A contingent of Mamaroneck residents were among more than 300 men, women and children from all over Westchester County who rallied in support of immigration reform outside Senator Charles Schumer’s Office in Peekskill on Saturday, May 1. The gathering, like others across the country, was in response to recently passed laws in Arizona that require, among other things, that local police investigate immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion that a person is in the country illegally. It has also become illegal to aid an undocumented immigrant. Opponents fear that the laws will encourage police to use racial profiling of Hispanics, regardless of their status.
Those at the rally come from the pro-immigrant side of the debate over the Arizona laws. But critics and supporters of the laws agree that federal laws need improvement.
Over 40 residents from Mamaroneck attended the Peekskill protest, arriving on a bus provided by the Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaroneck (HRC), an organization that provides social, educational and vocational services for area immigrants. “We are active members of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition, a group that seeks to change the discourse around immigration,” said HRC president John Gitliz, explaining the reason for the bus trip. “We wanted to give members of the center the opportunity to feel part of the movement for immigration reform.”
Ruth Spiro, who teaches English at the worker center in Mamaroneck, said, “I came to this protest in the bus with my students to support them not only in their desire to improve their English, but to get better jobs and to someday become American citizens. Also I feel very strongly that the Arizona law is the result of the lack of leadership in Washington on this subject, and the administration should address immigration reform now.”
Norma Pereira Mora, a native of Guatemala who resides in Carmel and heads the organizing efforts of the Hudson Valley Patriots for Immigration Reform, said Senator Schumer’s office was selected because of his current work toward a bipartisan immigration bill to present in Congress. Advocates fear that the bill might not be introduced until after this November’s election. The recent events in Arizona have revitalized the movement and advocates are pressing to bring immigration to the forefront of the legislative agenda.
Speakers at the rally shared their experiences with immigrant life. Miguel Duarte, who lives in Mt Kisco, spoke of his frustration with three rejected applications for a resident status that would allow him to see his family in Paraguay after 9 years of separation.
Like others at the rally, Zoe Colon, executive director of the Hispanic Resource Center, described her admiration for the many immigrant residents in Mamaroneck who volunteer in their churches and the community. She voiced respect for the hardship and struggles that brought them here.
The demonstration in Peekskill, which lasted around two hours, was spirited but peaceful. The event was sponsored by the Hudson Valley Community Coalition, the Hudson Valley Patriots for Immigration Reform, WESPAC and the NY AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association – NY Chapter. The objective was to revive the debate over immigration in hopes of finding a solution that can overcome the political divide on this issue.
Mariana Boneo is the former executive director of the Hispanic Resource Center.
La version de este articulo en ingles esta disponible como: Local Residents Rally For Immigration Reform at Schumer’s Office