I dragged myself out of my gelatinous haze yesterday to the Diversity Center of Queens (on 37th AVE not Rd.), and am I glad I did! Those guys are truly fantastic. Although Queens is pretty much THE most immigrant borough in the city, super diverse and fantastically integrated (at least on the surface), it is also the borough least backed up by political infrastructure on immigrants rights. David Anderssen, the driving force behind NYC's immigrant voting project and Diversity Center events organizer, clued me in yesterday:
The reason Queens immigrant rights advocates get nowhere on city politics is: turnover. I know, so simple and yet so incredibly powerful! The immigrant communities in Queens have shallow roots! They are turnstile immigrants, pushing through the grime and the grit on a fasttrack to the suburbs! They are the ones who have have transformed so many suburbs into immigrant havens and ethnic "enclaves" (for want of a better word).They may keep their small businesses here, but within a year or so, they've moved on. The immigrant core: Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Flushing -- in and out. Rego Park, Jamaica, maybe they have roots, but the heart of Queens is hemorrhaging!
As Anderssen so eloquently put it, immigrant rights organizing in neighborhoods like this is like trying to teach a person to walk over and over and over again.
Interesting thoughts: if political will is generated by mobilizing a constituency, but that constituency is constantly changing (even if many of its issues remain the same), what channels to generating political will and creating policymaking (or at least influencing) infrastructure remains?