Know Your Rights: Training Elders on their Immigration Rights

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A Know Your Rights poster from IDP (Immigrant Defense Project) that we used in our trainings

What do you when officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) come to your home? If you are stopped in the street by police and asked for your immigration status? What are your rights as an immigrant in these perilous times? These and other questions were part of a series of KYR (Know Your Rights) trainings that India Home conducted with our elders, almost all of whom are immigrants to the country. Most of our seniors are citizens, or, having immigrated here on family quotas, hold green cards.

However, after the change in federal administration, they have heard rumors about ICE raids and have questions about immigration status. There is much rumor and conjecture and fear. India Home staff have in the past few months undergone KYR Immigration Information Training and were prepared to pass on the knowledge. We also brought in Cyrus Mehta, a well known lawyer, and Professor Alina Das from NYU Law School on different occasions  to inform and reassure our elders of their rights as immigrants.

The message we wanted to get across was simple enough: 1. Everyone has rights under the constitution of the United States and it’s important . 2. You have the right to remain silent 3. You have the right to an attorney and to see a warrant and so on.

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Cyrus Mehta, an immigration lawyer, speaks to our elders at the Desi Senior Center about their immigration rights

At Sunnyside Community Center, India Home staff who had training, chose to create a skit of sorts where some volunteers enacted an ICE Raid. Some were ICE officers and some were immigrants and when “officers” asked the “residents” to open up, they practiced saying things like “I choose to remain silent,” and “I would like to talk to my attorney.”

Cyrus Mehta, an immigration lawyer distributed flyers at the Desi Senior Center emphasized his message that all people in the United States, even the undocumented have rights and patiently answered the many questions from our seniors.

Alina Das is an Associate Professor of Clinical Law at NYU School of Law, where she co-teaches and co-directs the Immigrant Rights Clinic. She and her clinic students represent immigrants and community organizations in litigation and advocacy to advance immigrant rights locally and across the country. Professor Das visited our Desi Senior Center in February, and her students demonstrated an ICE raid and the correct responses in such situations.

At our Richmond Hill location, we invited the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) to come in and discuss rights for immigrant New Yorkers and reassure everything that the city is committed to being a sanctuary city for all. MOIA representatives further stressed the need for IDNYC and how beneficial it is for immigrants.

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Prof. Alina Das and her clinic students came to Desi Senior Center to talk to elders about their rights as immigrants

To evaluate the learning, India Home staff asked the elders to repeat, a few days later, what had been taught. They repeated the main points of the teaching. A lesson well learned, perhaps, and an useful one at that!

 

 

Trip to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum!

On August 18th, members from our Desi Senior Center took a trip to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in midtown Manhattan. Departing from the Jamaica Muslim Center at 11 a.m, the two buses made it to the museum at 12:30pm. During the trip, our seniors had lots of fun singing songs and telling jokes.

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At the museum, they were thrilled by the wax statues of famous people. Wax statues at the museum are difficult and expensive to make, our members learned. They were especially happy to see Bill and Hillary Clinton.

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After hanging out on 42nd Street and seeing all the tourists and bright lights of the theater district, we took them to Brooklyn to show them around this borough. They went to downtown Brooklyn – and were impressed by its skyline- and Prospect Park.

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We love taking our seniors around the city and state so they get exposed to American life and culture. Often, our seniors cannot go on their own. These trips are very important for our seniors to see different places and learn more about the United States.