Undocumented workers and students, immigrant families and children, community advocates, and elected officials came together this past Sun., Jan. 27th at the offices of the Hispanic Federation to call for humane and just immigration reform.
Among them were DREAMERS like Katherine Tabares [a member of Make the Road New York], from Colombia, mothers like Tania Gordillo [a member of Make the Road New York] from Ecuador, and workers from the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), an organization that strives to give agency to new immigrants.
Dinick Martínez [a member of Make the Road New York], a transgender immigrant from Honduras, was also there.
Martínez is currently taken GED classes, and hopes to be a home health aide one day.
“In my country we have no rights; they kill you. I want to be free to live my life and be out of the closet,” he said about his decision to come to the United States.
Since his arrival, Martinez has been politically active.
He has participated in hunger strikes, and volunteered for the most recent Obama campaign.
“I see that the movement is getting stronger,” said Martínez, who said he was glad to see the elected officials showing a united front on Sunday.
They included Congresswoman Nydia Vasquez; State Senators Adriano Espaillat, Gustavo Rivera and Jose Peralta; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, who joined together with José Calderón, the president of the Hispanic Federation, Javier Valdés of Make the Road New York, and Sonia Ivany, the National Vice President of Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
The conference comes on the heels of President Obama’s second inauguration—one in which Latino voters showed their potential for making or breaking a candidate.
As Ivany pointed out, 11 million Latino voters participated in important swing state elections, and approximately 71 percent of the Hispanic vote went to the Democratic incumbent while Republican Mitt Romney received 27 percent.
During his inaugural address, President Obama stated the need for immigration reform on the national level.
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity,” said President Obama on Mon., Jan. 21st. “Until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce, rather than expelled from our country.”
“To be honest, I was surprised,” said Martínez about the President’s inclusion of immigration in the address.
Still, those gathered this past Sunday echoed frustration at how reform has been slow to manifest itself, and expressed hope that the strength in numbers at the polls by Latinos might help bring change.
“Latinos across the nation turned out to vote unlike any time in our nation’s history, and made a clear statement for the need to fix out broken immigration system in 2013,” said the Federation’s Calderon.
“For too long, our broken immigration system has failed to protect our borders, torn families apart and left millions to hid in society’s shadows,” added Congresswoman Velazquez.
“The President’s leadership on this issue is welcomed,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “Our community has been calling on him to lead on this issue for years. Now that immigration reform is a top priority of the White House, they must commit to passing immigration reform this year.”
State Senator Adriano Espaillat suggested that while measures for immigrant reform languish in the House and Senate on a national level, New York State need not wait to take action.
“We need to pass the DREAM Act in New York State so we have the moral standing to ask for it on a national level,” said Senator Espaillat as he called upon state legislators and, especially, Governor Andrew Cuomo, to act.
“He has the pulpit,” said Sen. Espaillat. “He has a national voice on this issue.”
His words were met by a resounding call from those present: “¡Si se puede!”
This Sunday, leaders and residents called on the President and Congress to work together to pass an immigration reform law focused on the following principles:
- Provide a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
- Focus on family unity.
- Meet our workforce needs.
- Enforce the rules fairly.