NEW YORK ― Immigrants, children of immigrants, allies and activists demanded an end to the Trump administration’s mass deportations and anti-immigrant policies during the May Day rally at Union Square on Monday.
Many participants missed work or class to show solidarity with the thousands of immigrants who took part in the May Day strikes across the country. In New York, activists gathered in lower Manhattan to listen to speakers and hoist signs that read “No human being is illegal” and “Our humanity doesn’t end at a man-made border.”
HuffPost Latino Voices spoke to several immigrants and children of immigrants at the Union Square rally and asked them what they’d want President Donald Trump to understand about immigration. Here’s what they had to say:
Mexican-born activist Emanuel Martinez, 24, spoke in front of the crowd during the Union Square rally as part of the collective Somos Los Otros. Martinez, who works at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, missed his scheduled shift to support immigrants and the working class.
“I would like Trump to know, first of all, that we aren’t the kind of people he is describing with his comments calling us criminals, rapists and that we bring problems from our country and drugs,” Martinez told HuffPost. “He needs to know that if he’s making those types of comments, we aren’t going to stay quiet. We are going to show him with more intelligent action, without using violence because we are educated.”
Vicky Barrios, 39, attended the rally as an organizer for the immigrant group Movimiento Cosecha. The social worker is the child of Colombian immigrants whose father was once undocumented.
“I would want him to know that people’s lives matter,” Vicky said. “Our lives as immigrants matter. I’m a daughter of immigrants and I don’t think we should be scared on a daily basis about either being harassed, humiliated, harmed or deported. I don’t think that’s how we’re supposed to live. He doesn’t care about people. I’d like him to know that but I don’t think he cares to know that anyways.”
Barrios then broke down how vital immigrants are to the United States, both economically and culturally.
“We know immigrants make this country,” she added. “We also know without us, this country would fall and collapse. The workforce, the power of labor, the power of our consumerism, it actually makes this country what it is. This country is already great. It has its flaws but as immigrants we actually make it better. We have beautiful rituals and customs, we love our families, we’re hard workers. There’s an attempt to see us as criminals, as bad people and it’s unfair and inaccurate.”
Vanessa Barrios, the associate director of financial aid at St. Joseph’s College, echoed many of the sentiments of her twin sister when it comes to Trump.
“I want him to know that the only difference between [undocumented] immigrants and those who are here legally is paperwork,” Vanessa said. “People come across undocumented people all the time, you don’t even know it.”
We deserve the opportunity of comprehensive immigration reform and to stop deportations, which are only an excuse to attack the immigrant community.” Antonio Arizaga
Antonio Arizaga, 58, is the president of the immigrant group Frente Unido de Inmigrantes Ecuatorianos.
“We’re hardworking immigrants who contribute with our taxes to this country,” he told HuffPost. “We deserve the opportunity of comprehensive immigration reform and to stop deportations, which are only an excuse to attack the immigrant community.”
The Ecuadorian immigrant is also a factory worker, and wants the president to know he and other immigrants won’t sit idly by when targeted.
“Donald Trump has to know that immigrant workers do not agree with his anti-immigrant politics, we do not agree with his politics of racial hate, we do not agree with his implementation of racist persecution against our community,” he added. “This is the beginning of a fight we are leading, not only on the immigrant issue but also to demand better living conditions in this country. We are not criminals. We are not terrorists. We are people who contribute to the growth of this country.”
Victor Toro escaped Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, where he was imprisoned and tortured, and arrived to the Bronx over 35 years ago. He described himself as a “proud undocumented immigrant” and is the founder of the political and cultural center La Peña del Bronx.
“For me, Trump isn’t the problem,” Toro told HuffPost. “The problem is the capitalist state that’s implanted here in the United States that’s sometimes led by Republicans and other times Democrats. Both are the same thing. The people have to open their eyes. When the Democrats were in power they expelled more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, and no one did anything against Obama. We want to create an autonomous movement.”
Violeta Martín, an NYU graduate student focusing on Latin American and Caribbean studies, had an issue with the way Trump’s policies affect so many people on multiple levels.
“It’s just so intersectional, so many of the policies that he’s advocating for are so detrimental not only to Latinos, Mexicanos, to students, to people with loans and to the environment,” the Mexico City native said. “I don’t know what I would say to Trump. I probably would’ve said something about visibility, about how it’s not just about people who are doing good in this country or are model minorities but that there are other people and we are all human and have a right to fight for our rights.”
Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng
As an assistant professor of international education at NYU, Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng discusses how global immigration shapes education in the classroom. At the rally, he did not mince his words when discussing Trump.
“I would want him to know that he could go fuck himself, first,” Cherng said. “I think he needs to know that people are human beings. I think when he talks about immigrants he always talks about them as a group and always as a negative group. And whenever he says something slightly positive, he says it’s a ‘hardworking’ group. Immigrants are human beings: there are hardworking ones, there are non-hardworking ones ― we suffer and I think he needs to interact meaningfully with more of them.”
Cherng, 34, was born in Maryland to parents who emigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s and ‘70s.
“We have a long history of being an immigrant country, although I always want to point out that we were an indigenous country first,” he said. “To talk about the U.S. and immigration, distinctly, to me is impossible. We are an immigrant nation, especially in the last 200 years, so to then kind of parse out what are the contributions of immigration is like how do you parse out the clouds from the sky?”
No matter how hard [Trump] tries, we’re going to keep fighting and we’re not going to give up. We are stronger than he thinks." Igdalia Rojas
Igdalia Rojas was born in the Mexican state of Michoacan and grew up in California. The 32-year-old is currently a grad student at NYU but decided to miss classes on Monday as part of the national immigrant strike.
“I can’t sit in class and pretend that in my community, nothing is happening,” she said. “I think it was really important for us to take the day off.”
As far as what she’d like Trump to know, Rojas simply said that the immigrant community was ready to face and overcome anything the administration sent their way.
“I would want him to know that no matter how hard he tries, we’re going to keep fighting and we’re not going to give up,” Rojas said. “We are stronger than he thinks. He might want to intimidate us and have all the power as a white man, but we’re not scared. I think he’s trying to create fear in our communities. Our communities are stronger, there’s a lot of resiliency. He’s not going to stop us.”
Mariela Gómez, a Spanish-to-English interpreter for New York courts, decided to take a vacation day for this year’s May Day rally in support of immigrants across the country.
“This time around I thought it was important not to go to work because I have felt the intense racism that my people are facing and I think it’s a chance to speak against it,” she said.
She added that she hopes Trump “sees” immigrants and knows that “we are not going to stay quiet and stay to the side. We’re going to push back and keep insisting.”
Alejandra Ramirez, an applied psychology major at NYU, felt passionate about the need to join forces with other communities’ causes.
“I feel like in general, all of our movements are interconnected, but we always separate ourselves by race or gender,” said Ramirez, who is of Ecuadorian and Honduran descent. “That’s why my poster is trying to connect to intersectionality, even though I know I’m missing a few too. We always believe our goals are separate from one another but we’re all fucked up by the same system.”
The 21-year-old New Yorker is a part of the NYU Dream Team immigrant advocacy group on campus. Ramirez’s message to Trump boiled down to the fact that the United States doesn’t belong to anyone, especially a white man.
“He needs to be fucking considerate that this land is not his, not the white man’s land,” she said. “It’s not my land either; we came here as immigrants from Latin America. But that doesn’t mean white Americans should say, ‘Fuck no, immigrants shouldn’t come here’ and try to violate us because they think that our lives are less than theirs because we come from another nation, which they fucked up too. Because America had a history and a hand in making Latin America what it is now.”
Ginnila Perez, 19, is a first-generation American with a Peruvian mother and a Costa Rican father. The NYU student said that the immigrant community doesn’t need Trump to create change.
“We don’t need him to do anything because we already have power within ourselves, and so we don’t need to rely on politicians in order to create changes for us,” she said. “We’re going to go out and we’re going to demand these changes for ourselves. We’re demanding protection, dignity and respect ― and that’s something that we deserve as human beings. So we’re not going to back down until we get that.”
Jorge Zacatelco’s parents are from Cholula, Mexico, and migrated to the United States in the 1980s. The first-generation American is a pastry chef at a French bakery in Harlem and asked Trump not to deport millions of people as former President Barack Obama did.
“I also wanted to tell him that destroying families is not a good future for this country, because kids are born without their fathers or kids who were born here have to go to other countries,” he said.
We’re always looking for ways to measure and we forget the humanity. So that’s what I would say to Trump and people like Trump: Forget the numbers, forget the money for one second and think of the people." Kevin Duarte
Kevin Duarte, 21, is an organizer for the New York State Youth Leadership Council and is an undocumented immigrant who was brought from Guatemala when he was 5.
“I am undocumented and I am poor, and every day is literally a struggle,” the New School student said. “So I think it’s really important for people like me to come out and show support for the movement.”
Duarte said he’d like Trump to know “that money isn’t everything” and he needs to look beyond the numbers.
“That’s all I want him to understand,” he added. “If you see on TV, in the media you hear a bunch of numbers: the amount of immigrants, the population shifting, the economy, things that rise, things that fall, the stocks.”
“The numbers are immeasurable. We’re always looking for ways to measure and we forget the humanity,” he continued. “So that’s what I would say to Trump and people like Trump: Forget the numbers, forget the money for one second and think of the people [and their struggle] … Listen to what people have to say and then you’ll realize why people leave the familiarity of their home country to some place completely foreign.”