“Those specifically that don’t have status, yet they’re also contributing every single day.”
The Boston City Council’s Civil Rights Committee recently heard from various speakers about how to make Boston a safer place for immigrants. Docket #0230 was offered by Councilor Julia Mejia, who has been trying to give traction to this conversation for a while.
The hearing was originally codified last January; nearly a year later, Mejia achieved her goal. She said during the hearing that, “the fact that everyone is here leaning into the conversation is very encouraging to me on what we can do.”
Laura Rotolo, a speaker from the ACLU of Massachusetts, cited the Boston Trust Act, which aims to increase the protection of Boston immigrants by local law enforcement. Rotolo proposed a “Trust Act 3.0,” an idea received well by the committee.
Yusufi Vali, a representative from Marty Walsh’s office, took the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of the mayor in this regard. Vali stated that a lot of money from the Boston Resiliency Fund has been used to help immigrants (it is true that many of the grantees offer assistance in this demographic, especially with the recent pandemic).
The question of COVID-19 in relation to the immigrant population was front and center. Mejia stated, “We often say, and we say it proudly, that Boston is a city of immigrants. But COVID-19 has shown us in many ways how Boston can still be an inhospitable place for so many.” The statement was in reference to concerns that state testing centers have unnecessarily asked for identification. Vali added, “We have been just working and persevering as hard as we can to break the trust gap there (with COVID services).”
Other debates around the hearing surrounded the role of BPD and ICE, the practicality of making Boston a sanctuary city, and how to continue these conversations. Valeria Do Vale, a leader of the Student Immigrant Movement and a DACA recipient, believes that “in order for these things [anti-immigrant incidents] to no longer happen, we have to institutionalize what it means to be immigrant-friendly.” Additional speakers included Chief Neva Coakley, Ivan Espinoza from Lawyers for Civil Rights, and Attorney Emily Leung.
The docket that sparked the hearing emphasized the perceived need “to protect our most vulnerable and uphold one of our most basic civil rights.” City Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell suggested a public awarenes campaign that emphasizes how immigrants, even those who are undocumented, contribute to society through taxes and other assets.
“We know the data [and] we have the reports [about] not just immigrants generally and what they contribute to the fabric of the city of Boston and have for generations, but those specifically that don’t have status, yet they’re also contributing every single day.”
Annie Bennett is a student at Emerson College and freelances as a reporter. She is majoring in Journalism and minoring in Peace and Social Justice & Comedy: Writing and Performance. She reports primarily on politics and social justice issues. When not working, she can be found playing Mario Kart, sleeping, or on the quidditch pitch with her teammates from Emerson!