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Immigrants built this country and we’re not going anywhere

Mackinley Celestin
Immigrants built this country and we’re not going anywhere
Protesters block traffic in front of the Old State House in the intersection of Congress and State streets. (Banner photo)

In 1992, amidst political instability and economic uncertainty, I graduated from high school in Haiti. With scarce opportunities and increasing desperation for something better, I immigrated to the United States with my father.

I started taking college classes, studying criminal justice, and we began the process of applying for citizenship. Though things seemed to be falling into place, it didn’t take long for me to realize that we’d still face struggle here.

Twenty-five years later, I’m working as a security guard at McDonald’s and three other places in the Boston area. I’m 43-years old and my children have now inherited the dreams that drew me to this country. The rest of my life is dedicated to making these dreams their reality.

The immigrant experience is defined by sacrifice for the sake of the next generation, but the Trump administration is painting a very different picture of us. The President is criminalizing our communities and pushing immigration policies meant to tear hard-working families apart. That’s why on May 1, I’m going to rally in support of the thousands of immigrants striking from coast to coast in the “Day without Immigrants.” We’re going to send President Trump a clear message: every person who lives and works in this country deserves to have their basic rights respected.

For workers walking off the job on May 1, I know the decision will not come easy, but I know first-hand how effective striking can be.

Two years ago, I joined the Fight for $15, a national movement for higher wages and the right to organize. I joined because I believe that people who work fulltime in the best country in the world shouldn’t live in poverty. Our nation’s workers deserve more than poverty wages.

I enjoy my work and take pride in the fact that customers and workers count on me to keep them safe. Between my four jobs, I typically work around 80 hours a week. But after rent, bills, college tuition for two kids, support for family in Haiti, and daycare for my four-year-old, it’s simply not enough.

At first people thought $15 an hour and union rights was crazy, but by lifting up our voices and going on strike, we’ve changed the hearts and minds of politicians, companies, and the public. Fifteen dollars an hour is the new standard in New York, California and Seattle. Just this week, a federal $15 bill was introduced, with support from 23 senators from across the Democratic Party. Huge companies from Facebook and Aetna to small businesses have raised pay to $15 an hour or higher.

By standing up and speaking out against corporations like McDonald’s, we have won $62 billion in raises for 22 million people across America. These accomplishments didn’t come from the good graces of those in power, instead, they are a testament to the power of the people.

On May 1, Donald Trump is going to hear from the people. Immigrants built this country and we will not retreat to the shadows in fear. In the face of attacks on our communities, we will not remain silent and we will make clear demands of this administration: a pathway to citizenship, labor protections for ALL workers and the respect and dignity that everyone deserves. This country is our home and we’re not going anywhere.

Mackinley Celestin lives in Mattapan and works 4 jobs as a security guard.