“We all came here on different ships, but we’re all here on the same boat now,” said Erika Almiron, the executive director of JUNTOS — a support group for Latino immigrants in Philadelphia — as she repeated the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
Yesterday, about 10 Penn students joined more than 250 Philadelphia locals at Arch Street United Methodist Church next to City Hall for a discussion panel focusing on issues facing Philadelphia’s immigrant communities. The students and other panel attendees then marched in solidarity to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement building at 16th and Callowhill streets as part of a larger “Day of Justice.”
According to a press release put out by The Coalition — a Philadelphia umbrella organization for grassroots-immigrant communities — a record-breaking 397,000 people were deported from the United States in 2011.
College sophomore Chantelle Belic — a member of Penn’s Student Labor Action Project who attended the panel discussion and the march yesterday — said that “just because you’re born somewhere different doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve the same rights as someone else.”
“Immigrants are going through the same struggles that black communities faced 50 years ago,” she added. “It’s a powerful movement connected to education, healthcare and prison reform.”
Belic expressed concern over what she perceives as a lack of Penn students’ involvement in the pursuit of human rights for immigrant communities. She said that Martin Luther King Jr. Day represented a good opportunity to bring immigrants’ rights to the fore of the public discourse.
“We’re a liberal campus,” she said. “There’s a diverse number of opinions on campus, but immigrant rights have a negative connotation … We need to step out into the community and see what’s really going on.”
College junior and SLAP member Meghna Chandra agreed.
Chandra joined other demonstrators with chants of “Education not deportation” as the crowd marched to the ICE building. Protesters carried posters in multiple languages that read anything from “Keep our families together” to “We will not be divided.”
“We’re here continuing Martin Luther King’s legacy and fighting for social justice,” Chandra said. “If capital can cross borders, so should people.”
Alleena Oum — a volunteer with One Love Movement, a Philadelphia organization that advocates for social justice reforms — addressed the struggles that Cambodian immigrants in particular face.
Cambodian immigrants who have lived in the United States for years and are deported “are forced to return to a country where they can barely speak the language,” Oum said. “Awareness is the main objective. We just want our families back.”
RelatedComments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.