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How Sunset Park is using information to combat ICE raids

In the wake of a series of raids on undocumented immigrants across the borough, one Brooklyn neighborhood with a high population of foreign-born residents is taking a more proactive approach to arming immigrants directly with the information to access emergency services.

More than a dozen pro-immigrant agencies, legal aid organizations and community leaders converged on Sunset Park Thursday night to publicize their rapid response resources in an effort to consolidate information in one place for the community.

Sunset Park has been the most-targeted area across the city in the past six days for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making up half of the eight so-far confirmed raids across the city. More than 47 percent of residents are foreign-born in Community District 7, which encompasses both Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace. Forty-eight percent identify as having limited English proficiency, and 73 percent identified as Asian or Hispanic, according to data from the New York City Planning Department.

The rallying effort Thursday night marked a new approach to the recent campaign of flyer distribution, giving immigrants an opportunity to meet personally with organizations leading the effort to combat the recent surge in federal anti-immigration policy.

“[I am] proud to be part of a community-led effort that is working directly to protect Sunset Park. As you heard, ICE officials have tried four times to target families right here … each and every single time, ICE failed … because our immigrant communities know their rights. That advice is getting out there and spreading in the community,” said Jorge Muñiz, a member of the Sunset Park ICE Watch Team.

The newly formed neighborhood watch group has been in the streets and available for assistance every day since last Saturday, starting at 6 a.m.

Though the recent raids have been largely unsuccessful, the group is using the failed attempts as a way to keep information channels active and the undocumented population aware of the ongoing enforcement activities.

“There’s a lot of confusion going around, a lot of misinformation. We want to make sure that if folks see something [or] hear something that is credible, that we are able to get that information to the city of New York and local elected officials, so that person or family gets the help that they need,” Muñiz said.

The forum also gave local leaders an opportunity to remind the undocumented immigrant community about allies in the area.

“Once again, we need to have a conversation of how we weaponize our privilege,” said Pastor Juan Carlos Ruiz of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. “If we are citizens, we need to start thinking about how we can utilize that level of protection that can be extended to the person next to us.”

Ruiz’ church is part of the New Sanctuary Coalition, a growing group of local organizations that act as a temporary haven for undocumented immigrants during high enforcement periods.

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs estimates that around 127,000 of the roughly half a million undocumented New Yorkers live in Brooklyn — the second-highest number in any of New York City’s boroughs.

“They give out all this paperwork but they need to do more forums in churches, schools, community centers,” said Isabel, a Sunset Park resident of nearly 20 years and a Mexican national. “I felt like not enough was done until the last minute.”

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, who represents a large population of Caribbean immigrants across Central Brooklyn, introduced legislation on Thursday to create a commission to investigate the U.S.’s treatment of migrant families and children.

The National Commission to Investigate the Treatment of Migrant Families and Children Act would create an independent body to specifically investigate the Trump administration’s behavior toward immigrant families and children who crossed the southern border.

“The abuse migrant children and families are subjected to at the behest of a xenophobic president, who clearly doesn’t value the lives of those who are seeking asylum or refugee in the United States of America, is unacceptable,” Clarke said in a public statement.

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