Freedom Ride For
Immigrant Rights Rolls Into Flushing Meadow Oct. 4
by john toscano
Inspired by the Freedom Rides of the civil rights movement, buses filled with immigrant workers and their community allies will descend on Flushing Meadows–Corona Park from 10 major U.S. cities on Saturday October 4 for a massive rally and all-day festival for immigrant rights and against the injustices of current immigration policies.
It promises to be the largest pro-immigrant demonstration in the nation’s history as organizers of the rally expect upwards of 100,000 people will come together at the Unisphere.
The goal of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, according to Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin, event chairman, is to demonstrate a broad national constituency for meaningful reform of immigration laws while also encouraging civic participation by new and future citizens.
McLaughlin (D–Flushing/ Richmond Hill), who also is president of the 1.1 million-member New York City Central Labor Council, declared:
"Many civil rights leaders are looking at the plight of immigrant workers in the same way they looked at the plight of African Americans and other minorities in the 1960s.
"September 11 accelerated concern over many of the civil rights and civil liberties for immigrants that are now jeopardized by the Homeland Security Act."
The rally will educate the public and elected officials about four key requirements of a new immigration policy:
•Legalization and a "road to citizenship" for all immigrant workers;
•The right of immigrant workers to reunite their families;
•Protecting the rights of immigrants in the workplace, and
•Protecting the civil rights and civil liberties of all.
The Freedom Ride was planned and carried out by the NYC Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Committee.
Sponsors and participants include the AFL-CIO, DC 37 and AFSCME, its parent union, the Central Labor Council and many other unions.
Supporters kicked off the Freedom Ride on September 20 and will converge on Flushing Meadows–Corona Park from 10 major U.S. cities: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, Miami, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis.
En route, they will stop in dozens of cities and towns to rally support for immigration reform. After converging on Washington, D.C. on October 1, where they will meet with members of Congress, the new Freedom Riders will head to Liberty State Park in New Jersey for a rally on Friday, October 3, and then roll into New York City the following day en route to Queens.
Nationally, the Freedom Ride was sponsored by the National Sponsoring Committee including the AFL-CIO, major international unions, national immigrant and civil rights groups, religious institutions, student and community organizations, prominent elected officials, and others.
Among the speakers who will address the rally is Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the Archbishop of New York. There will also be entertainment throughout the program.
Sponsors spearheading the event want an end to the low wages and poor working conditions foisted upon immigrants and for the legalization of almost eight million undocumented immigrants who work as dishwashers, janitors, maids and day workers.
Daily hundreds of such immigrants gather on street corners in Astoria, Woodside, Flushing and communities throughout Queens as well as in other localities throughout the city seeking day jobs. Their presence has sparked resentment and controversy, yet efforts to create labor halls or other places for the workers to gather have also been met by local resistance.
Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a new executive order on immigration policy that will open the way for the city’s vast immigrant population to access city services without fear that their status will be revealed to federal authorities. The newly established "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy will protect confidential information and immigration status at all city agencies.