THOUSANDS OF ILLEGAL immigrants plan to show their value to the city today by marching in the streets instead of off to work.
The May Day demonstrations are part of a nationwide effort by undocumented immigrants and their supporters called "Un dia sin immigrante" – Spanish for "a day without an immigrant."
The campaign is aimed at garnering legal status for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living and working in the U.S.
"We ask for everybody to hang together for the strike," said Eliezer Maca, 28, a Mexican immigrant living in Queens, where he works at a grocery warehouse. "We want to be paid legally, with benefits, overtime, holidays."
Demonstrators plan to begin forming human chains in every borough around noon. In the afternoon, they are to march from Union Square to Foley Square.
Yesterday, in a prelude to today’s rallies, about 100 immigrants (organized by Make the Road by Walking) marched to Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick, Brooklyn, demanding workers’ rights and a path to citizenship.
"I just want justice for immigrants, legalization, so we can get benefits just like other people," said Pablo Barrientos, 58, a Mexican immigrant who works in construction.
The demonstration could temporarily cripple small businesses that depend on undocumented workers. Some are expected to close, while some professors at the City University of New York may cancel classes, said Dustin Langley, a spokesman for the New York Committee for May 1.
In Albany, about 25 black, Hispanic and Asian lawmakers say they’ll walk out of legislative sessions to honor the day-long strike.
As the debate on illegal immigration rages in Washington, several elected officials have condemned the one-day boycott. On Saturday, Gov. Pataki called it a "terrible" idea, and yesterday Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) told CNN’s "Late Edition" that big protests are "counterproductive."
"To encourage people not to go to work or children not to go to school is counterproductive . . . and if they’re there waving foreign flags, I take offense," he said.
New York City events include:
In Manhattan, human chains formed in Battery Park City, Washington Heights and Chinatown; in Brooklyn, in Sunset Park and Coney Island; in the Bronx, along Fordham Road; in Queens, in Jackson Heights, and at an unspecified location on Staten Island. The chains will form at 12:16 p.m., to symbolize Dec. 16, the date on which the House of Representatives passed a bill to make helping illegal immigrants a felony.
A massive rally in Union Square Park at 4 p.m. Smaller 3 p.m. rallies at Grand and Chrystie Sts. and in Washington Square Park will feed into the Union Square Park protest.
Participants in the Union Square event will march south on Broadway at 6 p.m. and hold a rally at Foley Square at 7 p.m.
The largest protests are expected in Los Angeles, where police expect as many as 500,000 demonstrators.