“We All Stand Together”

May 2, 2018

May Day rally takes over Washington Square

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Photo by Cristóbal Vivar

On Tuesday, May 1, labor activists and immigrant support organizations staged rallies in New York City to commemorate May Day.

The internationally recognized date commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Square riot in Chicago, when laborers gathered to demand an eight-hour workday and better workplace conditions. May Day is a national holiday in some countries, but not the United States.

In Washington Square, labor unions and immigrant rights groups staged a press conference and rally in front of the famous arch to show solidarity. Groups in attendance included the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), 32BJ SEIU, 1199SEIU, DC37, LiUNA Locals 78 and 79, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), Make the Road New York (MRNY) and Teamsters Joint Council 16.

Others in attendance included Public Advocate Letitia James, New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Acting Commissioner Bitta Mostofi.

Speakers drew attention to how Trump administration policies have negatively impacted immigrants, such as the move to cancel Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for refugees from several countries, and the attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“Since the beginning of the Trump administration, immigrant communities have been under sustained attack,” said NYIC Executive Director Steven Choi. “Does that make America great?”

“We all stand together. That’s why it’s important that on this May Day, that we remind ourselves of who we are as Americans, remind ourselves that this was a country built on the back of immigrants,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

Union leaders said they will continue to fight for immigrants, who make up a large segment of the workforce.

“We have a message for you, 45 – you won’t be here forever but the unions will always be here,” said NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo, addressing the President directly.

Perla Canales, a TPS recipient who fled Honduras after Hurricane Mitch hit in 1999, said she is living in uncertainty as she awaits the federal government’s decision on whether it will extend TPS for around 57,000 Hondurans. She said she expects the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end TPS for Honduras the way it already has for immigrants from Haiti, Nepal and Nicaragua.

“I feel offended by that position of the government, because I have paid my taxes, I am not a criminal, I did not come here to steal anything from anyone, I am not a terrorist, and it hurts me a lot to see that this government seems to have no heart and not see all that we have contributed to this country,” Canales said. “If they cancel it, I will not leave. I will continue fighting for my dignity.”