Immigrant, Spanish-speaking advocates endorse Helen Gym, the first non-English group to support a candidate
Helen Gym, a former City Councilmember, was one of the first officials to align herself with immigration advocacy groups.
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Helen Gym’s campaign trekked to the Northeast Regional Library on Wednesday, March 15, to receive an endorsement from Make the Road Action PA, the political arm for the largest Latino organizing group in Philly with 13,000 members across the Commonwealth.
The group convened in the library’s outer quarters to deliver endorsements in Spanish and said they would be “knocking on thousands of doors” until the May primary while Gym spoke to her priorities, many of which track with her past efforts in city council.
“We’re here today…to show our full support for mayoral candidate Helen Gym,” Diana Robinson, the group’s Civic Engagement Director, told a crowd of supporters.
“Helen understands the struggles our members face,” Robinson continued.
Since the start of the race, Gym has stood out for the number of endorsements she’s absorbed — including a powerful teacher’s union, the Working Families Party, and the largest Asian civil rights advocacy group in PA — and today, Spanish-speaking voters join that roster.
Ana Ramos, a retired bilingual counseling assistant for the district, said she “knows the city well” and was “proud to back her.”
“Helen, as a mother and a teacher, understands the needs of the students and has committed to making resources available for all who need it… She perseveres,” Ramos, who is also a member leader of the group, said in her remarks.
In an interview with AL DÍA, Ramos, who joined the district in 1989 and retired in 2011, stressed the need for a curriculum revision that accounted for students and parents whose primary language isn’t English.
But asked about her most pressing concerns, Ramos thought that “security is very important in schools.”
“With everything that’s happening nowadays, it’s important because parents don’t want to send their children to school with the lack of security,” she said.
Responding to questions about her support for Gym, Ramos said she likes her history, and “she has worked in the school system, knows the school system, and knows the student’s needs.”
Gym’s platform, stemming back to her city council bid in 2015, was ironclad with her teaching and organizing experience and used much of that record to address the same issues she organized for prior to working on council. But it is unique in her immigration advocacy.
In 2017, she joined the administration to raise funds for DREAMers, or children who came to the country as children and obtain work permits after the Trump administration announced its intentions to rescind the program altogether.
The following year, she introduced a joint resolution with Maria Quiñones Sánchez to urge then-governor Tom Wolf to shut down Berks County Residential Center. The ICE-operated detention facility officially ceased operations in 2023.
Gym and Quiñones Sánchez, now opponents in the race for the mayor’s office, also collaborated to establish the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs permanently. The Office of Immigrant Affairs helped secure a selective ‘Welcoming City’ designation in 2023.
The result of Gym’s advocacy, translated to government work, is delivering positive results as she continues to build a coalition she hopes will take her to the primary election.
“Over the next nine weeks, this is a conversation not about who we want to be, but who we have been,” Gym, herself the daughter of immigrants, told the crowd.
“I have been with Make the Road, with immigrant communities members all my life.”
Make the Road Action in PA is the first high-visibility, Spanish-speaking organization to step out in support of a mayoral candidate in Philly, making it a unique phenomenon that no other candidate has enjoyed since the campaigns formally kicked off in 2022.
It is also one of the city’s few Latino organizing groups making considerable inroads for migrant protections in PA over the last few years, in addition to conducting voter education and registration campaigns.
It remains to be seen if other Spanish-speaking groups — with historically low voter turnout — will support other candidates.