NEW YORK — “Migrant rights are human rights!” Hundreds of people rallied around this statement on Dec. 18, International Migrants Day, as they took part in a march to honor immigrants and demand that their rights be respected.
The event, organized by the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, combined Las Posadas, a dramatization of the search for an inn by the Holy Family, and The Lantern Festival, a remembrance of the star that guided the magi’s search for Christ.
The march began in Union Square on 17th Street and concluded 14 blocks north at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street. It started with a performance and speakers from St. Francis Friary — including Julian Jagudilla, OFM, and Ramon Razon, OFM — as well as speakers from Solidaridad con los Auto Defensas Mexicanos Desde NY and the Episcopal Church of Our Savior. The march processed up 6th Avenue and participants paused every three blocks or so to listen to passionate testimonies for immigrants’ rights from groups including the New York State Nurses’ Association, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, the NY Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines and other organizations.
“Someone heckled: ‘You’re illegal, you’re criminal, you have no rights,’” shared Ramon in a post in the HNP JPIC Facebook group. “My brother friars — OFMs and Capuchins — and I stood with our faith group while watching the heckler pass by… I’ve never been so proud as a friar to be with those whose human rights are constantly challenged.”
The march included a reading of the verdict of the International Tribunal of Conscience for Mexico that investigated the circumstances that led to the massacre of 43 student teachers in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico. The tribunal found that “the governments of Mexico and the United States have violated international law including fundamental rights that apply whether or not a specific treaty has been entered into acceding to international jurisdiction. This includes violations of the right to life, the right to freedom from discrimination, due process rights, equality before the law and equal protection of the law, family unity and simple human dignity. In addition, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers (fleeing violence in Central America and Mexico) must be protected by both the United States and Mexico.”
A cultural night at St. Francis Church began after the march ended and featured performances by varied groups and speakers, including Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, as well as representatives from Frente Unida de Inmigrantes Ecuatorianos, the International Migrant Alliance, and Ecuadorian Assemblyman Milton Gualan.
One participant, Kelly Moltzen from St. Francis of Assisi Church, described the importance of the evening in a reflection that was shared to the HNP JPIC Facebook group.
“I was reminded that for all the rhetoric around denying rights and shelter to immigrants and refugees, countries where migrants come from are dealing with the same core issues in each place — the role of multinational corporations and the corruption of governments seeking to preserve their power, and the impact that this lack of willingness to give up power and money has on the disenfranchised,” she wrote. “As land is ripped from underneath the people, the livelihoods, health, human rights, and — in some cases — the lives of the indigenous and people who have lived in these countries for centuries are taken away as well. We need to end forced migration by putting an end to corruption and the thirst for power, yes, but in the meantime, we need to consider the plights of the people who are being forced out of their countries.
“We truly live in an interconnected world, and each of us has a role to play in maintaining the human dignity of all of our global brothers and sisters,” she concluded.
The march and festival concluded a busy year for the Migrant Center, established in the fall of 2013. An e-newsletter distributed by the center recapped the many forums, workshops, training courses and other activities it organized last year. The publication also mentions that “our staff attorneys and volunteer case managers have assisted hundreds of individuals with their immigration cases.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “Migrant Center Opens at New York City Parish” — Nov. 20, 2013, HNP Today
- “NYC Migrant Center to Host Indie and Foreign Film Festival” — Sept. 10, 2014, HNP Today
- “The Migrant Center” — StFrancisNYC.org
- “Ministries Enhance Digital Presence” — Oct. 28, 2015, HNP Today