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Activists press Rep. Lynch on immigration

Seek stronger stand on detention facilities

India Glenn
Activists press Rep. Lynch on immigration
Activists gather at the office of U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch. India Glenn

Activists made simultaneous visits to the Boston, Quincy and Brockton offices of U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch time on July 25 to demand that the congressman support the closure of juvenile-migrant-detention facilities along the United States-Mexico border.

Boston activist Tanya Tedesco, the main organizer of the meetings, decided to visit Lynch’s office after the congressman supported a House resolution in late June to provide $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid to border facilities. The bill provided immediate resources at border facilities, but Tedesco believed the legislation lacked adequate regulation of border facilities and sufficient money to improve conditions for migrants at the border.

Because Lynch had not visited the border, Tedesco also believed that the congressman was not responsive enough in general to issues related to immigration.

“I don’t know that he can have a good understanding of how atrocious [the camps] are if he doesn’t lay his eyes on the situation,” Tedesco argued in support of a border visit. “It is abdicating his responsibility for figuring out to news sources and second-hand reports. He is someone in leadership. He should be down there.”

Intent on conveying her concerns, Tedesco posted a Facebook message about a visit to Lynch’s office to pressure the congressman into taking three steps.

First, Tedesco insisted that Lynch visit detention centers. Second, she called for the congressman to host a town hall about border conditions. Finally, to provide a basis for closing border facilities, Tedesco wants Lynch to hold congressional hearings about conditions at border detention centers.

Along with two friends, Tedesco met with Lynch’s press secretary, Molly Rose Tarpey, on July 2. According to Tedesco, Tarpey said that the demands of Tedesco’s group were not feasible.

Disappointed by the outcome of this meeting, Tedesco confronted the office with five other people in a second meeting. A staffer, according to Tedesco, committed to scheduling a congressional visit to the border, but he reiterated that passing legislation more progressive than the June House resolution was not an option.

Not content with the responses from Lynch’s office, Tedesco planned another visit for July 25. This third and visit garnered the most attendance, with around 60 people and 14 local organizations.

At a gathering outside the office, activists spoke about border conditions and personal connections to immigration.

Julia Mejia, an immigrant to the United States and a candidate for an at-large Boston City Council seat, described the impact of border facilities upon immigrants.

“We came to this country in search of the American dream,” Mejia said. “We did not come here in search of what we see now, which is the American nightmare. When we see our loved ones locked up in cages, like they are animals, it says to us: ‘Don’t come to this country. You are not wanted here.’”

After the gathering concluded, the crowd traveled upstairs, where an office staffer led the group into a conference room. There, the visitors argued that conditions at the border were inhumane and that the representative’s response to border issues was inadequate.

An organizer from the Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish activism group focused upon social justice, compared conditions at the camp to those in concentration camps.

“This is a systematic oppression and deprivation of basic human rights based on ethnicity and race,” the organizer said. “These are concentration camps.”

Several constituents accused the congressman of not doing his job.

“Why do I have to show up here to have him hear what I am saying?” questioned one constituent. “Why are we all here in the middle of the day, with our children, away from our jobs, while he is not doing his job?”

The office staffer present at the meeting promised to relay the constituents’ messages to Rep. Lynch and to plan a town hall in the near future.

Elijah Collins, a constituent, announced his candidacy against Lynch at the meeting.

Collins said he is running against Congressman Lynch for the congressman’s moderate views, and expressed concerns about Lynch’s handling of border facilities.

“If it takes repeated meetings of constituents filling his office, at this point, even if he does make a statement about it, it’s too little too late,” Collins said. “We have concentration camps and it shouldn’t take weeks of filling his office to get him to come out against the camps.”

Representative Lynch did support a July 24 house resolution to establish standards of care the border facilities, but attendees at the meeting said the congressman should have passed a bill with the protections in June.

Tedesco has scheduled a fourth visit for August 2.

Lynch’s office did not respond to a request for comment by the Banner’s press deadline.