After Judge’s Ruling on Arizona Immigration Law, New Yorkers Renew Call for Reform

NEW YORK—The 400 plus immigrants and their supporters who marched in protest across the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday were not assuaged by a U.S. district judge’s decision to block sections of Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that would make it a crime to be in the state as an undocumented immigrant.

“It’s not really a victory until a comprehensive immigration reform passes at the federal level that is humane and unites families,” said Rishi Singh, an organizer with Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM).

“It’s a good start but it’s not enough,” said Raphael Samanez, Executive Director of VAMOS Unidos, echoing the views expressed by immigrants in Arizona after the judge’s ruling. “We’re here to say “no” to SB 1070 and “no” to comprehensive immigration reform as proposed by Schumer,” said Samanez, who believes the New York senator’s reform proposal is too enforcement heavy.

Marchers carried signs that read “boycott Arizona” and highlighed the number of migrants who have died along the border this month.

The march included members of about 20 groups based in New York, many of whom are religiously affiliated. Members of  the clergy led the walkers across the bridge.

“These people have contributed to the country—we own them a recognition of their status,” said Reverend Mark Hallinan, a Jesuit priest based in Manhattan. Hallinan said he has to battle the daily diet of anti-immigrant rhetoric his non-immigrant congregants hear on cable television. “We must remind them of how their faith calls them to respect all individuals and the dignity of workers,” he said.

Ravi Ragbir, an organizer with the New Sanctuary Coalition, a faith based organization, said the clergy is the force that can “bring people together on a rational, moral and spiritual level.” He disagreed with the notion that the federal judge’s injunction against SB 1070 was a success. “What’s sad is we’ve gotten to the point when we think we’ve reached a victory when we’ve really lost if you consider people’s mindsets, said Ragbir. “It was a loss for all humanity.”

Maria Garcia at immigration rally in New York on July 29, 2010 - Photo: Sarah Kramer

Maria Garcia at an immigration rally in New York City on July 29, 2010. (Photo: Sarah Kramer)

Maria Garcia, of Brooklyn, was marching while pushing a baby stroller. She crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in 1982, coming to work in a New York sewing factory twelve hours a day for $3/hr. Garcia gained residency in 1986, in the last legalization program. “I want the same for my brothers—residency so they can work legally,” she said.

As the marchers were crossing the bridge, a voice from a car passing on the lower level screamed, “go home.”

“I am home,” said Debbie Almonstaser, who immigrated to this country when she was 3 years old, and is now the Board Chair of the Muslim Consultative Network.

A handful of SB 1070 supporters were waiting for the marchers to arrive in Foley Square.

“We will prevail anyway, otherwise there will be a civil war in this country,” said Pauline Pujol, who was protesting the march with New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement.

AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.