Advocates call for citizenship for undocumented immigrants at ‘Relay Across America’ in Jersey City

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Advocates rallied in the shadow of the Freedom Tower during a “Relay Across America” event in Jersey City this morning where they called on Congress to find a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrations across the nation.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Make the Road New Jersey, Wind of the Spirit, and 32BJ SEIU organized today’s event as part of nationwide effort to demand a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

They gathered in J. Owen Grundy Park in Downtown Jersey City by the Katyn Memorial, with the Freedom Tower across the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty in the background.

“We are not one! We are not 100! We are millions! Count us well!,” attendees chanted. They chanted in Spanish as well as English about the need to pass immigration reform immediately.

Those who took the megaphone expressed the difficulties of being undocumented immigrants looking for work due to the fear of being deported.

“I am here to ask Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for everyone, including essential workers” said Erica, a member of Make the Road New Jersey who has lived in the country for 20 years but remains undocumented.

She explained that after the pandemic started, she lost her job cleaning houses.

“The situation forced us to do whatever it takes to make ends meet and take of our children,” Erica, who declined to give her last name, continued.

She also explained that her husband had his hours cut and was forced to work more hours for less pay.

“Now I work odd jobs to make sure there is food on the table and a roof over our heads. Any time I go out to sell my products, I worry that the police will stop [me] and hand me over to ICE and be separated from my husband and my children. No one should live their life in fear.”

Erica then urged President Joe Biden (D) and Congress “to pass a pathway to citizenship for everyone.”

“I am a young undocumented student. I fight every day for the American Dream that I came to this country for. I am the future and I deserve to be given the opportunity to grow. Undocumented immigrants are the backbone of this country and we’re still denied the opportunity to get healthcare, stimulus checks in a global pandemic,” stated Anna Cerato, of Wind of the Spirit.

She noted as an undocumented student she cannot apply to FAFSA for financial aid and/or scholarships.

“Domestic workers, undocumented immigrants, and undocumented families deserve better. I deserve better! We deserve better! My family deserves better!” Cerato said.

“I’m here today because I was left out of DACA because the qualifications were too narrow and I have been waiting for a pathway to citizenship for over 22 years,” Christina, a member of Make the Road New Jersey, added.

“In 2012, when DACA was announced I was heartbroken to find out I did not qualify and made a difficult decision to return to my home country. But it was no longer my home. I was forced to face the harsh reality I no longer belonged there. There was crime and violence. I could not walk outside without the fear of being robbed. And the worst part was not being able to get a job. In my country, people over 30 cannot find employment, she added.”

Christina then returned to the United States four months later.

“I felt like I was home. Having citizenship means more opportunity for my family in this country. I am a mother of two and want to give them the best future possible. My husband dreams of opening up his business and contributing to this country. And I dream of giving my daughter a place to call home,” she added.

Attendees then chanted “Here we are! We’re not leaving” in Spanish in defiance of those who would happily see them deported.

As Biden approaches his 100th day in office, immigrants are without the pathway to citizenship he promised on the campaign trail. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is leading efforts in the Senate to craft an immigration reform bill.

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