Green Cards, Welfare, Muslim Ban, TPS for Yemenis Dominate Commissioner’s Visit To A Mosque In Bay Ridge

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Commissioner Bitta Mostofi. (Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner)

BAY RIDGE – Commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs spoke to Muslims about their concerns after the Jummah (Friday) prayer at the Beit el- Maqdis Islamic Center in Bay Ridge.

Commissioner Bitta Mostofi came inside the mosque with her hair covered in an orange hijab and addressed the room full of men. This was not her first time there.

“A part of the job of City government is to come to the community to speak about our commitment to serving the community and standing with the community,” Mostofi told Bklyner, “and also to listen, to hear what the needs are, and to be responsive to those needs.”

A dozen men surrounded her after she was done speaking to the room. They each had their individual questions and Mostofi encouraged them to come forward.

“Is it true, when you have benefits such as welfare, you’re not going to be able to get a Green Card or apply for citizenship?” one man asked.

Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner

“Right now, nothing has changed. Any benefits that you are receiving, you should still receive,” Mostofi said. “What the Trump administration has said is that they’re looking to change their policy. So individuals who are not yet Green Card holders or permanent residents, and if they receive benefits, they could, in the future [if the rules change], have a problem becoming a Green Card holder.”

She made it clear that no such policy has been enacted as of yet– if a person received benefits, that shouldn’t hurt their chances to get a Green Card. She said if the policy were to change, it is her job to make sure everyone in the City knows.

“If they announce that they want to change the rule, it is so important that the City, that organizations and leaders send letters to the federal government to say why this change will be very bad… for communities, for our families, for our City.”

For some questions, the board member of the mosque, Naim Jawad, translated from Arabic to English. One man said his son’s wife, living in one of the countries a part of the Muslim Ban, filed all of her paperwork to come to the US, but nothing has happened.

“As you know, many of the people from countries that are mentioned like Iran, Yemen, it’s becoming more and more difficult for those visas to be approved,” Mostofi said. “Even though the government has said they’ll make exceptions, we haven’t seen many people approved.”

Mostofi & Jawad. (Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner)

“There’s some anxiety because of the moment in time we’re in in the country, and it is fundamentally part of the work of our office… and the Mayor’s commitment, that communities know we’re fighting for them,” she said. ” It’s important we hear from the community, what problems they’re experiencing and how can we be responsive… so we can advocate for them.”

Mostofi spoke about the rise of “institutionalized Islamaphobia” after the Muslim Ban. “It is our job as the City to fight back against that and to make sure that all of our Muslim fellow New Yorkers know that the City stands with them.”

“We know there have been instances of discrimination or harassment against Muslim communities… it’s our job as the City to be responsive when that happens, to make sure the communities know that they have rights,” she said. “The only way we will make progress in these ways is if the community knows and they’re accessing those rights, they’re reporting crimes, they’re letting us know, and they’re making their voices heard.”

Another reason why it was important to Mostofi to come to the mosque was the October 15 deadline to renew Temporary Protective Status for the Yemenis.

“We want people to know that the City offers free and safe legal services and that now is the time for people to renew their application and to get that advice,” she said.

She encouraged everyone to reach out to her office if they had any concerns or questions.

“I want you to know that we will continue advocating for the rights of our communities to be free from discrimination,” she said. “One of the ways that we can do that is when we hear from you.”

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