hundred New Yorkers – most of them immigrants – gathered in Flushing
on Saturday to send a powerful message: "We demand to be treated with
dignity and fairness, and we will not be ignored or intimidated."
women, young and old, they came, many with children in tow, from Staten Island,
Brooklyn and Queens to pack the Ganesh
Temple auditorium in Flushing.
The crowd was impressive for its size and for its determination to be heard.
are here today … to work together to make New York a city responsive to the needs of
the people who work and live here," Ana María Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, told the crowd.
than 4,000 members, Make the Road New York was created last year with the
merger of the Latin American Integration Center and Make the Road by Walking,
two grass-roots community organizations.
would like to welcome the elected officials, our allies in the labor movement
and the community organizations – and all of you," Archila said to the
enthusiastic approval of the audience.
enthusiastic were the 10 elected officials who attended the event and embraced
the community’s demands. All of them promised to help.
have been difficult for Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Bronx), City Council Speaker
Christine Quinn, City Controller Bill Thompson, state Sen. John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights), Councilman John Liu
(D-Flushing) and the other members of the Council and the state Senate present
at the meeting to do otherwise. The community’s demands were nothing if not
fair, and went a long way toward defining the priorities of immigrant New
educational and economic opportunity, comprehensive immigration reform, healthy
and affordable housing, equal access to government benefits and services and
the expansion of civil rights across our communities for immigrants, workers,
students and gay people – this is what the people gathered at the Ganesh temple
were asking for.
even more the urgent need for those demands to be met, several community
members shared moving personal stories of mistreatment and discrimination. One
of them was Alejandro Carreras, who came from Ecuador six years ago and joined
Make the Road by Walking two years ago.
to my immigration status, it has been difficult for me to find a dignified job
in this country," he told the audience. "I have to do very hard jobs,
but I have no choice because I have to support my family and myself."
went on to recount a terrible experience of exploitation and abuse by an
employer who took advantage of his undocumented status.
time ago, I worked with a cement contractor. I worked for him two weeks, under
the sun. And when the job was finished, he did not pay me one single
cent," he said.
added something that many others in the audience already had learned the hard
Carreras said, "these experiences are all too frequent. Thousands of
workers in New York
have had similar experiences," he said.
addressing the elected officials directly, he added, "That’s why I am
asking you to help pass stronger laws in New
York to protect immigrant workers."