There was nothing but hope, faith and resilience on Saturday, as people from all over the state and Cabrini College students gathered for the Rally for Immigrant Dignity, Respect and Family Unity in Philadelphia.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, the National Day for Human Dignity and Respect, over 60 cities nation-wide held rallies for a just and humane immigration reform demanding to keep families united. In Pennsylvania, families, students and workers gathered at Love Park to join Pennsylvania’s Immigration and Coalition Citizenship. They demanded a change.
“Immigrants are here because they are hiding, escaping from the oppression in their home countries,” said one of the spokespersons.
Since the Senate passed its immigration bill, over 200,000 people have been deported.
According to Democracynow.org, Border Patrol agents killed at least 19 people at the border since 2010. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency just now announced new guidelines which was another reason for the gathering in the Love Park.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of the Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild in Philadelphia, said, “I’m thankful today to be here with you because as citizens of the city and citizens of this nation, we stand with you to press forward, a pathway to citizenship, human rights and dignity for all.”
From Kennett Square to Lehigh Valley, everyone came together to march the streets in a peaceful protest to demand an immigration reform at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in the heart of Philadelphia.
“Getting to know new people, forming new connections and sharing our power and our stories, we will arrive at ICE a stronger movement,” one of the leaders said. “We will arrive stronger with more endurance and a greater sense of urgency.”
Snacks and water were given out to everyone and were encouraged to take more for later during the march. Hundreds of people cheered, “Si se puede” or “yes we can” to let others know that this is a cause that can and needs to be reformed. The spokesperson for PICC asked, “What do we want?” and the audience replied, “immigration reform.” Again she would call out, “When do we want it?” and the audience replied, “now.” Again she encouraged the protestors, “and if we march in this spirit, we will realize and the world will realize that our movement for immigration reform and end to deportations is unstoppable.”
Posters were handed out to anyone who had a free hand and markers were available if anyone wanted to color in the posters. Alongside of every protester were American flags, hearts and butterflies. All three of these symbols were to represent the freedom and human dignity that migrant workers were asking for and were eventually taped onto the ICE building.
“I think it’s important to realize that college students are known as leaders when it comes to being activists,” said Cabrini Mission Corps missioner, Martin Garcia. Garcia was one of the seven Cabrini College representatives at the rally. “So I was happy to see Cabrini students taking an active roll in our country’s history and marching for a more compassionate future,” Garcia said.
“We call on our congress members to put forth legislation that will create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that live in this country, who daily add to the culture and race of this nation,” Bishop Royster said.
Before the march to the ICE building, Bishop Royster spoke to the peaceful protestors to encourage them to continue to open up and fight for their freedom.
“I’m reminded in the second chapter of Matthew, that an angel of the lord came to Joseph in the middle of the night and told Joseph to get Jesus out of Israel and take him to Egypt. They didn’t ask for a visa, they did not ask for a green card, they just got up and went,” Bishop Royster said. “Human rights should know no boundaries and that each and every one of us have been created with intrinsic value in the sight of God. Just like Jesus had to go to Egypt, there are and were folks that came to America for opportunities and for a better life for their families. Allow me to say you are welcome here and we stand with you right now, for a pathway to citizenship, the end of deportations and recognize the humanity of all.”
Other organizations such as New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, Norristown, Bath, Wilkes-Barre, Kennett Square and Nanticoke Communities, Temple University representatives, Central Baptist Church, 32BJ SEIU Pennsylvania and POWER also came to support the demand for change.
“In the 10 years I have been driving, I have paid just from driving to my job, dropping my wife off at her job, for dropping my children off at school, for doing grocery shopping or doing laundry, I have paid $20,000. Not only that but I have five pounds of receipts to prove I have paid for all of them,” Royster said.
Farmworkers-support committee and activist organization, CATA, consisting of farm workers and other low wage workers living in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland also spoke to the audience.
“CATA’s mission is to educate and to empower farm workers so that we can organize ourselves and demand that our rights be respected both in our work places and our communities,” Crescenciano Sanchez, from Toluca, Mexico and a member of CATA, said.
“CATA has been a party for many years for immigration reform and our people have devoted considerable energy to this struggle, now we are waiting on our elected representatives to do their part and to take action on this matter where we are eagerly hoping to dream of a better life for our families and make this become a reality,” said Sanchez.
“I feel good about being here, it is important because we need our papers, we need our documents. There are a lot of people who are still living in fear and they shouldn’t be, though it is important for me to be here and participate so that stops happening,” Sanchez said. “Farm workers contribute a lot to food services, without our work that we do picking crops and getting food to the tables, this country wouldn’t run. It’s time for this country to acknowledge the value of our contributions as migrant workers, as farm workers, by giving us the same rights as citizens, the rights we deserve.”
“Even though we pay our taxes and stimulate the economy with our own money, we are kept under the poverty line, with a low quality of life, the well-being of our communities is uninsured in this country and we are all so tired of living in the shadows,” Sanchez said.
“The fight for migrant justice goes beyond asking for basic human rights as farm and migrant workers are respected,” Sanchez said. “Rather it is a challenge to society, a challenge to organize life without the influence of fear and ignorance, instead guided by courage and a respectful human dignity for all human beings.”
The rally was especially inspiring to Cabrini students, “I can honestly say the rally was the highlight of my semester. I understood that we were helping support immigrants but hearing their stories really affected me,” Ashlee Grazier, senior business and administrative major, said. “I really felt connected to the immigrants’ stories because of the injustice they were subjected to.”
Once the protestors marched to the ICE building, more stories were shared and tears were shed as children put up their homemade hearts and butterflies, asking for their families’ freedom, the entire experience was inspirational and moving.
Bishop Royster ended the protest by stating, “We want immigration reform. We are not going to remain silent anymore. We demand humane immigration reform.”