With a limited budget and a scaled-back, stretched staff, we’ve continued to juggle our mutual aid programs to support immigrant communities with our organizing for educational justice and a safety net for excluded workers. On top of that, we’re in the midst of pushing back against racist and xenophbic remarks made by government officials during a series of challenging and upsetting events that have put the County in the center of the national conversation on immigration. Our staff and volunteers have worked extra hard to organize and mobilize an ad-hoc coalition of allies to respond. Here’s an update and a request for your engagement and support

A little background…
Knowing their anti-immigrant positions, we held a rally in March outside County Executive Ed Day’s and U.S. Congressional Representative Mike Lawler’s press conference on immigration, having clearly understood the xenophobic subtext in their email alert about the event. Our presence forced them to soften their message, belatedly claiming they had always planned to discuss asking the federal government for funding to support the county in working with immigrants. If that were the case, why would it not have said as much in their email? Why was this stealthily organized and why did they not invite the community groups working with immigrants? Why would they not let us in the building?

A few weeks later, Day’s office hosted a Housing Forum at which we learned there would be a panel entitled “Housing the Undocumented.” Upon seeing there were no undocumented people invited to speak about their experience, nor even a speaker from a community organization in the immigrant community, we pushed back — and were able to get an undocumented community member to bravely speak about housing injustices immigrants experience.

It was therefore no surprise when we heard Day and Lawler again spew hateful and dangerous rhetoric to rile up their base this past week in response to NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed plan to bus asylum seekers upstate. Due to the expiration of Title 42, Adams said, NYC is trying to make space for the arrival of thousands of newly arrived immigrants. As part of this effort, they have identified 340 vetted asylum seekers who volunteered to come to Rockland County, and arranged for them to stay in a hotel in Orangeburg which NYC will pay for, along with food, and social workers. Day blocked this effort, and the two municipalities are now locked in a legal standoff. In the process of refusing to welcome the first 60 of these asylees, Day has spread misinformation, called immigrants rapists and criminals, and threatened to choke Adams, who is a Black man.

PF Board Member Amy Dalton at 5/11 press conference
(image by John Meore/LoHud/Journal News)

This racist rhetoric by officials is unacceptable, puts already vulnerable people at further risk, and has already resulted in violence. While on his job, one of our volunteers delivered mattresses to the contracted hotel where he was met with three racist people who verbally and physically attacked him. The altercation was documented on video. In response to these events, Proyecto Faro called a meeting of alliesand with less than 24 hours’ notice 84 people

representing two dozen organizations came together to plan a response. We are now working on a joint statement, mobilizing a rapid response welcome team, and on Thursday, May 11, we held a press conference. In front of several major news outlets, Proyecto Faro and our allies decried the bigotry of these elected officials and clarified that the real emergency in the county is not 340 asylees but the thousands of immigrants and other poor people, mostly people of color, who are exploited and forced to live in dangerous, overpriced and overcrowded housing. 

We discussed the ways undocumented immigrants undergird our local economy through their labor, taxes, and consumer participation and that immigrants make Rockland a wonderful place to live. We told the media how Proyecto Faro’s programs, from our founding, through the pandemic, to this moment, have only worked thanks to the generous offerings of mutual aid from our undocumented immigrant community, using their limited resources and taking risks for the benefit of both documented and undocumented community members. Speakers included representatives from Rockland Immigration Coalition, Rockland Jews for Immigrant Justice, Orangetown Dems, Rockland United, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Rockland Coalition to End the New Jim Crow, and Spring Valley Collaborative. Many other groups are working with us but couldn’t speak for fear of retaliation in the form of funding cuts. (Video of the press conference.)

We will not sit back while elected officials whip their xenophobic base into a frenzy and use anti- immigrant sentiment to raise campaign funds and secure votes. It has been heartening to see the outpouring of support and involvement of allies this week — but there is much more to do. If we want to roll back the tide of white supremacy and hate and build a safe, welcoming, and just Rockland County, we will all have to take more risks and take on more work. 

One thing everyone can do is speak out for welcome! We’re asking you all to use your social media to post language that shows your support for your immigrant neighbors and rejects hate speech. Perhaps you could share your own family’s immigration story or your positive experiences with immigrants in Rockland County. To address the culture of racism and fear-mongering, we need more individuals and organizations to speak out and shift from being allies to accomplices and co-conspirators.  

Proyecto Faro always needs volunteers, and now we are especially in need of people who are willing to help with rapid response welcome work. This could include gathering and distributing needed materials, showing up with a visible presence at key moments, or other tasks. (Please reach out to us at info@proyectofarorockland.org to volunteer.)

We also need your financial support in order to keep up this momentum in addition to our day-to-day organizing. Please dig deep and consider how you can help and what you can contribute in this critical moment.  

It can be a scary time with challenging tasks, but many hands truly do make light work. We each have our special gifts and collectively, systemic change is possible. We look forward to connecting with you in advancing our movement-building work!

Grateful for your solidarity,
Charo Ureña & Maria Marasigan
Co-Executive Directors