Editor’s note: This opinion piece was submitted by Christopher Marte, a Democratic candidate for City Council in District 1. The Lo-Down welcomes op/ed submissions from members of the Lower East Side community via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Op/ed articles on this website reflect only the point-of-view of the author and not the editorial position of The Lo-Down.
Growing up in the Lower East Side, I went to school and sat side by side with children of immigrants from all across the globe. We didn’t think about living the American dream, we were too young to recognize the sacrifices and obstacles our parents made and overcame. We were just children of people who had been welcomed into a country that had welcomed immigrants since its founding. But children today do not get to enjoy this same naivete. They see the stories of their parents portrayed as alien, the travels of their families called illegal, and they listen to a President who wants to force their parents back to the dangers they fled in their countries of origin.
My parents followed in the footsteps of millions who came before them when they arrived in Lower Manhattan, looking to live the American dream. But today that well-worn trail has been severed with a roadblock. It is inhumane to judge somebody based on where they are from, and it defies the core values of our country. And this is why I do not believe this barricade of bigotry is insurmountable. New York has always been the starting line. It was the starting line for our country as the nation’s first capital, it was the starting line for the Dutch before there even was a nation. Since then the Irish workers, the Jewish families, the Chinese store owners, and countless of other immigrant groups have created one of the most cherished and beautiful corners of Manhattan.
This neighborhood should not fade away as a vestigial limb of our national body. Rather, as anyone who has walked the streets of Chinatown, or visited a bodega in the Lower East Side, or stood in awe of the towers in the financial district can tell you, this community is a beacon of openness in a country that is increasingly closed off.
But if you listen to our President, he has told us that these open borders, these immigrant communities are toxic to our nation. He has rejected the truth we know. The truth that without immigrants, there is no nation. He has told us there is a difference between us and them, between citizens and immigrants, legals and illegals. But just in the past 8 days since the inauguration, we are proving him wrong. We marched in the streets as an entire gender’s rights were threatened, we chanted in the park as an entire religion was called dangerous, and we rallied at the airport as entire countries were closed off from our borders.
I stand with my fellow New Yorkers in supporting our rights to organize at the airport, in the park, in the streets and in the courtroom. I stand with my fellow New Yorkers in remembrance of the immigrants who built our district, who built our city, who built our country, and I stand in acknowledgment of the millions that continue to do so.
In these times of uncertainty we have to maintain our energy, our perseverance, our resistance. We cannot let two hundred years of progress be cut down in a few weeks or months. This battle may last four years and we need to hold ourselves accountable: staying alert, informed and ready to protect the values and principles of this land that we call home.