NYC Workers Embrace Immigrants’ Struggle on May Day

On International Workers’ Day, immigrants gathered in Washington Square Park to join the protest. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Signs in hand – with slogans stating that “immigrants are workers” and that the fight for the vindication of workers’ rights must include the struggle for fair immigration reform – scores of demonstrators gathered on Tuesday in several protests across New York City to commemorate International Workers’ Day.

Activists, union leaders and immigrants took to the iconic Washington Square Park to raise their voices and demand that the Trump administration stop its attacks and value the contributions foreign-born workers make to the entire nation.

That was the plea pronounced by Venezuelan-born Francis Madi, who pointed out that, while May 1 is supposed to honor workers, for more than a decade it has also become a date to defend the immigrant community, especially now that Donald Trump is in the White House.

“In 2006, the immigrant movement joined the workers’ movement and, since then, we have worked together, and that unity has grown and become stronger in response to President Trump’s constant attacks. On a day like today, we are telling him clearly that we will not allow him to continue attacking us,” said the young woman. “To attack immigrants is to attack the workforce.”

Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) pointed out that the needs of workers are interconnected with those of immigrants and that, for that reason, they must stand together on the same front.

“Immigrants are the majority of the workforce, and both immigrants and workers are under the same kind of attack by the current administration. That is why we need to work more closely together and why we are showing up as a single force,” said the activist, who asked the local and state authorities to increase their support and commitment.

“Both the city and the state need to do more to ensure the protection of worker and immigrant rights and to provide more access to legal services so we can push back against the harassment of Trump’s government, because we are not going to let up for a second,” said Choi.

During the demonstration, there was also room for Central American immigrants to make a plea to Washington. They fear that the federal government is about to leave them in limbo by refusing to approve an extension of TPS.

“Our TPS expires in two months, and we will be left in uncertainty. I am offended by the government’s position because I have paid my taxes, I am no criminal, I did not come here to steal from anyone, I am not a terrorist, and it is very hurtful to see that this government does not appear to have a heart and that it cannot appreciate all we have contributed to this country,” said Salvadoran-born Perla Canales, a TPS beneficiary who has lived in the U.S. since 1999 and is not contemplating the option of going back. “If they cancel it, I will not leave. I will continue to fight for my dignity.”

Protest on Wall Street

Another protest was held on Wall Street in the morning hours, where demonstrators wearing orange jumpsuits demanded that large corporations stop taking part in the immigration detention center industry.

“As the Trump administration continues to intensify their attacks against communities of color, we must do everything we can to stop the detainments and deportations agenda of this administration,” said Ana María Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “Wall Street has a responsibility to put people over people’s profits and to guarantee that they are not contributing to an industry harming so many communities.”

A protest was held on Wall Street. (Photo via El Diario)

A report published by the Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Enlace International and the Strong Economy for All Coalition revealed that JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and BlackRock are helping maintain and expand a lucrative $5 billion business that criminalizes communities of color.

Meanwhile, other demonstrations organized by unions were held on May Day to consolidate the “partners in power” message, which seeks to unify the clamors of immigrants and workers.

“Today is a day to celebrate workers around the world, but it is also a day to say that immigrants are the ones who have built this country, and it needs to be a symbolic day in which we show that our communities are being attacked on the financial and immigration fronts. We cannot remain quiet,” said Lucía Gómez, activist and community leader from Local 78, where 95 percent of all members are immigrants.

“It is ironic that immigrants are being attacked when they know that they are attacking the same workforce employers need,” said the activist, who called on state and municipal legislators to provide more protection through the law.

“The state and particularly the city have done a lot, but we still need to fight for workers who are being exploited, temporary workers, day laborers on farms, those picking our produce… They have no right to organize, and we need laws to protect them,” she concluded, as the popular chant “sí se puede” – “yes we can” – could be heard.

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