New America Media, News Report, Anthony D. Advincula,
WASHINGTON — By the time their 50-seater bus left the parking lot of RFK Stadium and started heading back to New York on Sunday evening, passengers who took part in the rally for comprehensive immigration reform had already begun planning for the next demonstration.
“What you just did today only showed that we can make it happen. You've made a difference,” Erika Stallings, who led the delegation of immigrants organized by New York Immigration Coalition, said loudly from the front of the bus. “We should not stop from here. We’re told that we will have another rally in April. If the immigration reform is still not passed, then we will do another one on May 1.”
Raising her cell phone in one hand, Stallings announced that she got a text message that there were hundreds of thousands of people at the rally, an unprecedented number for a demonstration since Pres. Obama took office last year.
“We should invite all our friends, our children and siblings to join us next time. That means we could easily increase the number to 1 million,” Gersan Corea, a Honduran immigrant who works as a dental technician in Long Island, said in Spanish.
Corea, who along with other protesters was wearing a white collared shirt, stood in the middle of the bus and spoke to other passengers about the positive economic ripple effect of allowing undocumented immigrants to legalize their status.
“Imagine if the 12 million undocumented immigrants file for their application with the USCIS. This country will earn billions of dollars right away just from the immigration fees,” he said. “The airline industry will benefit from it as well as the retail sector, as immigrants fly to see their families and purchase gifts, clothes and lots of other things to be sent back to their home countries.”
The passengers – overwhelmingly Latinos, along with some Asian and Haitian immigrants – had varied immigration stories to tell. Some of them were at the rally for themselves; others marched for their families and friends, hoping that they would be able to be reunited with their loved ones.
A 47-year-old man from the West Village in Manhattan, who spoke on condition of anonymity, sat silently on the bus. He was wearing a white shirt printed with the word “WHY” in bold letters. His immigrant boyfriend, he said, is currently in removal proceedings.
“It’s been a nightmare. We’ve both been getting sick because of stress,” he said. “I believe in justice and equality for immigrants. My ancestors were on the Mayflower when they came to this country.”
Jackie Amezquita, 38, said she took part in the rally to fight for the rights of nannies, domestic workers and caregivers. As the unofficial translator for the delegation, Amezquita was traveling with her three-year-old son, Eli, and four Haitian nannies and domestic workers who were sitting in the back of the bus.
“Nannies and domestic workers -- the majority of them are immigrants, are not recognized by the New York labor laws. It makes them powerless to speak out against the abuses they face,” Amezquita said, asking another passenger to hold onto her son’s toy microphone as she put him to sleep on the seat. “Because they are not recognized, to me they are considered not human. We all breathe the same air, isn’t it?”
Banners that read “Libertad” (Freedom) and “Please, Don’t Deport My Mom” were already worn out and dirty from the rally and now dangled from the overhead bins.
As the bus reached the highway, Stalling passed around brochures that included information on the rights of immigrants when they are asked for their identification by police, and phone numbers of pro-bono immigration lawyers.
“Senators Schumer and Graham are on our side,” she said, “but we should do our part. Let’s call our Congress starting tomorrow.”