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“My Daughter’s Future Is In This Country”: May Day Rallies Celebrate Immigrant Workers, Urge Biden Administration To Act On Relief

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Immigrant workers, students, union members and allies in states including Washington, New York and Wisconsin rallied on Monday to advocate for greater workplace protections, union rights, and relief for immigrant communities. May Day, also known as Workers’ Day, celebrates the struggles and victories of laborers, many of whom are immigrants and have always been essential workers. 

In Wisconsin, Voces de la Frontera said that rain didn’t stop more than 1,500 people from rallying in Milwaukee for immigrant workers’ rights, an end to local collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and in support of driver’s licenses for all. While Governor Tony Evers and immigrant advocates have sought to make roads safer for all by restoring driver’s licenses to undocumented communities, Republicans have blocked those efforts, Voces de la Frontera said. 

More than 200 of those rallying on Monday were students, as part of a campaign to demand “healthy and equitable school lunches,” WUWM reported. YES Milwaukee Youth Organizer Trisha Young told the outlet that the only meals some students might get all day are those provided by school districts. Voces de la Frontera noted that a number of Milwaukee businesses closed in solidarity with marchers:




“‘We’re asking for people to get involved in a renewed statewide coalition fight. A driver’s license coalition for safe roads,’ said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, ‘to be able to put pressure particularly on our Republican representatives to demand that they bring back in state tuition and driver’s licenses,” WUWM reported. “This has broad popular support, especially driver’s licenses, an urgent need for immigrant workers and their families and certainly in agriculture and rural districts,” Neumann-Ortiz continued.

In Washington state, at least 400 people marched to the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building to support immigrant and worker rights. “Silvia Gonzalez, a Casa Latina organizer who works cleaning houses, said attendees can accomplish a lot by amplifying workers’ voices, but they need support from politicians to pass additional labor protections,” The Seattle Times reported.

“Most of us are people of color and immigrants,” she told the outlet. “Our lack of rights reminded us how vulnerable we are in this country.” The Seattle Times noted that organizers centered 2021’s May Day festivities around essential workers who kept “businesses, hospitals and farms running during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Millions of these frontline workers, about five million, are undocumented immigrants who continue to lack legal permanent status and vital workplace protections despite being named “essential” by the federal government. A number of rally goers carried signs demanding lawmakers act on a pathway to citizenship:

In New York, Make The Road New York said that hundreds marched from Washington Square Park to Foley Square to “to call for stronger protections” for all laborers, including “freelancers, cash workers, immigrant workers, and workers in re-entry.” Dozens of labor and worker justice groups also used May Day to urge state lawmakers to pass the New York for All Act, a proposal that would “broadly prohibit local and state agencies from assisting” federal immigration officials “in searching for, arresting and deporting immigrant New Yorkers,” Immigrant Defense Project said in a statement received by America’s Voice.

New York has one of the largest undocumented populations in the nation but has not yet joined states like California, Illinois and Washington in passing such legislation. Immigrant Defense Project said that the New York for All Act has momentum in both the Assembly and State Senate, but needs continued support in order to make it across the finish line and to the Governor’s desk.

“The more than 10,000 street vendors in New York City, most of whom are immigrants and people of color, are a vital part of our communities,” said Matt Shapiro, Legal Director of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project. “Despite struggling to make ends meet in their work, they also have to constantly worry about risks of contact with the criminal and immigration legal systems. We must pass New York for All and send a strong message to our members that local agencies will not share their information with ICE nor use local resources to assist in ICE’s agenda.”


In Washington state, more than 200 farm workers and allies marched across Yakima Valley, marking the region’s first in-person May Day celebration since 2019, Yakima Herald-Republic reported. Among the marchers were Windmill Farms mushroom workers who decided to unionize last year “after becoming fed up with unsafe production standards, discriminatory firings, and wage cuts,” United Farm Workers said. But earlier this year, the company was sold to a new group headed by anti-union management:

Yakima Valley College Professor Maria Cuevas, a May Day participant, told Yakima Herald-Republic that it was important that her students participate in the march. “Students think that oppression happens elsewhere,” she told the outlet. “Oppression is still occurring. Exploitation is still occurring, especially for farmworkers.” More than half of the nation’s 2.4 million farm workers lack legal immigration status, Farmworker Justice said.

In Washington, D.C., marchers also used May Day to urge the Biden administration to designate Central America for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian tool that gives immigrants who cannot safely return to their home countries the chance to live and work legally in the U.S. Affected individuals and organizations including CASA, SEIU, Alianza Americas, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Nicaraguan American Human Rights Alliance and 32BJ SEIU rallied near the White House to urge relief for Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador:


These families and allies were joined by a coalition of elected officials and faith leaders who in recent letters and statements urged the administration to act on relief. In their letter, the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) say TPS was designed by Congress for the exact kind of crises facing El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which continue to struggle due to political turmoil, environmental catastrophes, and the effects of climate change.

“As the President seeks to continue the work of his Administration to deliver for Latino and immigrant communities throughout the country, he should use every tool in his administrative toolbox to extend immigration relief where possible,” CHC Chair Nanette Barragán and Deputy Chair Adriano Espaillat said. “Redesignating El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua for TPS is not just the right thing to do for the country, but it is the right decision on the merits since TPS is a humanitarian tool specifically designed to address situations like those that are facing these Central American nations.”

Soledad, an 32BJ SEIU member from El Salvador, called attention to the human costs of not acting on TPS. More than 250,000 U.S. citizen children live with at least one family member who holds this type of humanitarian relief. “If these TPS designations are terminated, many of these parents will become undocumented,” American Immigration Council said in 2021. This could force families to either uproot, separate, or live in fear of deportation. In Soledad’s case, she has a 13-year-old daughter who was born in the United States. “My daughter’s future is in this country, not in another country,” she said.