Unity March 10591: In Their Own Words

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Compiled by Krista Madsen

Perhaps the most powerful way to cover January’s Unity March, gathering an estimated 800 immigrants and their allies from Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown and beyond, is to focus on the words of the participants themselves – bilingual messages of solidarity on signs, in chants, and in speeches.

As the marchers made their way along the sidewalks from the steps of St. Teresa of Avila Church in Sleepy Hollow to the border of Tarrytown, against the backdrop of horns honking from passersby, their chants and signs proclaimed:

We are all immigrants / Todossomosimmigrantes

 The people united will never be divided / El pueblo unidojamásserávencido

 Sí se puede / Yes you can!

Que vive el pueblo! / Long live the People!

 Nadiees illegal / No one is illegal

 Marchers streaming into Patriot’s Park were greeted by free food and an inspiring program of speakers.

 René León, march co-organizer and ownera local catering company responsible for the food-prep on this day, said:

Nobody in their right mind wants to leave home.  But we do.  We leave everything behind… I left a place where clouds sink into the ground and rare tourists wonder aloud “why would anyone ever leave this land?” So why would they leave? Every immigrant has a heartbreaking answer for the question because only the most desperate circumstance would make someone give up the only home they have ever known.

Sarah Stern, history teacher, march co-organizer and wife of León:

I’ll tell you, if you want to make friends in a town, the easiest way to do so is to organize a march… Last night I only slept four hours but it’s the best sleep I’ve had for probably a year. It turns out the anecdote to the anxiety and cynicism I’ve felt for this past year is action… Get out there and do something for others, anything…

Mayor Ken Wray
Andrea Kott and Mayor Ken Wray photo by Mark Liflander

Ken Wray, Mayor of Sleepy Hollow:

Sleepy Hollow is an immigrant community. We have always been an immigrant community. We will continue to be an immigrant community… We are not in Sleepy Hollow going to order our police department to enforce immigration rules. Their priority and the priority of this village to keep this village safe for all us. [And noting that four Trustees were with him today, Wray added:] We have a quota… so when I say we are united behind our community, we really mean it.

Sam Gonzalez, Sleepy Hollow Trustee:

My father came to this country for two reasons – he had hope and he had courage. He was really committed to having a better life for himself and for his children… When you think about it, the bottom line is, we’re all standing here, we are all Americans. We’re all interested in having freedom and opportunity to prosper and educate our families, and that’s what it’s about… We are not here to enforce the federal government’s interest in messing with people who are coming to this country, who are working very hard, who are paying taxes, and supporting the prosperity of this country.

Aaron Brusso, Rabbi of Bet Torah, Mount Kisco:

I am a Jew. I am a rabbi. My holy book is the Torah.My holy book tells me: “Do not oppress the immigrant…” I am an American. My holy book is the Declaration of Independence.My holy book tells me:We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are given by their creator the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.As an American and as a Jew I believe that every human being is made in the image of God. It is not up to a person to prove that to me. It is up to me to see it.You can close our borders, you cannot close our hearts.

HalehTavakol, Alumni Director at the Hackley School:

 A few months ago, my parents, who are U.S. citizens and live right here in Sleepy Hollow went back to Iran for a visit. My dad is a retired doctor and my mom is an artist. Unfortunately my dad has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he’s become too weak to travel and can’t get back here. This [travel] ban has ripped my family apart. I can’t go back to see my father one last time before he dies. My daughters, who are U.S. citizens and who are here and born in New York with the same rights as all of you, cannot go to see their grandfather one last time.

Chuck Lesnick, Deputy Counsel and Bureau Chief for New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and here on behalf of New York’s Governor:

Governor Andrew Cuomo, like his father Mario before him, has been a voice of immigrants for a long time. Yesterday, the governor said, “I’d never thought I’d see the day when refugees who have fled war-torn countries in search of a better life, would be turned away at our doorstep. We are a nation of bridges not walls and a great many of us still believe in the words” – and I’m going to quote the words that Emma Lazarus said in 1893 and if you know them you can say them with me; they’re at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty that this week had a tear in her ear and got a punch in her stomach – but we’re New Yorkers, we’ll come back – and she said:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

“America is a nation of laws and those laws provide rights that must be respected and followed regardless of political ideology.”

Finally,Paul Feiner, Greenburgh Town Supervisor, led everyone in public pledge of activism:

You’re part of an international movement, millions of people all around the world speaking out and getting involved, many for the first time. The most important office in the United States is that of community activist. I’m going to ask you to raise your right hand and we’re going to take the oath of community activism.

“I, [your name], do solemnly swear that I shall assume the oath of community activist and that I promise to attend and speak out at meetings, at the local, county, state and national level. And no one will shut me up and no one will intimidate me, and I will ask and encourage all my neighbors and friends to also speak out.”

Thank you. Now you’re a citizen activist.

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photo by Mark Liflander
photo by Mark Liflander


photo by Mark Liflander
photo by Mark Liflander


photo by Mark Liflander
photo by Mark Liflander

For additional photos of the march please click here…

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