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News :: Globalization : Human Rights : International : Labor : Organizing
Thousands March in Boston for Immigrant Rights
28 Mar 2006
Boston, MA--Although march organizers expected numbers only in the hundreds, an estimated four to six thousand people came to the Boston Commons to rally in favor of immigrant rights. Inspired by huge crowds of people that rallied this past weekend in Los Angeles (estimated at 500 thousand to 1 million people) Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Milwaukee, and other cities across the United States, Bostonian immigrants came out in mass to make a stand against legislation like Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI) bill HR 4437.
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“Our ‘pueblo’, our ‘raza’, our people has finally said enough! We will not be afraid anymore; we will rally against anti-immigrant, harmful legislation in Congress,” said Maria Elena, executive director of Centro Presente, an immigrant rights organization in Cambridge. “All we want is to be able to build and work for a better future. We are good people and will demand what we deserve.”

Sensenbrenner’s bill would have made would have made undocumented immigrants “aggravated criminal felons” and anyone who aids them (including churches and social workers) into criminals for “aiding and abetting” the undocumented. Additionally, it recommended erecting a 698-mile across the U.S.-Mexico border at a cost of $1 million per mile.

Jose Mendoza from El Salvador couldn’t contain his emotion as he shouted, “¡Si se puede!” and “We are not criminals!” He explained that as the oldest son of four children, he came to the United States when he was 17 years old to find some means of support for his family. That was eleven years ago, and since then he hasn’t seen them again. “The hardest thing is not been able to visit my family,” he said. “Most of us do the hard work that Americans don’t want to do and instead are being treated like terrorists.”

“We cannot create legislature based on hate instead of facilitating a process towards citizenship,” said City Councilor Felix Arroyo, “I’m more interested in McCain/Kennedy’s bill which will integrate family members in that process.”

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee implemented most of McCain and Kennedy’s proposals by making it possible for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for more than six years, to apply for citizenship. Senators agreed that the massive rallies this past weekend influenced their decision.

The Boston crowd was riddled with flags representing multiple countries from the American continent, including Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, El Salvador, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, and the United States. People from all ages, many with kids and infants, were there to demand their rights.

Plans for the rally included a quick march from the Commons to Tremont Temple, where mass was to be held for all participants, but soon the march organizers were overwhelmed by the large crowd. “We want people to see our numbers and strength. We can’t stay inside,” said one of the demonstrators. Impromptu plans were soon made to continue the march, and a police escort was arranged all the way to Government Center where the Center for Immigration Reform resides.

“It’s not fair that in a nation that considers itself to be the most democratic, developed in the world, laws are being considered to repress a community that has contributed so much to this economy,” said Carlos Chacon, one of the rally organizers.

According to the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), as of 2004, one in seven Mass. Residents was born in another country. The impact of immigrants on the economy is significant. Over the last 25 years, the share of immigrants in the Massachusetts workforce has nearly doubled. Today, 17 percent of our workforce are immigrants.

Rally demonstrators came from many different social and economic backgrounds. Carmelle Bonhomecer, a citizen from Haiti, received her college degree in Canada in business administration and then moved to Boston with her husband. She compared Bush’s workers permit program to “modern-day slavery.”

Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), agrees. “I think President’s Bush proposal is indenture servitude. It creates a permanent second class and does nothing to create a solution for immigrants in the country.”

The bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee includes plans to toughen border patrol presence and create a guest-worker program for low-wage jobs in agriculture, construction, and meat packing. The bill is scheduled for debate in the Senate’s floor today.

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