On Monday, May 1, National JFON joined thousands of immigrants and advocates nationwide for Rise Up! events demonstrating the vitality of immigrants in the U.S. and speaking out against recent anti-immigrant policies. NJFON Executive Director Rob Rutland-Brown participated in a three-mile march over the Potomac River to the White House where his Virginia-based group was met by a crowd of over 5,000 supporters.
“It was energizing to march alongside the immigrants who led the event, including many DREAMers from George Mason University,” says Rob. “A lot of immigrants lost wages and risked losing their jobs to leave work for the event—these were acts of courage for them.”
Meanwhile, NJFON Program and Advocacy Manager Melissa Bowe was in Philadelphia for that city’s own Day of Action.
“There were multiple marches in Philadelphia and a strike,” Melissa reports. “Owners shut down shops, workers stayed away from their jobs, children stayed home from school, and many Philadelphians generally avoided purchases or online shopping to demonstrate the consequences of large-scale deportations.”
These events, coordinated by a coalition of immigrants and workers, culminated at City Hall for speeches, music and a celebration of the contributions and richness immigrants bring to the neighborhoods and communities of the City of Brotherly Love.
“I was challenged to reflect on how our work is stronger when we are connected to other movements, struggles and stories, not only in our towns and cities, but nationally and internationally,” says Melissa. “How can we at JFON work more closely with our allies around us? How can we better connect our work and therefore better serve our clients?”
Back in our nation’s capital, Rob and our allies in the struggle for immigrant justice continued to march to the White House. All along their route, ordinary people stopped to cheer them on: construction workers atop buildings, police officers lining the streets, and cars passing by.
“The messages, including chants like ‘No hate, no fear—immigrants are welcome here!’ and signs such as ‘Build bridges, not walls’ seemed to really resonate with people,” Rob says. “Those are the messages we will carry forward every day as we fight for welcoming and just immigration policies.”