On January 29, 2017, hundreds of people packed into Gourmet Sweets, a local Pakistani restaurant located in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. Gourmet Sweets was the site of an emergency meeting organized by Congresswoman Yvette Clarke of the Ninth Congressional District and her staff. According to one restaurant employee, about 400 people were in attendance. “Protect Yourself and Your Family From Donald Trump’s Anti-Muslim Executive Order” sought to address the immigration executive order that was issued on Friday, January 27 by the new administration.
The executive order ordered the restriction of immigration from seven countries with a large Muslim populations including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from receiving visas or entering the United States for 90 days. This order also ordered the ban of all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. Since the introduction of the order on January 27, several state judges have ruled on this matter including Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Washington state, and California, culminating in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judgement that struck the ban down on February 9. According to an NBC report from February 3, over 100,000 visas were revoked within the first week. In the tumult since the order was issued, many communities across the country went on high alert, and Brooklyn is no different.
The two hour community meeting included a series of expert panelists who were there to dispel much of the misinformation that was reported that weekend, as well as general comments from neighbors and the congresswoman herself. The panelists included: Tahanie Aboushi, a lawyer and partner at Aboushi Law Firm; Gemma Solimene, Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Fordham University School of Law; Laurie Davidson, Director of Outreach with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA); Mohammad Razvi, Director of Council of People’s Organization; and Dr. Debbie Almontaser, President of the Muslim Community Network. Also in attendance were members of the New York City Council, including Mathieu Eugene and Jumaane Williams, as well as State Assemblywoman Dianna Richardson. In an effort to mobilize her constituents, Congresswoman Clarke offered up the hashtag “BrooklynResists” to help raise awareness and to keep fighting the injustices the current administration is putting out.
“What was possibly fueled by anger and frustration, ended up being a gathering of love and support of country and humanity!,” said Matasa Williams, a Prospect Lefferts Garden resident, who attended the meeting. “Congresswoman Yvette Clarke encouraged us to continue to stay involved and fight for what is right for everyone. She has all of Brooklyn behind her.”
“It was beautiful,” Williams continued. “The turnout was overwhelming. Many could not get into the building but stayed outside and listened, cheered, and chanted! I look forward to the next town hall.”
Another resident of Prospect Lefferts Garden, Jess Hardie added,“I found the event very informative. We are lucky to have Representative Clarke in our corner.”
Congresswoman Clarke said in reaction to Trump’s immigration ban, “I am outraged by Donald Trump’s decision to prevent citizens from several Muslim countries from entering the United States. This is contrary to our values and an attack on decency itself. We are better than this. But Donald Trump’s recent actions are not only contrary to our values. They are also contrary to our interests. This order will help our enemies recruit supporters, make it harder for law enforcement officials to build trust with immigrant communities here at home, and prevent us from attracting the world’s top talent and creativity.”
The order sparked mass protests around the country, notably at New York City’s JFK airport. In an effort to help those experiencing issues entering the country at airports, many lawyers have offered their services pro bono to file briefs and to assist people who were detained. To protest the ban, thousands of Yemeni owned bodegas closed across the five borough on Thursday, February 2 between 12 and 8pm.
To address the growing public concern for this illegal immigration ban, Congresswoman Clark plans to hold a series of town hall meetings to address these issues and the many others that will surely creep up from Trump’s administration. “We have to commit ourselves to continue this work,” Clarke said.
The next town hall meeting will be held on February 22nd at Union Temple at 6:30 PM located in Crown Heights. This meeting will discuss Trump’s first 30 days in office and especially his policies regarding immigration, health care, and climate change.