BY SHREYA VAIDYANATHAN
Over 150 people gathered on Saturday, September 23 to learn about immigration services and their legal rights at a resource fair in Brooklyn.
The fair was co-sponsored by Atlas:DIY, a youth advocacy group; the Mixteca Organization, a Latino empowerment group; and the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at CUNY. It was held at Mixteca, 245 23rd Street.
Over 40 persons sought free legal advice from the clinics set up by Atlas:DIY, which brought in lawyers and paralegals. They offered counsel for those needing to renew their DACA status, free health examinations, information on services offered through Medicaid, and resources concerning labor laws, financial planning and continuing education.
Keron Bennett, an undocumented immigrant from East New York, called the fair a one-stop shop of crash courses. “I am trying to get more information on the way I can get to school, and GED classes,” he said. Bennett said the legal advice helped him think through how he could eventually obtain his green card or citizenship.
Those like Bennett received candid advice about various hurdles that immigrants might encounter and solutions to overcome them.
Later in the afternoon, members of the organizing committee did some role playing, in which two of them posed as ICE officers pounding on the door as the other two inside the home worried about having to face the authorities.
“Do not open the door unless there is a warrant!” they repeated while the audience applauded, joining the chant.
Patti Cruz, a young social worker of Guatemalan origin, said she came to get in touch with what she called her “Mixtec roots,” or people of the indigenous mesoamerican tribes.
Cruz has a brother who is a DACA recipient, which she says has reinforced the lesson that all undocumented people must unite. “We’re all fighting for the same struggle” she said.
She added that the fair was necessary because many Hispanics lack a command of the English language, and so have a hard time learning about the legal options available to them.
Representatives from various organizations told attendees about English language classes, literacy programs and higher education opportunities. “We give guidance on which college or classes to pursue. How to apply and how to pay,” said Saira Camarillo, a Sunset Park resident and student at CUNY.
Several participants came with their small children, for whom fun activities and a coloring corner were set up. Food and refreshments were served throughout the day.
Carolina Macwright, a lawyer and activist who said she came to offer help, characterized the fair as a step towards social change.“Now is the time to show up for our immigrant community,” she said. “It’s not just about donating or having a tacit conversation or feeling bad. You have to physically be present now.”