When I first walked out of the subway in front of city hall, I was baffled by the sheer numbers and energy of the people, waving flags of all colors, chanting, “Los pueblos, unidos, jamas sera vencidos (The people united will never be defeated.) As I stare out the sea of people of all races and cultures, I wonder fearfully, “What if they all just disappeared?”

This is exactly what 11 year old Stephanie worries about as she marches along Broadway. “I am marching so that my mother and my father can get papers,” she says, “If they left, I do not know what I would do.” It is difficult for Stephanie to understand how she can be a Mexican-American, and her parents cannot be.

Others on the march have already had their families pulled away. “I wish I had papers, because right now I cannot go back to Mauritania,” 28 year old Silla explains, “I left my home so I could work hard and make a better life, and now, I cannot even go back to see my family. On paper I do not exist.”

Others marched because they knew they were visible to politicians. Donald came from Haiti legally in 2000, and feels like he has a certain privilege and responsibility as a US citizen. “I want politicians to know, from the lowest office to the highest, that I and thousands of others on this march have the ability to vote- and that we will not vote for them until all of our other immigrants have fair and legal status in this country.

Maritza eagerly translated on behalf of Don Juan of Mexico, who currently works as a chef. “I am not a criminal. We are hard-working, honest people, and we deserve to be treated like civilized workers.”

A Mexican housecleaner carried a provocative sign that needed no translation. “What’s so illegal about: Raising YOUR children, Cleaning YOUR house, Cooking YOUR Food?”

Fabian of Cameroon is similarly puzzled. “What are they going to do, just dumping 12 million people?...Right now, the people in Washington are keeping us as slaves. Without papers, we have no rights, and we work as slaves; invisible, without dignity.”

I cannot imagine what life is like for the invisible. Those in power may be blind to immigrants’ rights and numbers, but even the invisible have the most astounding visions of justice, and that vision was something that all of New York could see.