Close to 100 immigrants walked this morning through the Port Richmond community many call their home to show that they also deserve to live here — in Staten Island, in New York and in America — and they will not be forced out by fear.
"We’re here this morning to express outrage at the hate crimes in our community," said Patricia Suarez, an active member of Make the Road New York, a not-for-profit immigrant advocacy organization that helps Hispanic newcomers and spearheaded the rally.
Ms. Suarez was referring to the April 5 beating and robbery of baker Rodulfo Olmedo, for which four suspects have been arrested, and alleged race-motivated attacks against Mexican immigrants on April 17 and April 25.
She also railed against the controversial new Arizona law that allows police to check people’s immigration status and demanded Congress undertake comprehensive immigration reform.
The crowd of adults and children gathered inside Make the Road New York’s Port Richmond office punctuated Ms. Suarez’s words with chants of "Community power" and "Yes, we can."
Her speech was followed by three Port Richmond women speaking about the conflicts immigrants face.
Elizabeth Ramos, 30, recalled how police pulled her over and told her to remove the rosary beads from her car’s rearview mirror. She noted that in Arizona, police could have then inquired about her immigration status.
Enriqueta Leal, 40, shared how it is not feasible for her 18-year-old daughter to attend the Culinary Institute of America because of her immigrations status.
And, Yngris Duran, 34, detailed how her previous employer took advantage of immigrant workers, paying them less, providing no sick or vacation days and often threatening to fire them.
The marchers — carrying American and Mexican flags — then set out along Port Richmond Avenue to Richmond Terrace, where the one-mile walk ended at the Staten Island Cinco de Mayo Festival in Faber Park.
"We’ll be cleaning the streets as we go along to show the positive things immigrants contribute to their communities," said Gabriela O’Leary of Make the Road New York.