On Wednesday, October 14th, hundreds gathered at Hofstra University to urge Barack Obama and John McCain to address the real issues affecting Americans today. Many were there to call for an end to the silence on immigration during the debates. Among them were our partners from the New York Immigration Coalition.
Ying-Ying Ma, from NYIC said.
We marched from the train station to the Hofstra campus to bring attention to the issues facing our communities. While we chanted the slogans of the ongoing struggle for immigrants rights, our primary message was more immediate; talk to us about immigration. “What’s your plan?”. The issue of immigration reform has been muted for too long in this campaign.
But walking through the streets of Hempstead, it was clear to me that there was no single issue more relevant to the community hosting the last debate than the issue of immigration. Our march down Fulton Avenue drew curiosity and support from the downtown population of Hempstead–immigrant workers, families, and children. The issues at stake in the silence on immigration represent their rights to live, work and build a future in America.
It is an alarming juxtaposition; the many immigrant families whose lives are directly affected by immigration policy, and the presidential candidates who were in their neighborhood but refused to address the issue.
Another advocate with NYIC, Kim Sykes, reflected on the debate:
The candidates seem decided that the future of immigrants in this country is apparently not worthy of discussion on the national stage. Both McCain and Obama have opted to talk about immigration policy only in isolation, targeting immigrant communities with advertisements. In doing this, they push immigrants further to the margins. We don’t really need to talk about immigrants because they aren’t that important. Haven’t immigrants been marginalized enough?
How can we talk about a new direction for our country without discussing one of its great challenges? Immigration has been critical to America’s future from day one when it was addressed in the Declaration of Independence — an issue so important that it had helped push the Colonies to break from England. So, I’ll ask McCain and Obama our question again, what is your plan? Maybe if my name were Joe they would listen.
With the debates behind us and only 18 days until the election, we must continue to pressure the candidates to publicly discussion their positions on immigration. The New York Immigration Coalition and its partners have registered 275,000 new immigrant voters in New York State, and are reaching out to more than 40,000 immigrant voters in a large-scale get-out-the-vote operation.
The immigrant vote will count now, more than ever. Will the candidates come forward and support this community before they head to the polls?