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2003-10-06

100,000 Immigrant Workers and Supporters Demand Change to Nation’s Immigration Laws

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Demonstrations on Friday and Saturday were the climax of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, a two-week journey of nearly 900 immigrants and their supporters across the country to challenge the nation’s immigration laws.

As many as 100,000 immigrants rallied in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens — the most diverse community in the world–on Saturday to call for better working conditions for undocumented workers. This follows a rally on Friday against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty in New Jersey.

Saturday’s demonstration was the climax of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, a two-week journey of nearly 900 immigrants and their supporters who traveled from Los Angeles, Seattle and eight other cities to Washington and New York to challenge the nation’s immigration laws.

The rally was in many ways a multicultural festival, with salsa and reggae music, signs in Creole and Spanish, and wafting smells of tortillas and jerk chicken.

Church and mosque congregations and community groups marched into the site with banners declaring their affiliations. Bangladeshi men skipped around the park, chanting "Amnesty!" Korean folk drummers and dancers gave impromptu performances.

The riders pushed for better conditions for legal as well as "illegal" immigrants. Their four-point agenda focuses on workplace policies, civil liberties, faster reunification of families, as well as official status for illegal workers.

Excerpts of speeches at Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride rally in Liberty State Park in Jersey City on October 3, 2003:

  • Terence O’ Sullivan, General President, Laborers International Union.
  • Bruce Rainer, President of UNITE!
  • Congressman John Lewis, Democrat, Georgia.
  • Linda Chavez Thompson, AFL-CIO.

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