Last night, Washington Square Park overflowed with thousands of New Yorkers who gathered to stand up for immigrant and Muslim rights in an “emergency rally.” With the new administration sticking to its strong anti-immigration and Islamophobic stance, these communities need our support now more than ever before—and New Yorkers know it.
I arrived at the rally around 5:15pm and already, hundreds of people had arrived wielding signs that made statements like “Immigrants Make American Great” and “New Yorkers for Immigration Justice.” As I moved to front of the crowd to hear the speakers at the rally, I was met with faces of solidarity. A palpable feeling of strength pulsed through the crowd, decidedly emanating the sentiment that New Yorkers refuse to allow fear to overwhelm us—or keep us quiet.
While the entire rally was inspiring, I found the NYC public officials’ speeches on how they plan to take action against this damaging executive order the most uplifting aspect of the event. They showed up to ensure immigrant and Muslim New Yorkers that they are not alone, and their presence made an impact. Public officials, non-profits and lawyers continue to tirelessly fight for the rights of our most vulnerable communities. They’re committed to preserving this city’s status as a safe space and sanctuary for all people, all well aware that we’re a city of immigrants, and that diversity and inclusion make us stronger.
The vibe of the crowd emitted righteous anger, but also, unified love. I stood next a young Muslim woman from Zambia who told me that when she returns home, she plans to run for president in her country. She also informed me while that she realizes this goal will prove difficult because she is a woman, she believes she could be a strong leader. Youth like this woman —among many other advocates and allies — are leading the crucial push for social change that will result in all peoples and communities feeling supported.
Public officials peppering the crowd last night included activist Linda Sarsour, City Council Member Jumaane Williams and Public Advocate Letitia James, who gave engaging speeches and led chants such as, “Our administration is too male, too pale, and too stale” to keep the crowd energized. James released this statement yesterday afternoon prior to speaking at the rally:
“Today, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders that turned his dangerous campaign rhetoric into reality. But no executive action will change our shared American values which include supporting immigrants and rejecting racism and bigotry. In New York, we will continue to stand by our immigrant brothers and sisters. We reject the President’s approach to sanctuary cities. We must and we will defy his efforts to divide us. We will fight the ban, we will fight the wall, and we will remain united.”
Trump signed this executive order on Wednesday for the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” With this action, Trump will push through the construction of his infamous pet projects: A wall on the US-Mexico border, an increase in border patrol forces and immigration enforcement officers to carry out more deportations, and the slashing of federal funds to sanctuary cities.
NYC remains a sanctuary city, which means that we’ve adopted a policy of protecting undocumented immigrants by promising not to prosecute them for violations of federal immigration laws in the nation and city they now call home. The current administration made this statement concerning sanctuary cities:
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic…
… In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.”
CAIR-NY organized the rally and conducted all the outreach to local elected officials and non-profit organizations, urging them to join this effort. The outpouring of support was astounding. In their announcement about the rally, CAIR-NY asserted, “[NYC is] a city of immigrants, we cannot stay silent in the face of such hate. We ask you to gather tonight [Wednesday] to show President Trump that all New Yorkers stand with our Muslim and Latino neighbors. Together, we will form a beacon of light against the coming darkness.”
For resources and information on LGBTQ and HIV positive immigrants, please go to Immigration Equality.