In light of President Trump’s prosecution of illegal immigrants and law enforcement’s focus on deporting those who are undocumented, New Paltz hosted a Labor and Sanctuary Solidarity Parade for the first time ever this past Sunday, Sept. 10.
New Paltz is a sanctuary town, meaning that local law enforcement does not use state resources to assist federal immigration in enforcing immigration laws. Those who are undocumented could work at their respective jobs and could call the police without fear of being deported.
Even before declaring the town as a sanctuary back in April, police did not question people about their immigration status or stop anyone to ask about any papers proving immigration status. New Paltz prides itself on being safe for many today, but the town already has a rich history in being a home for those who are prosecuted.
In a press release for the parade, it was noted that “Sojourner Truth found sanctuary from slavery and abolitionists in New Paltz.” The parade was intended to “present the parallel between slaves needing sanctuary in the 19th century and undocumented workers and refugees needing it now,” said Sarah Warren, Programs Committee Chair of the Unison Arts Center.
Unison Arts Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “providing high quality arts, performances and educational experiences accessible to all,” partnered with Redwing Blackbird Theater and several other Ulster County arts and community organizations to make this event possible.
“It was really the brainchild of Amy Trompetter, the director of Redwing Blackbird Theater, who came up with the idea when Unison asked her to collaborate with us on a public event,” Warren said.
Today, many undocumented workers consider New Paltz home, a sanctuary from the constant scrutinization of government branches on deportation and detention that has instilled fear even in those who have not committed any sort of crime except for the sole fact that they are here undocumented.
The Labor and Solidarity Parade, therefore wished to “honor [New Paltz’s] history of labor and sanctuary, from “the horror of slavery” to “advocating…for the dignity of all, including undocumented workers.”
Attendees began their march at New Paltz Middle School and made their way to Water Street Market and back up again, ending at Hasbrouck Park. Attendees enjoyed food and live performances, and information on advocacy groups Worker Justice Center of New York (WJC) was also available.
WJC is an organization with offices based in the Hudson Valley such as Kingston, Rochester and Albany. According to their site “The Worker Justice Center of New York pursues justice for those denied human rights with a focus on agricultural and other low-wage workers, through legal representation, community empowerment and advocacy for institutional change.” Programs within the organization advocating for change include: human trafficking, workplace safety, domestic violence, worker advocacy, legal education and community engagement.
In these times of crisis, The Labor and Sanctuary Solidarity Parade made sure to inform the public, while also encouraging more people to join in on important conversations such as immigration and advocate for social justice.
“We hope that in a small way we have increased the strands of compassion and collaboration that allow individuals and organizations to be a support network for undocumented people,” Warren said.