by Paul Garver
The lively and boisterous rally was organized primarily by SEIU and allied community organizations including Jobs with Justice , MassUniting and MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition).
SEIU Local 615 President Rocio Saenz, herself an immigrant from Mexico and a veteran of SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaigns, led the rally. She spoke eloquently of the integral connection of immigrant rights with union rights and human rights. She also introduced supportive speakers Sen. Elizabeth Warren and new Mass. Congressman Joseph Kennedy III.
Perhaps the most moving speakers were four immigrants of varying ages and countries of origin, one of them herself an Executive Board member of Local 615. who had suffered lengthy separations from their families and loved ones because of arbitrary regulations governing immigration. No immigration reform issue appeared more important and pressing than easing family reunification.
The population of Massachusetts includes about 320,000 residents with green cards, and another estimated 180,000 without legal permission. ICE raids remain a constant threat in many Mass. workplaces, as evidenced by raids such as one in New Bedford. The JFK Federal Building that looms over Fanueil Hall has been the locus of many court-ordered deportations of hard-working residents and family members whose only “crime” was overstaying visas or entering without papers.
From the rally everyone took to the streets to march to the Federal Building to lay carnations as symbols of determination to win immigration reform this time. Since the Federal Building was only a block away, we took an hour’s long detour assisted by a marching band through downtown historic and shopping districts to get there. For this day at least, the onlookers were friendly, the police cooperative and amicable. The atmosphere was hopeful and festive. with numerous chants of Si se puede!
The time has come to reclaim the best American tradition of openness to and inclusion of immigrants.