Jersey City, NJ – Against the majestic backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, the first glimpse of America for tens of millions of immigrants, thousands of union members, activists and supporters of immigration reform gathered in Liberty State Park to call for an end to the United States’ broken immigration system.
“Millions of undocumented immigrants live in fear of their lives being uprooted, their families torn apart, their dream of a better life in America shattered,” 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said. “The time is now for a reasonable, fair and affordable path to citizenship, and the time is now to reunite families.”
Joining Figueroa as speakers at the rally were:
Senator Bob Menendez
Congressman Frank Pallone
Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr.
Congressman Rush Holt
Newark Mayor Cory Booker and other local officials
New Jersey State Legislators
Raymond M. Pocino, Vice President, LIUNA
Kevin Brown, 32BJ SEIU New Jersey State Director
“The immense majority of New Jerseyians and Americans agree that our values as a nation require Congress to create an immigration system that serves our economy and that guarantees workers and immigrants their civil rights, human rights and civil liberties,” Brown said. “Most Americans reject mass deportations and support a path to citizenship by a 2-1 margin. We have no more excuses.
“That’s why a broad array of labor, community, clergy organizations and progressive elected official have joined the campaign Time is Now. We are calling on Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform this year. Working families have suffered far too long at the hands of a broken immigration system that divides our strength, exploits workers, and fails to live up to our values as a nation of immigrants.”
Alfreda Simkins, a building cleaner an at-large board member of local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, said the Statue of Liberty is the perfect symbol for the rally.
“Land of the home and free, you know, opportunity,” she said. “You know they work, but they have been afraid to stand up for themselves, because they are not citizens.”
Contrary to myths advanced by opponents of reform, fixing the nation’s broken immigration system would lead to $1.5 trillion in economic growth, 900,000 new jobs, and $5.4 billion in increased revenues.
“The time has come for farm workers and fruit pickers, students and DREAMERS, cooks and maids, hotel workers and housekeepers, landscapers and construction workers, and non-citizen soldiers fighting to protect all of us, to have a chance to raise their hand and take the oath of citizenship,” Sen. Menendez said. “As the son of Cuban-American immigrants growing up not far from here in Union City, I know what’s at stake. That oath changed my mother’s life and mine, and gave me the chance to stand here today – one of 100 United States Senators, and one of eight who is trying to fix a broken system.”
Pocino added, “We must live up to our American values that have defined our country for more than 200 years. Therefore, now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Saturday’s event is the first of a series of large-scale actions up and down the East Coast and across the country, culminating in a rally of tens of thousands of people in Washington DC on Wednesday, April 10.
With more than 125,000 members, including 9,000 in New Jersey, 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.