education;
* Work legally, under safe working conditions and receive fair wages;
* Achieve safety from domestic violence; and
* Live in safe, habitable homes, and defend against unlawful evictions.
HVJC also provides education and outreach to the immigrant community on their rights with regards to immigration, housing and employment issues.