A lunchtime rally held Wednesday outside the State House drew more than 100 members of the community, all calling for Congress to adopt commonsense immigration reform.
The date of the rally, which was promoted by a coalition of groups that includes the SEA, was not insignificant: May 1 is May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day. Similar rallies were held across the country Wednesday.
Among those who spoke at the rally was SEA First Vice President Ken Roos, who harkened back to his own family’s immigration in his call for all to come together in support of reform.
“We need to work as a coalition of labor organizations and employers, all faith groups, both political parties, and people of all ethnic backgrounds to take a strong stand and stop the dehumanization of people who are following the steps of my grandparents,” he said. “These are people who have the same American dream that my family was allowed to pursue and attain.”
Roos closed his remarks by quoting a poem familiar to many generations of immigrants to our country.
“We need to continue the dialogue and implement comprehensive immigration reform now, so that soon all of you, and the generations to follow, may read the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty with the pride of every American citizen: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’ ”
Also playing a role in Wednesday’s rally was SEA member John Corrigan, who entertained the crowd with performances of labor- and immigration-themed songs.
“Music is a good way of conveying a message, and the songs I performed were very specific to the rally,” Corrigan said. “I played three Woody Guthrie songs, so that should give you a good idea of how long this debate has been going on.”
(For any who don’t get the reference, Woody Guthrie was a songwriter who died in 1967. Many of his most famous songs deal with workers’ rights.)
Corrigan said we must secure our borders, but something also needs to be done to deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants.
“There is no way we can deport them and still maintain our commitment to human rights in the most basic sense,” he said. “You just cannot deport 11 million people. If you deport parents, what do you do with their children who are citizens because they’re born here?”
While he’d hoped for a larger crowd, Corrigan said he was pleased with the rally.
“It seemed to be a good coalition of people, and there was a good spirit,” he said. “The message came across really well.”
And the message got plenty of media attention. The Telegraph and Associated Press reported the event and NECN aired a video piece on it. If you’d like to learn more about May Day, you can find plenty of information in this CNN article written in part by Arnie Alpert of the American Friends Service Committee.