New Yorkers Rally for Immigration, Health, Labor Reforms Rallies Across the Nation Highlight Urgent Need to Fix Broken Immigration System
May 1, 2009, New York City. Close to a thousand New Yorkers from the city’s immigrant, labor, and faith communities gathered for a spirited rally in Madison Square Park in midtown Manhattan today, calling on Congress and President Obama to enact long-delayed immigration reforms that will reunite families and create a path to citizenship for immigrants who currently have no way of getting legal status. They were joined by Representative Nydia Velazquez, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Representative Steve Israel, who pledged to work hard to move reforms in Congress.
“We can no longer afford to ignore the valuable contributions of immigrant workers, who are not only part of the rich social and cultural fabric of our country but are also adding $700 billion every year to our economy,” said Hector Figueroa, secretary-treasurer of SEIU Local 32BJ, the largest property services union in the country. “Reforming our immigration system is part and parcel to creating an economy that works for all of us.”
“The time for comprehensive immigration reform is now. Immigrants have long made significant contributions to our country. We need an immigration system that keeps families together, treats all immigrants with dignity, and helps all immigrants realize the American dream,” said Mae Lee, executive director of Chinese Progressive Association, based in Manhattan.
“My organization is energized on these three very important issues,” said Ken Cohen, regional director of the NAACP’s New York State Conference Metropolitan Council. “Immigration reform is long overdue. In these times of uncertainty, the Employee Free Choice Act will protect people lucky enough to be employed and those who may yet find employment. And health care reform will ensure that all will have access to medical care and help prevent illness. We can no longer live in a vacuum; we must think about what is good for the people of these United States, what will bring this country back and continue in its greatness,” said Cohen.
Carmen Rivas, a member of the New York Civic Participation Project, added, “Today we are demonstrating our strength and showing that we are still united to fight for immigrant and worker communities.”
“As immigrants, we are one, we have one voice, and we here today to make this voice clearly heard by policy and decision makers,” said Bakary Tandia of the African Services Committee, a human services organization based in Harlem. “The immigration crisis is a human problem, and therefore, we need a humane solution.”
Steven Choi, executive director of YKASEC—Empowering the Korean-American Community, said, “The community members that YKASEC works with—recent immigrants, low-income people, the limited-English-proficient—are facing more difficult times than ever. We join today with the NYIC because our community needs these changes—immigration reform to bring justice for all immigrants, real health care reform to keep our communities healthy and sound, and protection for workers to organize. We call upon our elected officials to make this a reality—not tomorrow, but today.”
The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy advocacy organization with 200 member groups in New York State that works for justice and opportunity for immigrants. For more information, visit www.thenyic.org.