NEWBURGH - More than 150 people gathered outside the Newburgh Armory Unity Center last Wednesday afternoon as part of the nationwide call for immigration reform.
The event, held late in the afternoon, according to Carmen Vazquetell of Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley, was designed so that people in the community could participate without having to travel a great distance or miss work.
"We know immigration reform is going to happen," said Vazquetell. "The time is right. We are sending a message about what needs to be included."
Vazquetell made a point of highlighting three very specific issues that should be included in any immigration reform.
"We want a very clear and direct path to citizenship. We want workers' rights for everyone. And we want access to basic services such as health care," he said.
That message was met with thunderous applause from the crowd on hand. Those points were also part of a petition that people were asked to sign and would later be presented to U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney.
"This country was built on the idea of immigration," Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy told the crowd. "Today it’s time to take a stand. Today from this day forward we cannot let up, we cannot let down if we want to make this happen."
State Assemblyman Frank Skartados, himself an immigrant from Greece, said he was in support of tougher borders, however he wants a clear path to citizenship for those already in the country.
The speeches concluded with a "dreamer" - Brenda Rosas. The 23-year-old from Newburgh spoke of how she struggled through high school and college and what this country means to her and what this day was all about.
"Today we fight for the opportunity to openly contribute to this great nation," declared Rosas. "We fight for the opportunity that we have been waiting for for such a long time."
Following the speeches, people walked the one mile route from the armory to U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s office on Grand Street. There the marchers were met by members of Maloney’s staff who took the group’s petition.
Earlier in the day lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) activists held a press conference outside of SUNY Albany to call on the "Gang of 8" in the Senate to introduce an LGBTQ-inclusive immigration reform bill. There was also a candlelight vigil held in Kingston as an immigration reform bill is likely to be introduced soon, but all reports indicate that the bill will not include various provisions that specifically concern the rights of LGBTQ immigrants.