Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Faneuil Hall Marketplace for the Boston National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights Wednesday afternoon as part of a movement to protect immigrants whose residency statuses have come into question under the Trump administration.
Rally-goers demanded Congress renew protections offered to DACA recipients and defend certain Haitian and Nicaraguan residents seeking safe haven in the United States whose Temporary Protected Statuses were rescinded last month. Twelve-thousand residents in the Commonwealth still benefit from TPS, according to Facebook event page.
“We are partnering with our immigrant neighbors, our immigrant brothers and sisters to make sure that they have the protections that they need to continue to live their lives here,” Rachael Dubinsky, the director of development and communications strategy for the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, said prior to the rally.
The Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action was one of many community organizations and labor unions that shared personal stories with rally-goers and emphasized the importance of programs like DACA and TPS that encourage immigration.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh spoke at the rally about his immigrant parents’ journey to the United States.
“When I think of this country, I think about the people,” Walsh said. “Like my parents that came from another country to this country to raise their family and make sure that their children had the opportunities to go to college, had food at their table and had the opportunities to run for public office and maybe even become the mayor of the City of Boston someday.”
Walsh said he did not want people to remain as complacent on this issue as they were for the most recent tax bill. He encouraged the audience to demand immigration reform from Congress.
“I stand here tonight because I’m the mayor of the City of Boston and I support the young people and the people in our community that are immigrants, both documented and undocumented,” Walsh said. “The City of Boston is behind you … [and] before it’s over, the United States of America will be behind you.”
Doris Landaverde, a representative of the 32BJ SEIU Union, said she came from El Salvador in 2001 in search of a better life for her family. As a TPS recipient, Landaverde said she fears being separated from her U.S.-born children now.
“No one will take care of my kids how I take care of them,” Landaverde said. “We are all together to deliver [a clean DACA act] to the Congress … and save TPS for families like me.”
Mariama White-Hammond, an associate minister for Ecological Justice at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, delivered a prayer comparing young immigrants seeking refuge in the U.S. to Jesus Christ.
“Even as a baby, he had to flee to Egypt,” White-Hammond said. “I assume he didn’t have all his paperwork in order and yet his parents made that dangerous journey to save the life of their baby.”
Hannah Klein, community organizer for JALSA, said the Jewish community has a responsibility to help these immigrants as they are immigrants themselves.
“We care specifically as Jews because of our own history around immigration and because we know that there are Jewish folks that are undocumented and there are Jewish people around the world,” Klein said. “There are as many ways of being Jewish as there are Jews and we show up in this fight because of that.”
The rally attracted many different people and organizations from the Boston area who said they support immigrant rights.
John Harris, 65, of Chelsea, said he came to represent the Boston May Day Coalition because he supports the issues of immigrant and worker rights.
“This drives down the rights and standards of all working people, all working-class people in this country. It also serves as a basis for instituting greater police repression against the organizations of working-class people when they’re constantly rounding up, jailing and deporting migrants in this country,” Harris said.
Laura Londoño, 22, of Brighton, said she came to the rally to voice her struggles as a DACA recipient. Londoño expects to graduate from Emerson College in May but fears for her future post-graduation.
“My future is at stake,” Londoño said. “At the end of the day, I might not be able to use my degree. My parents worked so hard … but I may have to be a janitor.”
MaryGrace Menner, 23, of Dorchester, said her position at the Metrowest Worker Center, an immigrant worker-led organization defending workers rights, has led her to an interest in immigration law.
“Immigration is the key issue that will define this time,” Menner said. “Immigration is a human right and it can’t wait any longer.”