At the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce monthly business meeting held this past Monday morning, business did not go as usual at the overcrowded National grid, auditorium, Downtown Brooklyn. Five of Brooklyn’s Congressional representatives four Democrats and one Republican took the stage for a special Congressional Forum. The intention of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for the morning was to discuss small businesses and new business developments in the Borough and how the travel ban against the seven majority Muslim countries could affect Brooklyn’s economy, but in the midst of the introduction of the US representatives they learnt that anxiety is wreaking havoc in almost every community when angry residents started to interrupt the meeting.
The representatives were asked to introduce themselves and name areas in Brooklyn that they serve. This format ignites the start of the constant disruption when Congressman Daniel Donovan of the 11th Congressional District was heckled and angry residents threw questions at him for voting for the Muslim travel ban. The resistance heightens and certain people in the audience raised posters depicting matters of concerns to the community that the Congressman argued against. Questions bombarded Donovan on almost every issue he attempted to address and hecklers were asked to leave the auditorium by the security if they continued their resistance. The Muslim ban was the center piece of the disruption, with Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid following. The audience wanted to know about gun control, equal rights and mental health as well. Chamber members along with the security forces had people taken out, however, that did not marginalized the disruption.
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, of the 7th District stated that small businesses were important to the community but, “it is about human lives that are being disrupted and the ban is to create fear. We need to fight against this ban,” she noted. With Brooklyn now considered the epitome, the Brooklyn Chamber leaders reached out for business discussion, and although the conversations were directed along that way at times, the immigration ban on the seven Muslim countries would find its way back to the center of the conversation.
Congressional Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries of the 8th District and Yvette Clarke of the 9th both of whom represent heavily Caribbean populations and immigrants of other countries demonstrated distastefulness at the immigration ban. Congressman Jeffries said “it is an unconstitutional, unconscionable conduct and this is not the right way to go.” He continued by saying that there was a need for strong, comprehensive, immigration reforms, “but the ban is not the way to keep us safe.” Jeffries said the ban on Muslims from seven majority Muslim countries was inconsistent with the American belief.
Congresswoman Clarke, for her part, stated that the ban was an unfair order and one that will carry serious implications on the world. She said that Brooklyn’s tourism sector will be affected, “This could disrupt the world’s economy,” she noted “small businesses need tourism, but people will be afraid to travel if they are torn from their families.” In addition, Clarke noted that the ban would also affect foreign students and more so medical students. The congresswoman said also that the fight to hold on to immigration must continue and she hoped the ban would be ruled unconstitutional. In continuing her remarks, Congresswoman Clarke called for people to unite for the development of the country.
Tax relief for small businesses was also discussed and although some people in the audience objected to that message in the forum, Congressional representatives noted that it cannot be undermined. It was agreed by all that tax programs are important to small business. The congressional representatives also called for changes in the banking industry that could benefit small businesses. “There is a need for expansion in banking, and more equity is needed to help businesses,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of the 12th District noted. They agreed that small businesses needed to thrive.