Faith Leaders Demand a Moratorium on ICE Raids at City Hall Rally
BOSTON/Government Center - A coalition of over 30 religious and community organizations held a rally Tuesday calling for an end to raids, mass arrests and deportation of thousands of undocumented immigrants around the nation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. About 250 people participated in the event - which was coordinated by members of the Arlington Street Church Unitarian Universalist.
Organizers said the rally was part of a growing faith-based response to series of recent ICE raids on immigrant communities - including Somerville, Lynn, East Boston and Lowell in August - and was 1 of 18 "Tour of the Faithful" events being sponsored by dozens of religious groups in support of immigrants in several cities in October.
Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the UUA discussed why religious people are becoming increasingly active in the immigrant rights movement, "Many immigrants following the American Dream and striving to give their children a better life are forced to join a permanent underclass. Even as they work hard and contribute to our communities, immigrants without legal status are denied basic rights. To people of conscience, this situation is intolerable."
Sinkford went on to explain the UUA's call for a Moratorium on ICE Raids at its 2007 General Assembly. The Moratorium, in addition to criticizing ICE and demanding an end to raids on immigrant communities, "urges all Unitarian Universalists congregations and their members to create a dialogue with the local business community, politicians, and if possible minority coalitions to create alternative actions for fair and legal deportations: and, urges all Unitarian Universalist congregations and their members to offer support and solidarity with the millions of immigrants seeking recognition and dignity in United States."
Patricia Montes of the Somerville-based immigrant rights group Centro Presente offered the perspective of many immigrants from El Salvador, "During the civil war in the 80s there were a significant number of people who came here trying to escape from the situation. Today, we do not have a war in Central America but neither do we have peace. We do not have real democracy, we do not have freedom. How can we talk about peace, freedom and democracy when we have people, 'campesinos,' in our countries living on less than a dollar per day? How can we talk about peace, freedom and democracy when we have women working like slaves at the big Canadian and U.S. factories or ‘maquilas’ making clothes that maybe we all buy here."
Montes concluded with a reference to the growing financial crisis, "These are the people that are being forced to migrate. This movement of people is the result of the economic system that the governments and the world bank are selling to us as our salvation."
Shuya Ohno of the Mass. Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition exhorted the crowd to action, and encouraged them to join the pro-immigrant Welcoming Massachusetts initiative led by his organization, "Hate crimes, hate radio, hate speech and hate groups are driving our national conversation about immigrants, and dividing our nation. In this time of uncertainty and fear, we are in desperate need of those who will stand up, who will defend and fight for what is right and what is just. We need those whose courage allows them, and whose conscience compels them to speak up against that which is wrong. We need those willing to raise their voice against bigotry, we need those who will not tolerate hatred, we need those who will not succumb to the demagogues of fear and anger."
Other speakers included Rev. Kim Crawford-Harvie of the Arlington Street Church, Bishop Felipe Texeira of Stain Francis of Assisi Church, and Charlie Clements of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
There were no counter protestors and a light police presence during the rally. A smaller rally called by Jobs with Justice to protest the government response to the financial crisis from the perspective of working families immediately preceded the immigration event.