Hundreds of immigrants held a rally in New York City Tuesday to support legislation that would provide local social services in various languages. The protesters marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, holding signs calling on New York to "invest in its immigrant population."
Representatives from New York's Eastern European, Caribbean, Asian, African and Latin American immigrant communities participated.
Sponsored by an advocacy group called the New York Immigrant Coalition, the demonstration was held in support of a bill the organization drafted earlier this year for the New York City Council.
That bill proposes that the city provide immigrant families, who make-up two-thirds of New York's population, with translators and documents in multiple languages at various social service agencies, especially the Health Department.
To help ease the effects of the weak economy, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to cut the budget in every sector of the city government. But New York's first Chinese-American City Councilman, John Liu, told the crowd that the needs of immigrants, who play a crucial role in New York's economy, should not be sacrificed.
"We are the capital of the world, and we have to recognize and support people from all over the world that make us the capital of the world," he said. "And we should not exclude people from vital services and discriminate against them simply because their English is not up to par."
The Immigrant Coalition is calling for additional free-English language courses provided by the city. Alexandra Borodina, who immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine three months ago, demonstrated with her English teacher in support of language programs, considered an important part of the absorption process.
"I enjoy being in New York. I enjoy speaking English, and I enjoy studying English," she said. "I am grateful that our courses are free. And I would like to continue my education."
Advocates say that the situation for New York's immigrants has recently deteriorated. According to the New York Immigrant Coalition, over half of the 75,000 New Yorkers who lost their jobs as a result of the September 11 attacks, are immigrants.