Immigrant Workers Remember Ecuador and Puerto Rico on May 1

Immigrant workers commemorate International Workers’ Day in Manhattan. (Photo via El Diario)

Immigrant workers commemorate International Workers’ Day in Manhattan. (Photo via El Diario)

Below are excerpts from El Diario’s report on the International Workers’ Day demonstration in Manhattan.

A stubborn rain could not stop the nearly 200 demonstrators who gathered in Union Square Sunday to commemorate International Workers’ Day.

Carrying large signs spelling out their demands ‒ ranging from a prompt implementation of the $15 minimum wage and passing immigration reform to calls for justice by the Black Lives Matter movement and protests from detractors of Republican candidate Donald Trump ‒ the demonstrators gathered in the popular square to make their voices heard.

“Health, justice and dignity,” “Stop police brutality,” “Equality, not white privilege,” were a few of the slogans on the demonstrators’ posters.

“The rights of workers are inalienable. Where there is a worker, there is progress. That’s why we want to be paid a fair wage,” said Jorge Chauca, from the Frente del Trabajador Inmigrante (Immigrant Worker’s Front).

Protesters began marching at noon from Washington Square Park to Union Square, where they held a rally. While the event was inspired by the International Workers’ Day, the topic of the general election loomed.

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Demonstrators call on Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, to ask President Obama for temporary protected status (TPS) for Ecuadoreans in the U.S. (Photo via El Diario)

Demonstrators call on Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, to ask President Obama for temporary protected status (TPS) for Ecuadorean immigrants in the U.S. (Photo via El Diario)

In the same demonstration, a group of Ecuadoreans carried a large sign with the flags of their country and the U.S. which read: “Correa, ask Obama for TPS [Temporary Protected Status] for Ecuadoreans.”

Support for a proposal to grant this type of immigration benefit to Ecuador’s earthquake victims is growing in the metropolitan area. Strong tremors devastated the country’s coastal areas on April 16.

The May Day gathering was a joint effort promoted by an array of organizations, including the New York May 1 Coalition, La Peña del Bronx, the Peoples Power Assembly, Mujeres Trabajadoras por la Paz, the International Action Center, the Immigrant Worker Justice Center, the Workers World Party and the South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship, and Training.

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Earlier, El Diario’s Ana B. Nieto reported on another focus of the protest, the Puerto Rico debt crisis, including the following statements by Neidi Domínguez, director of AFL-CIO’s Worker Centers and Assistant Director of Community Engagement.

The demand for a solution for Puerto Rico’s crisis was front and center at the demonstration. “One of the AFL-CIO federations is on the island, and we are playing a crucial role in supporting the legal strategies available to allow for more time and find a fair solution to the financial problems,” said Domínguez. “Many Puerto Ricans live in New York City and, for them, this is not a matter of solidarity but a problem they suffer firsthand,” added the activist.

Unions are asking the U.S. government to allow Puerto Rico to file for bankruptcy the way U.S. states and cities are allowed to do. This option is not available for territories like Puerto Rico.

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Hoping for TPS for Ecuadoreans

Meanwhile, Reporte Hispano expanded on the growing hope that victims of the Ecuador earthquake will be able to apply for U.S. protection just like other nationals of countries that have suffered natural disasters recently, like Haiti and Nepal.

The idea of giving temporary protected status (TPS) to Ecuadoreans ‒ which would authorize them to work in the U.S. and travel ‒ began with a letter sent by Illinois congressman Luis Gutiérrez on April 25 asking President Obama to grant the immigration benefit to Ecuadoreans living undocumented in the U.S.

Leaders in the Ecuadorean community, such as Magdalena Pulla, from the Newark-based Club Cuencanos de Nueva Jersey ‒ whose members come from the city of Cuenca ‒ believe that TPS would be of great help to her compatriots at this time of need.

“Here in Newark, there is a large Ecuadorean community ‒ probably the largest in the Garden State ‒ who would be very grateful to President Barack Obama if he granted this benefit to our fellow Ecuadoreans,” she said. “We are hoping that this possibility can come true; not just people from Cuenca, but all Ecuadoreans.”

Through this immigration benefit, undocumented Ecuadoreans would have access to better jobs and obtain a driver’s license, among other benefits.

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