Activists call for immigrant rights
Demonstration part of Natl. Day of Action
On the same site where activists and politicians have fought for liberty in Boston since the 18th century, activists from dozens of local organizations gathered to defend immigrants’ rights on the National Day of Action on Dec. 6.
Groups such as 32BJ SEIU labor union, Fight for 15 Massachusetts, Haitian-Americans United Inc. (HAU), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts were joined by Mayor Martin Walsh at Faneuil Hall Marketplace to share testimony and words of solidarity for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status recipients.
In September, President Donald Trump repealed DACA, putting 800,000 young workers and students in the country at risk for deportation.
And in November, the Depart-
ment of Homeland Security ended the TPS program for nearly 2,500 Nicaraguans and 58,000 Haitians living in the U.S.
“We need for all of us to stay connected,” said Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, chairman of HAU. “We need to ask Congress to act and allow people to remain in this country who have claimed it as their home for years and whose children were born here.”
Walsh said at the event, “We’re able to do so many great things in this country, and yet in issues like immigration, we are going backwards.”
“If the country can accept a tax package that just passed, we need to make sure it’s different for this issue,” said the mayor, referring to the new tax plan proposed by congressional Republicans that will cost the government an estimated $1.5 trillion in tax revenue.
Karina, a student at Lesley University studying early childhood education, spoke to the crowd about what it was like living in the shadows as an undocumented immigrant. She arrived in the U.S. as a 4-year-old with her mother after her father had worked for five years in the country to save enough money to bring them.
“I remember being told not to tell anyone about coming here, and this made me fearful of who I was,” said Karina. “Because I was afraid the person I was, was not a good person.”
Now, an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights, she said, “It wasn’t until senior year of high school that I became fully aware of how important it is for immigrants and allies to stand together.”
Laura Rotolo, staff counsel and community advocate with the ACLU, also spoke at the rally. “I’m here to remind us that this ending of TPS and DACA is part of a broader, extreme, xenophobic and racist campaign against immigrants,” she said.
She continued, “Since Trump took office, we’ve seen a 25 percent hike in immigration arrests.”
Rotolo said immigration agents target the easiest people they can find: those who follow the rules like DACA recipients or TPS holders who willingly give all their information to the government in exchange for protection.
“They’re targeting TPS holders who check in every 18 months to pay their fee and go through their background check,” she said. “This new policy is cruel and inhumane.”
A member of 32BJ SEIU, Doris Reina-Landaverde joined last week’s rally, introducing herself as a TPS recipient.
She was granted TPS in 2001 after an earthquake disaster in El Salvador. “I came here to work hard and build my family here,” she said. “My kids are U.S. citizens and I don’t want to be separate from them. No one could take care of my kids how I take care of them.”
Advocates at last week’s Faneuil Hall rally and across the nation are calling for Congress to pass a bipartisan Clean Dream Act that would protect current DACA recipients and provide undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 18 a pathway to citizenship.
To be eligible, individuals must graduate from high school or pass the GED and either attend college or enlist in the military.
In addition, activists are also asking their representatives to vote on a permanent solution for TPS holders who have established families and productive lives in the U.S.
“There are thousands of people coming together like we are today,” said Reina-Landaverde. “Today is about everybody coming together and standing up to fight.”