Local NAACP branches going to bat for immigrants and Dreamers

ORANGE, NJ — The Oranges-Maplewood NAACP branch has decided to wade into the debate about the federal Department of Homeland Security’s recent decision to revoke the Temporary Protected Status of 200,000 El Salvadorans, 45,000 Haitians and 2,500 Nicaraguans that have been living and working in this country for years by organizing an Immigration Workshop at Seventh Day Adventist Church, 270 Reynolds Terrace, Orange, on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 5:30 p.m.

Irvington NAACP President Merrick Harris said he plans to be at the workshop.

“I think it’s great that Tom is having that program. I think I will attend,” said Harris on Tuesday, Jan. 23, referring to Orange-Maplewood NAACP President Tom Puryear.

“We’ve got a large Haitian population in Irvington that could probably benefit from participating in a workshop like this. They have civil rights also, even though they’re immigrants. The NAACP is working for all people in this country.”

Harris also had something to say about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which former President Barack Obama implemented Sept. 11, 2016. DACA sought to protect the so-called “dreamers,” children whose parents brought them into the United States illegally and have spent their entire lives in this country, only to now be threatened with deportation to their native countries.

Trump set Monday, March 5, as the deadline for DACA to end, unless the U.S. Congress can come up with some kind of a solution for their current situation in immigration limbo.

“As far as the DACA situation, I believe Republicans in the House of Representatives need to just go on and resolve this situation,” Harris said. “These kids know nothing except the United States and they see this as their homeland. I don’t how they can’t allow them to stay in the country.”

Orange-Maplewood NAACP President Tom Puryear agreed.

“Our unit is coordinating an Immigration Workshop on Jan. 27, at the Seventh Day of Adventist Church in Orange,” said Puryear, an East Orange resident, on Friday, Jan. 19. “In November, the acting secretary of Homeland Security announced her decision to eliminate the Temporary Protected Status policy. This policy was designed to provide specified immigrants, whose home country was embroiled in ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster or other extraordinary and temporary conditions, the ability to immigrate to the United States.”

Due to the humanitarian nature of the TPS policy’s origin, Puryear and other local NAACP leaders said it is incumbent on the civil rights organization to stand up for the rights of immigrants that have come to the United States.

“The manner that the Trump administration is implementing immigration policies is inconsistent with past practices and needs to be examined,” Puryear said. “The manner that the Trump administration is implementing immigration policies is inconsistent with past practices and needs to be examined. Individuals who have resided in our country without the benefit of being a naturalized citizen need to know all legal ramifications of their continued residency in the United States.”

“The United States was named because those traveling here sought to establish freedoms and rid themselves of religious persecution in Europe and other countries,” said Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher on Monday, Jan. 22. “In the 1950s, growing up in Newark’s Central Ward, I remember Hungarian — and later Puerto Rican — families moving to America. They brought different foods and cultures. They were often said to be taking away jobs. They often were not welcomed.”

Witcher said the racism and xenophobia those groups experienced when they came to the United States is reminiscent of the hundreds of years of prejudice, racial bias, lack of opportunity and discrimination blacks have endured in this country. That’s why, she said, when Trump campaigned with the slogan “Make America great again,” Americans of color and various religious and ethnic backgrounds were leery of the policies he would implement.

“Today … President Trump seems not to be aware of equal rights for all,” Witcher said. “When children are in the country as the ‘dreamers,’ they should have the right to stay. Most of our ancestors maintained that right to stay, go to school, acquire skills and earn livings. Now should not be the time for good people, law abiding people, people with ambitions, to be deported. Let’s stand up for the right to become productive citizens in our country.”

Witcher’s remarks mirrored those made by Leda Melara, who came to Orange for its ninth annual Festival de Orange on South Day Street on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24, during Hispanic Heritage Month.

After the news broke on Monday, Jan. 8, about the Trump administration’s TPS program policy shift regarding Salvadorans, Malara and others, including Miryam Torres of the Hispanics For Progress of Essex County, said it was a devastating blow to law-abiding members of the Latino community who came to the United States in search of the American Dream.

“Totally devastating to our community,” said Melara on Monday, Jan. 8. “We are hardworking people who just want a chance to live safely and earn a living, something our home country cannot provide at this time. The 200,000 people affected have proved themselves by paying taxes, reporting as instructed, living by the law in every sense; but this heartless administration still says: ‘It’s not enough, you gotta go back.’ No humanitarian approach. It really saddens me.”

The news that the NAACP was stepping up to lend “Latino brothers and sisters” a helping hand by hosting the Immigration Workshop on Saturday, Jan. 27, came as a relief to Melara.

“That’s great,” said Melara on Friday, Jan. 19. “And I will definitely forward this information.”

Torres also promised to spread the word about the NAACP Immigration Workshop at Seventh Day Adventist Church in Orange.

“I will disseminate this information on the radio tomorrow,” said Torres on Friday, Jan. 19. “It will be on 90.5 FM and www.tufiestagrande.com, between 10 and 10:30 a.m.”

For information about Hispanics for Progress of Essex County, call 973-289-9640. For information about another Hispanic organization, Hispanos Mano a Mano, call 862-215-8727.