Dozens of protesters, on foot and in car, honked, chanted, and listened to speeches at Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington on Tuesday, calling on President-elect Joe Biden to follow through on reforms of the country’s immigration and justice systems.
“Our community is in dire need, and we want to remind the president-elect that he needs to not forget about them,” said Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road Action, which organized the rally. That community includes immigrants, Black and brown people, and Puerto Ricans who feel they’ve been mistreated by the Trump administration for the past four years.
“What we want to see is a lot of the harm done by the Trump administration is undone,” Valdés said, adding that much of President Donald Trump’s action that targeted immigrants was done by executive order. “We want those to be repealed and undo as fast as possible. We want him to present legislation for a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants in the country.”
Protesters also called for criminal justice reform and the cancelation of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt.
“Allow Puerto Rico to go through a process of self-determination for the future,” he said.
Some in the crowd pointed to strong support from Black voters in South Carolina that helped turn the tide for Biden during the Democratic primary campaign last year.
“We will stand and we will support those who are committed to the upward mobility of Black and brown communities,” said Kerri Evelyn Harris, a Delaware activist who ran for U.S. Senate in 2018. “We deserve and we expect to reap the fruit of our contributions, just like other communities have been able to for decades and for centuries.”
Other speakers said it’s not enough for Biden to just reverse Trump’s policies. They want him to actively move to protect immigrants as well as Black and brown communities.
Valdés said the effort is not because Biden has said or done something they don’t like, rather it’s a way to keep the administration focused on their community.
“It’s a reminder,” he said. “I think we learned a lesson in 2008 with President Obama, that we did not do as much reminding at the very beginning around our core issues, and they got forgotten… We know it’s critically important for us to make sure that our issues are front and center because we need relief and we need relief now.”
The group also posted a letter they received from Biden’s transition office, in which he says they will “always have a seat at the table.” In the letter, Biden promised to work with them to make an immigration system that is “fair, humane, and that reflects our values as a nation of immigrants.”
Valdés said the group could return to Wilmington to deliver more “reminders” to Biden in the future. “If it means coming here constantly to do that, we will do that. If it means us doing other types of actions, we will do that as well.”
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