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Hundreds gather for "All Are Welcome Here" walk and vigil in Spa City

Hundreds gather for "All Are Welcome Here" walk and vigil in Spa City

Groups met at three locations throughout the city and walked silently to Congress Park
Hundreds gather for "All Are Welcome Here" walk and vigil in Spa City
Community members walk from City Center to Congress Park for the annual All Are Welcome Here walk and vigil.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than 200 people sang, "No more walls, we'll build bridges between our differences, no more walls," at Congress Park Tuesday evening. 

The Saratoga immigration Coalition hosted its second "All Are Welcome Here" walk and vigil in support of immigrants. 

Groups met at three locations throughout the city — Beekman Street, in front of Saratoga Race Course on Union Street and Saratoga City Center on Broadway — and silently walked to Congress Park where a vigil was held. 

Event organizer Maxine Lautenberg said the Saratoga Immigration Coalition held a vigil and walk a year ago in order to send a message that the community welcomed everyone. She said this year's event aimed to express  gratitude for the contributions immigrants make to the community.

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Kathlyn Rooney of Ballston Spa held a sign with a photo of her grandmother, who hailed from Hungary, as well as notable people in society who are immigrant, including Albert Einstein and Alex Trebek. 

"We all come from immigrants," she said. "We need to remind people of the history of immigrant contributions to this country and our continuous reliance on them."

Rooney said she's volunteered for the Saturday camp at Saratoga Race Course for the children of backstretch workers, which is held by the New York Race Track Chaplaincy and First Presbyterian Church of Ballston Spa. 

On Monday, more than 40 children of backstretch workers received personal backpacks stuffed with needed supplies for the upcoming back-to-school season. 

Paul Ruchames, executive director of the Backstretch Employees Services Team, attended Tuesday's walk and vigil for the second year in a row. 

"It's important, because immigrants are the foundation of Saratoga Springs," he said of the event. "Like the song, people should build bridges rather than walls.

"We need to recognize each other as people."

Ruchames said backstretch employees are "some of the hardest workers in the country."

"They're the foundation of the affluence in Saratoga Springs and the great sport of racing," he said. 

The Backstretch Employees Services Team, Ruchames said, is always in need of volunteers to translate, make medical appointments, transport people and serve food. 

CAPTAIN Community Human Services Executive Director Sue Catroppa attended the event for the first time in hopes of raising awareness about immigration. 

"It's a pressing issue in our country and I hope people open their hearts and minds to support them," she said. 

In June, President Donald Trump's administration separated undocumented immigrant children from their parents, before he signed an executive order halting the controversial practice. 

Though Catroppa said immigrants only represent a small portion of the Clifton Park-based human services agency's population, they are underserved. 

"We do whatever we can to help them," she said. "They deserve a leg up just as much as anyone else.

"They're the backbone of this country and to ignore that would be a shame."

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