About a dozen documented and undocumented immigrants showed up yesterday at the Queens, NY office of community organization Make the Road New York
where they painted signs, packed food and coordinated transportation.
Some also prepped to speak at one of todays May Day rallies in
A prominent immigrant advocacy organization, Make the Road is one of
about 60 community, faith and labor groups that are expected to
participate in two major demonstrations for immigration reform this
afternoon, as part of a national action day that includes
demonstrations in a number of cities. (Feet in Two Worlds will have
reports on rallies throughout the day.)
One of the volunteers was Javier Oscar Cuenca, a 33-year-old,
football-player type Argentinean who recently moved from New Jersey to
Cuenca has been in the United States for eight years after
overstaying a tourist visa and has sustained himself by painting
houses. Hes been unemployed for the last four months, but is hopeful
that under President Barack Obama reforms will be enacted that help him
obtain legal status, work, and attend college. Despite being
undocumented, Cuenca said he didnt mind being identified in this story.
Im doing this because I have faith the reform will pass, Cuenca said. Im 80 percent confident it will pass.
Speaking of immigration reform at his White House news conference on
Wednesday, President Obama reiterated his desire to move this
process. But the president also indicated that strengthening the
U.S.-Mexico border is a pre-condition.
If the American people dont feel like you can secure
the borders, then its hard to strike a deal that would get people out
of the shadows and on a pathway to citizenship who are already here,
because the attitude of the average American is going to be, well,
youre just going to have hundreds of thousands of more coming in each
Cuenca was working with Humberto De La Cruz, a 55-year-old man from
Puebla, Mexico, who came to the U.S. for the first time over a year ago
to reunite with his sons. He joined Make the Road shortly after his
arrival, in order to learn how to read and write in Spanish.
I will do everything possible to attend the rally tomorrow, said
De La Cruz, whos also undocumented. I dont want to be like other
immigrants who dont care about change. I think this is important.
While both demonstrations to be held today in the city will advocate
new immigration laws, the organizations taking part in them differ in
lobbying styles and on the specific measures they think should be
included in a reform bill. Divisions among immigration reform advocates
are also being seen in Los Angeles, where at least seven separate marches are planned.
Demonstrators at the 1:15 pm rally in Madison Square Park, where
Make the Road will participate, will call for universal health care and
passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would protect workers
right to join unions.
Meanwhile, members of the May Day Coalition, who will conduct a 4 pm
rally in Union Square, are expected to call for broader policies such
as abolishing NAFTA and stopping bailouts for corporations.
Make the Road expects to mobilize at least 90 of its members. In
total, the Madison Square Park rally is expected to attract about 1,000
people, a modest number in a year when pro-immigration activists have
promised to keep pressure on the new administration to keep its promise
and enact a new immigration law in 2009.
Daniel Coates, a community organizer with Make The Road who spent
Thursday working logistics for the rally, argues that the number is
significant considering that organizations have fewer resources to
spend on mobilization, people are less likely to skip work, and that no
immigration reform bill has been introduced in Congress.
Coates thinks the demonstration will help build the critical mass
that will be needed later this summer when an immigration bill is
expected to get to the House floor.
The real fight for immigration reform has yet to happen, Coates
said. We are organizing and building a base for the fight that will
occur later this year.