On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon, approximately 150 people gathered at the Boston Common to participate in an “emergency rally” to support immigrants, urging Massachusetts elected officials to support the Safe Communities Act.
The rally, planned by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, was intended to take place at the Massachusetts State House to celebrate the 21st Annual Immigrants Day, said Joel Rivera, a field organizer for the MIRA Coalition.
“We want to take the temperatures of legislators and we want them to be flooded by people who are supporting this bill,” Rivera told The Daily Free Press after the rally.
Rivera said the protest was moved to Boston Common to accommodate the large number of people who would not fit into the Great Hall on the second floor of the Massachusetts State House.
“Our endgame is to get as many people on board as possible, to get the speaker on board and to get the governor on board to pass this bill,” Rivera said.
Franklin Peralta, a campaign organizer of English for New Bostonians, an organization that works to ensure adult immigrants in Massachusetts have an opportunity to learn English, served as the leader of the rally.
“We have to give a voice to everybody so that when they feel threatened by the immigration officials or by the police officers … they know they are protected in the state of Massachusetts,” Peralta said to the crowd.
Between speakers, Peralta led the crowd in a series of chants, such as “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!” and “Sí se puede!”
Claudia Kreiman, a rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, shared her experience of becoming an American citizen alongside 300 fellow immigrants at Faneuil Hall last year.
“We waved our American flags and felt grateful to have found a safe and secure home in the United States,” Kreiman said. “However … my immigration process and path to citizenship was relatively easy and straightforward, and so I feel particularly responsible to help other immigrants who often experience much more significant challenges.”
Nadeem Mazen, the first Muslim-American city councilor in Cambridge, addressed the discrepancy between the political ideology of Massachusetts residents and the policies the state legislature has enacted.
“We are in a state that is heavily, heavily blue,” Mazen said. “The State House has not yet heard that message and the Safe Communities Act is not expected to be a sure thing.”
Mazen urged the state legislature to pass the Safe Communities Act because of its popularity among Massachusetts residents.
“Elected officials must accept that this is something that would be a no-brainer if our elected representatives represented our electorate,” Mazen said.
Jan Devereux, a Cambridge city councilor, said before the rally that she has seen firsthand how protecting immigrants can improve communities as a whole.
“Cambridge has been a sanctuary [city] since the early ‘80s, so we know its value,” Devereux said. “We know that it actually increases public safety [and] increases trust in our communities, and we want everyone else to follow those principles, too.”
Several Massachusetts residents said they attended the rally to show their support for immigrants’ rights.
Phaedra Mangan-Rocha, 28, of Waltham, said she does not agree with the policies enacted by the current presidential administration.
“Immigrants have made all the difference in the United States,” Mangan said. “My husband is an immigrant, and I know that he has contributed a lot to this economy. It’s ridiculous that there’s still this hateful rhetoric that we see in the news every day.”
Ian Trefethen, 35, of Jamaica Plain, said every citizen deserves to feel safe and protected.
“In order to have safe communities, we need to protect everyone in the community and that includes folks who are documented and undocumented,” Trefethen said.
Barbara McCauley, 69, of Arlington, said she gained exposure to immigrants’ struggles by listening to their stories while volunteering at free medical clinics in Framingham and Sudbury.
“I had contact with a lot of immigrants who were terrified and I also heard a lot of trauma stories about experiences they had … trying to cross the border into Texas,” McCauley said. “I also heard some stories from people who have been pulled by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. They were horrifying, particularly women with newborn babies and that kind of thing.”