By JEFFREY CABRERA and CHRIS GITNER
Waving banners and chanting, “No wall, no Trump” and “Here we are and we aren’t leaving,” about 200 union members and immigrants rallied on May Day outside the Westchester Government Building in White Plains to raise support for immigrant workers.
“A lot of fear has been created by the current administration,” White Plains Mayor Tom Roach told the crowd. He vowed to uphold his pledge not to cooperate with federal immigration officials and to enforce White Plains police’s policy of not asking for citizenship status.
“We are all immigrants,” Roach said. “We are all from somewhere.”
Roach noted that a few blocks away during the Revolutionary War, forces led in part by Alexander Hamilton, born in the British West Indies, held off British forces, allowing George Washington to move his troops to safety and later attack Trenton, turning the tide of the war. “So an immigrant saved our nation that day in this city,” he said.
Immigrant workers “will resist attempts of the federal government to criminalize the immigrant workers,” said Deandra Khan, a WESPAC political coordinator, one of several speakers who spoke about challenges their communities face under the Trump administration.
The rally was sponsored by the mammoth labor union 32BJ SEIU, Hudson Valley Community Coalition and the WESPAC Foundation along with other grassroots organizations. It coincided with nationwide rallies showing support for immigrant workers.
“We will stand with you against the Trump administration’s heartless attacks,” John Santos, vice-president of 32BJ SEIU Hudson Valley, told the cheering crowd.
Sandra Moncada, an activist from the Hudson Valley Community Coalition, held the organization’s banner with her daughter and cheered with the crowd. “We are leading the way in change and we have to keep moving forward,” Moncada said.
Esther Ramirez, a Valhalla janitor, called for equal wages and respect for all workers and urged listeners to support immigrant workers who are discriminated against. “As Hispanics we must be united,” she said.
As Ramirez spoke, Sully Madrigal, of Sleepy Hollow, waved a Mexican flag and shouted “Stay strong! We are all here!” prompting loud cheers. Madrigal said she came out to prove that immigrant workers are not criminals. She said she felt she needed to speak for others immigrants who were afraid to speak up in difficult times.
“They talk about the criminals but not the community who work hard every day,” Kevin Sheil, the president of Communication Workers of America Local 1103, said of the Trump administration and its plans to deport undocumented workers and build a wall separating Mexico and the United States.
Jirandy Martinez, co-executive director of Community Resource Center in Mamaroneck, said that about 22 percent of the population around White Plains are immigrants, many of them undocumented families who are afraid to leave their homes for fear of deportation. “Our communities are going back into the shadows,” she said.
“We have needs, we can’t live with a small salary, we are invalidated as immigrants and workers,” said Mamaroneck resident and mother of three Martha Caballo.
Marisol Santiago, a Yonkers resident who immigrated from Mexico, works with the Yonkers Sanctuary Movement, a grassroots non-profit that supports immigrants who face deportation. “When I arrived in Yonkers, there was only one Mexican store,” she said, noting that now there are many. “Yonkers has grown because of immigrants and the economy has grown because of immigrants.”
“We’re very sympathetic to the issues affecting immigrants,” said David Rodriguez of the law firm Rodriguez and Sharma LLP. “We feel like they are under attack for the wrong reasons and we’re here to help.”
Cabrera and Gitner are members of the Purchase College Community Reporting Team
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