By Tyler Daniels | February 20, 2015
By: Tyler Daniels
Originally Published: October 14, 2014
When hundreds of thousands of demonstrators clogged New York City’s streets last month chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, climate change has got to go,” their message was mostly a familiar one: world leaders need to act to save the planet.
Here and there in the crowds were some pockets of protestors with a less obvious chant. “Hey Obama, don’t deport my mamma!” they yelled.
That message came from immigrant community groups, using the huge rally to promote a lesser-known climate cause – the push for formal acknowledgement that environmental issues are a major factor in migration, and that those who flee to the U.S. from Mexico and other countries ravaged by the environment should not be penalized.
In the last 20 years, Mexico has seen an uncharacteristic drought robbing many rural farmers of their livelihoods. And a 2009 report by the United Nations University predicts that rain levels and runoff could continue to decrease in parts of Mexico by up to 70 percent over the next century.
Those climatic changes are a factor pushing migrants from Mexico into the U.S., according to a 2010 National Academy of Sciences study. There are “numerous reports and anecdotes of Mexican farmers fleeing to the United States because they no longer could maintain their previous way of life because of climate-driven crop failures,” the study said, adding that the issue “has not received sufficient attention in the immigration literature.”
Up to 7 million Mexicans are projected to emigrate to the United States over the next 65 years due to displacement from climate change, the study said.
The issue has drawn the attention of City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who represents the heavily Hispanic Sunset Park and Red Hook neighborhoods. “There are floods and droughts and hurricanes that are right now going through Mexico,” Menchaca said while on the march in last month’s climate change protest. “This is what the country is experiencing and so they’re coming up here. They’re coming north.”
While climate change may be just one factor pushing migration from Mexico, it’s an important one, said Marco Castillo from Ñina Migrante, a local migrant advocacy group that participated in the climate march. Migrants who come to the United States feel they have no choice, said Castillo, but once they arrive “we find ourselves criminalized here because of that decision.”
On the street at the march was a multitude of artwork that consisted of realistically shaped, two-dimensional wooden props in the shapes of corn, turtles and life-sized printouts of people.
The people represented on the signs: migrant farmers from around the world who have been displaced due to climate change.
The marchers also highlighted other causes of displacement: pollution, or land takeovers by large multi-national companies in Mexico.
“I think that a lot of the messaging fails to mention how migrant communities are being impacted. And we’re directly impacted,” said Sonia Guinansaca, from Culture Strike, a Latino migration organization that uses artwork in its advocacy for immigrant rights.
Fernanda Espinosa’s group, Ropavejeros – part of an immigrant worker art collective, manufactured a float mounted on four bicycles in the shape of a large tree trunk – with a bird’s nest atop and axes protruding along the sides.
While peddling in the back corner of the float during the parade, Espinosa said her group was “here today because we wanted to build something that portrayed our displacement from Latin America.”
Emigrating from Mexico or Central America does not guarantee an escape from pollution or climate change. “A lot of the people who have migrated in the US come to live in neighborhoods like the Bronx or east Harlem,” said Eliana Godoy, marching with Culture Strike, naming two neighborhoods where high asthma rates are often attributed to air pollution.
Councilman Menchaca noted that some of his immigrant constituents in Brooklyn’s Red Hook and Sunset Park neighborhoods, which are nearly a third Central American, suffered damage to their homes during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. “They’re talking to me from their experience – from the mold that’s in their homes, to the fact that some of these homes have yet to be re-constructed. This is a crisis.”
(Originally Published at: http://globalcitynyc.com/2014/10/14/groups-demand-migrant-rights-at-climate-march/)
By: Tyler Daniels
Originally Published: October 12, 2014
City lawmakers and local nonprofits are working together to hammer out the details of the city ID program, scheduled to roll out in January 2015.
The program particularly impacts the Latino population of New York, where the Mexican community is the third-largest immigrant group in the city and believed to have the largest undocumented population.
This card is “meant to be for people who otherwise have been unable to get other government-issued ID,” such as a driver’s license, said the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office on Immigrant Affairs, Nisha Agarwal. She hopes that undocumented immigrants will apply for the cards “because it will enable them to interact with law enforcement, get into schools, get into city buildings in a way that they have not been able to do so far.”
According to data from the New York City Record, approximately “half of New York City residents age 16 and over do not have a New York State Driver’s License.”
A big selling point for the cards was its ability for members of the undocumented community to obtain bank accounts. A 2009 report found that over 60 percent of Mexicans in New York do not have bank accounts — the highest percentage of any community in the city.
Yet it remains unclear which banks and credit agencies will actually accept the ID cards. Banks have strict regulations on the types of IDs they can accept, in an efforts to prevent fraud and even terrorism. “We remain concerned about the potential conflicts with state and federal laws,” said Karen Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the New York Bankers Association. Specifically, they worry whether the city will issue IDs without making cardholders sufficiently prove their identity.
Commissioner Agarwal confirmed that the city is in touch with the bankers association and that the city is “very hopeful and quite confident that our process very much complies with federal and state rules around banking.” The city has not finalized what documents will be required to obtain an ID card.
While banks question whether the ID requirement is too lax, some community members and organizations worry that the IDs might collect too much information.
In July, for example, the New York Civil Liberties Union released a statement opposing the ID card program, saying that the data collected by the city could be turned over to state and federal law enforcement without notifying the cardholders. The NYCLU says that the IDs invite “New Yorkers to gamble with the stakes as high as prosecution or even deportation.”
Deyanira Del Rio, of the New Economy Project, a local community advocacy group that works to end economic inequalities, acknowledged there is some trade-off. “There’s always these competing concerns,” she said. “On the one hand, there are risks to handing over more and more information about yourself to authorities, and then on the other hand there’s the reality of trying to live your daily life here.”
Daniel Coates, from Make the Road New York, a local nonprofit that builds the power of Latino and working-class communities, believes there’s no precedent for federal agencies, such as Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to collect information on ID card holders, as it has not happened with other similar programs around the county, like Oakland and New Haven.
The ID card program though does not address other critical problems among the undocumented community. One City College student, who wished to remain anonymous because her family is undocumented, said that her family is already able to obtain a bank account because they have an ID issued from the Mexican consulate, a consular ID card. While many undocumented Mexicans in New York have a consular ID card, it is not as credible in the city as a type of U.S. identification.
A bigger issue for the student is her family’s inability to obtain driver’s licenses, which will not change with a municipal ID.
Moreover, the city’s “doubly undocumented” residents, who lack documentation from their home countries as well as from the United States, will still face problems come January. “As inclusive as the municipal ID mission wants to be, it’s pretty inevitable that there are going to be some people that are going to have a really hard time being able to gain access to the program,” said Del Rio. “It’s that Catch-22 where you need ID to get ID.”
Paul Lagunes, a Columbia University professor who has studied the implementation of similar programs in other cities, thinks that New York has been mindful of the limitations of implementing an ID card program. And “the policy should be a success” in an effort for the city to signal that it is a welcoming community to all.
(Originally published at:
By: Tyler Daniels and Natalie Schachar
Originally Published: September 29, 2014
Inside Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi basked in a festival of national pride as he met with nearly 20,000 Indian-Americans.
Outside the arena, the assessment of Modi was more mixed as small groups of clamorous supporters and protestors– also from the Indian diaspora – argued about whether the new prime minister is a Hindu hero or an international villain.
Modi’s supporters congregated on 7th avenue near an entrance to Penn Station, where they waved Indian flags and carried signs that read ¨PM Modi: USA must join India and BRICS.”
Just across the street, opposition protestors offered a different message. ¨Modi, Modi, you can’t hide. You committed genocide,” they chanted. Some held signs comparing the Prime Minister and his party to Hitler and ISIS. The chants refer to allegations that Modi bears responsibility for the deaths of up to 2,000 Muslims in 2002 riots in India’s Gujarat state, where Modi was chief minister.
In 2005, the U.S. State Department denied him a tourist visa due to “severe violations of religious freedom,” but an Indian court ruling subsequently said there was no evidence for the anti-Muslim riot allegations. Still, the charges have continued to trail Modi’s rise to political stardom. This past Friday, a federal court in New York issued a summons to Modi for a riot-related lawsuit filed by the American Justice Center.
Indian Muslims were among those in the crowd of some 1,200 protestors on Sunday, but so were Sikhs, another religious minority in India, where Hindus make up over 80 percent of the population. Sikhs who gathered in opposition expressed anger about the Indian Army’s 1984 storming of the Sikh Golden Temple and subsequent anti-Sikh riots in India. “It’s not about only Modi, it’s about Hinduism. Hindus are killing other people,” said protestor Rana Singh. But the real problem, said Singh, is “the government, not normal Hindus.¨
Modi supporter Udhav Joshi dismissed the Sikh protestors, noting that Modi “wasn’t even in power¨ in 1984.
But Indian minorities were not the only ones who objected to the Prime Minister’s first visit to the U.S. since his election in May. “These atrocities that were committed in Gujarat in 2002 were attempted to be committed in the name of all Hindus, and especially the Gujarati Hindus,” said Svati Shah, a Gujarati Hindu and professor of Urban Studies and Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, who addressed the crowd of protestors. “Narendra Modi does not speak for me. He does not speak for other Gujarati Hindus.”
Shreenath Menon, a Modi supporter, expressed his desire for India to move forward. “The supreme court verdict is clean against him,” said Menon, referring to 2012 findings from a Supreme Court appointed commission that exonerated Modi from wrongdoing during the Gujarat riots. “India has learned from its mistakes,” he said.