The New York City neighborhood church was filled with veteran protestors
and curious first-timers, all interested in finding out more about upcoming
protests at the Republican National Convention. The organizers start with a
touch of humor: “And to our friends in plainclothes from the New York
Police Department, welcome. We have nothing to hide.” The few men sporting
tucked-in-shirts and buzz-cut hairdos shifted nervously. Shouldn’t they
pick better disguises? Whatever happened to Serpico? Anyway, this was a
meeting to plan peaceful protest – no one seemed worried about the police

The meeting continued for hours, going through the various scenarios –
where to march, where the detours may be, the status of the Central Park
permit, what radio station to listen to, and where to stock up on drinking
water. Finally, the legal observers came on stage – ready to give
guidelines in case of any police action.

“First of all,” intoned the speaker, “If you’re a recent immigrant who is
not a naturalized citizen yet, be very careful. Don’t get arrested.”

“Especially,” she added, after a pause for emphasis, “If you look like
you’re Muslim.”

Many Immigrants, Many Visas

Immigrants make up forty percent of New York City’s population. Organizers
expect that a lot of the city’s immigrant population will be supporters, if
not active participants, in the anti-RNC protests planned for this coming
weekend. But it is these same immigrants who face legal restrictions on
their right to engage in peaceful protest.

The status of immigrants can vary widely. Some are here on work or student
visas; others have green cards and can apply for citizenship after five
years with a green card. However, for certain immigrants the security check
(post 9/11) can add several years to this process. All these types of
immigrants have the legal right to protest and express political opinions
in America – but due to extensive and slow background checks and increased
surveillance, these rights are effectively restricted for Muslim immigrants..


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