Subscribe and receive weekly updates!

* indicates required
Photo of a bridge with the words Photo of a bridge with the words 'U Can't Shut Down Dreams'

Voices from the March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect

By Muna Mire

Photo of a bridge with the words 'U Can't Shut Down Dreams'

This past Saturday, October 5, thousands of immigrants and their supporters coordinated a nationwide March for Immigrant Respect and Dignity. There were demos in more than one hundred cities across America. Marchers renewed calls to Congress to take meaningful action on comprehensive immigration reform, which has stalled in the House. Meanwhile, deportations continue unabated and President Obama is on track to reach a disturbing milestone: 2 million deportations. {Young}ist spoke to some of our friends on the ground, who planned, coordinated, and participated in some of these actions. Here’s what they had to say about the March itself, and more broadly about the prospect of US immigration reform.

New York City
“I work for the New York Immigration Coalition, who were the main organizers of the New York rallies. I [was] one of the organizers of the march. Our campaign, New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform (coordinated by the Coalition), has over 175 member groups including faith, labor, business, and community based organizations that all mobilized together for immigration reform. New York’s march was part of 183 coordinated events happening in 130 cities/towns across 40 states. The rallies and marches are part of a national effort to pressure Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives to do the right thing and pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship. All summer we saw the House stall on the process and drag their feet, so communities have come together to say that enough is enough. We saw some progress earlier this year: upon President Obama’s re-election he said that one of his main priorities was the passage of immigration reform. We saw the Senate Gang of Eight (including Senator Charles Schumer) push forward a bill that passed the Senate in June, but since then the House has stalled the process.

There are 11 million undocumented community members in the U.S. and they have been working towards comprehensive immigration reform for decades. It is appalling that the House would continue to delay this process as 1,500 people are deported daily. The deportation estimates for 2013 alone are about 300,000 and we know that in President Obama’s first term, over 1.5 million people were deported. This tears families apart and instills fear in communities that are hard working and contributing to the U.S economy. This is why we marched.”

—Thanu Yakupitiyage

Berkeley, CA
“My contribution [to the March here] was creating artwork. I am part of CultureStrike, a network of artists creating pro-migrant art to fight against the anti-migrant narrative. CultureStrike did a call out for art and we received amazing pieces that we made available online for organizers to use. We also created this how-to video to make it easier for everyone to make art. I am a firm believer that there is no point of making pro-migrant artwork if the work is not available to those who are most affected by anti-migrant laws.

Marches are important in terms of visibility. When politicos talk about ‘us’ as numbers, it’s easy for others to dislike us. They don’t see our face when others speak for us. But marches are important because we let our voices be heard. The hard part is when the marches are over and a lot of the politicians who show up for the photo-op don’t follow up [on] their promises of being in our side. Maybe I am a little jaded by the way that both Democrats and Republicans have used us in their political games in the past. But, I am always hopeful and happy to know that these spaces have been possible because of our need to speak up and let our stories be heard.”

—Julio Salgado

Roswell, GA
“The march that was held at the [Georgia] Capitol brought hundreds of people in protest of an immigration reform Plan B. Plan B is the expansion of DACA that was given to the Dreamers so that they would not be deported and could pursue a career with a work permit. This permit would greatly help the Original Dreamers, which includes the older undocumented population. [They] are the real dreamers because of their bravery in pursuing new land and opportunities.

Now is the time that Dreamers and Original Dreamers will rise up to demand a stop to the deportations, [a stop to] unjust incarceration of immigrants, and an inclusive work permit [process].”

—Yovany Diaz

Charlotte, NC

“When we first were approached with the idea of doing a march or an event that would be attached to a national day of action, we were all very excited and were motivated to do such an event or march. We had done a similar national day of action in April, so we had already had the tools and partnerships to put on such event. But this time, in one of our early planning meetings someone said, ‘We need engage a more diverse group of people, we already mobilized the Latino population in Charlotte, it’s time to mobilize everybody else.’ So we did just that: we wanted to create a space for people from all over the world to be able to come out and support immigration reform. My contribution to the event was being on the organizing and planning committee. I also do a lot of media work, so I provided the social media strategy and I was also one of the people who was in charge of all the media [for] the event.

I think this national day of action was really needed because now that we have a bill in the house we needed to show the members of congress that america is ready for immigration reform and not just for students but their parents and all of the approximate 11 million undocumented people living in the United States today. Over 40 states participated in this National March for Dignity and Respect for immigration reform and that just goes to show, that if more than half of US states are willing to let our current immigration system be reformed for the better then what’s the hold up from our members of the House?”

—Yash Mori

“We were expecting a great turnout and it was a great turnout in the end. We have to make people aware that Congress is making decisions every day and some of us just sit there not knowing how that affects our life/future. So more than just a reminder for Congress, [this] is an education for our communities.

The date [was chosen] because Congress came back to DC in the second week of September and we haven’t heard [anything] on immigration reform from the House. So we pressure them, so that they can remember that we haven’t forgotten and that we are watching them!”

—Juan Carlos Ramos

Follow Muna on Twitter @Muna_Mire.

comments powered by Disqus
Muna Mire

Organizer, Writer, Black girl from the future.

Catch up with me @Muna_Mire.




October 07, 2013

Print Friendly and PDF