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Immigrant, minority youth rally together in Jamaica Plain as Trump menaces

Jule Pattison-Gordon
Immigrant, minority youth rally together in Jamaica Plain as Trump menaces
A member of African Community and Economic Development of New England involved the audience during an immigrant youth speak-out at Jamaica Plain’s First Baptist Church on Saturday.

Following President Donald Trump’s latest actions on immigration, reports poured out nationwide of immigrants afraid to leave their homes for school or medical aid, lest they be stopped and deported. Against this backdrop, local minority and immigrant youth gathered at Jamaica Plain’s First Baptist Church on Saturday to rally in support, share stories and identify resources.

On the web

BPS Immigrant resources: https://sites.google.com/bostonpublicschools.org/bpswedreamtogether

BSCA student rights information: http://www.bostonstudentrights.org/

Immigration legal services resources: https://www.muslimjusticeleague.org/immigration-resources/

“I’m a Muslim girl and black. I feel targeted twice,” said Saiida Farah, a sophomore at Edward M. Kennedy school, speaking to the Banner while organizers readied for the event. Since Trump’s rise, she increasingly has been targeted and is often confronted by people who see only her headscarf, forgetting about the individual underneath, she said.

During the event, a father of three who came to Boston in 1981 fleeing the Somali civil war spoke on the impact Trump’s actions are having on his community. In one case, a family was afraid to use tickets they had purchased to visit their home country for fear that they would not be allowed to return.

“The fear and anxiety in our community is very much,” he said. “A family of seven, they booked their tickets, paid the cash, everything. Now this executive order created doubts that they could come back here [if they leave].”

“Everything Martin Luther King changed is being undone,” Abdiaziz Adullahi, a freshmen at Boston Community Leadership Academy, told the Banner. He said he has been subjected to racist comments since Trump’s election. The purpose of the event, he said, was to remind that “we’re human beings.”

The First Baptist Church speak-out event was organized by African Community and Economic Development of New England (ACEDONE), the Center to Support Immigrant Organizing (CSIO) and Margarita Muñiz Academy.

Trump’s orders

The rally took place several days after Trump issued memos permitting Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pick up and deport unauthorized immigrants with deportation orders against them if they are convicted or charged with any level of criminal offense. This is a departure from Obama-era policy which focused ICE on deporting individuals considered to represent significant security threats.

Trump also activated a policy known as “expedited removal” that allows the government to rapidly deport recently arrived unauthorized immigrants without a legal hearing. Due to uncertainty around its constitutionality, the law rarely has been invoked, and since 2002 only has been used to remove immigrants stopped within 100 miles of the U.S. border who had been in the country for less than two weeks. Trump aims to apply it to anyone who cannot prove they have been in the U.S. for two years.

Under further measures, parents could be charged with human trafficking if they pay smugglers to help their children enter the country. Trump also created a department to aid those who allege they are victims of a crime committed by an undocumented immigrant. Any resources currently going to assisting immigrant advocacy would be stripped and redirected to this office.

In Boston, local authorities have stepped up. Boston Public Schools launched a website to inform immigrants of their rights, Mayor Martin Walsh has stated support of immigrants and the Boston City Council is considering establishing an Immigrant Legal Defense Fund, proposed by Councilor Tito Jackson.

Speak-out

On Saturday, between spoken word, music and other performances, immigrants, minorities and activists shared their stories. Speakers told of confronting daily prejudices and of struggles for a good life against the hurdles of an undocumented status and, now, Trump’s policies.

A 19-year-old woman, Valeria Do Vale, secretly crossed into the U.S. when she was seven years old. She teared up as she recalled how her mom sat her down after the crossing and told her that she was undocumented and could never tell anyone, but that if she worked hard at school, she would have a good life.

“We’re in this time right now, and it just gets harder,” Do Vale said. “We’re trying to get documentation and that has been a really tough process for my family and I. Not only that, but now we risk the possible case of being deported.”

Among those who turned out to show solidarity were members of The Chinese Progressive Association. They linked Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric to historic attacks on other minority groups by the federal government, such as Japanese internment and the Chinese Exclusion.

“This ban against Muslims is a declaration of war on all minorities,” one CPA member said. “Minorities cannot be split. They may come for Muslims, but who’s to say they won’t come for us next?”

Rights and resources

Do Vale’s story also was one of the power of activism and knowledge to change lives. At first, Do Vale thought she would be unable to afford college, with in-state tuition and federal aid unavailable to unauthorized immigrants. She frequently turned down other educational opportunities as well.

“A teacher of mine had constantly asked me, ‘Why don’t you do this science program and that program, and go do this trip in this other country?’ and I kept saying, ‘I can’t.’ Finally, I told him, ‘I’m undocumented,’” Do Vale said.

But when she admitted her status to the grade 9 teacher, he connected her with an immigration group that explained how to gain access to college funding. Now Do Vale is a full-scholarship student at Northeastern University.

Immigrant support groups also gave Do Vale greater safety, by letting her know her rights and protections. When a pastor molested her, she was afraid she could not report the abuse without risk to herself and her family.

“We thought we couldn’t say anything,” Do Vale said. “If we had known that we could have, we would. It would’ve helped a lot of people.”

In this time of Trump, many groups are emphasizing outreach. The Chelsea Collaborative will hold a doorknocking and flyering campaign in Chelsea on March 18, during which they will inform residents of their rights in case of a raid or round up. COSECHA plans to hold a Day Without Immigrants on May 1, in which they ask immigrants to stay home from school and work to demonstrate the impact of their absence, and plan to build up to a seven-day demonstration later.

Shannon Erwin, co-founder and executive director of the Muslim Justice League, told the gathered crowd that advice to immigrants with uncertain statuses, plans to travel or other concerns is not one-size fits all, and said her organization’s website features links to free or low-cost services.

Several BPS students said their schools also had made announcements against Trump’s actions and one noted that while students were not permitted to walk out last year to protest budget cuts, when Trump was inaugurated, the school threw the doors open for any wishing to protest. Saiida Farah pointed to the national pushback on Trump’s travel ban order as evidence that activism can get results.