‘When local law enforcement is used to deport innocent people, it is not only wrong but it has got to stop!’ Reverend Norm Faramelli’s words were met with a rousing cheer from a rally of more than one hundred people who had gathered on the steps of Boston’s Senate House on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013, to demonstrate their support for the new TRUST Act Bill. The event was coordinated by Centro Presente as part of their Just Communities/Comunidades Justa campaign which seeks to educate and mobilize people against efforts to criminalize undocumented immigrants. The purpose of the rally was to announce details of the proposed legislation and to present future plans for advancing the bill.
The proposed TRUST Act is intended to replace the Secure Communities (S-Comm) pilot which was introduced in 2008. Speakers at Wednesday’s events explored the human, community, and economic costs of S-Comm. Rather than reducing criminal activity on the streets of Greater Boston, S-Comm has resulted in increased targeting of non-criminal immigrants. State Senator Jamie Eldridge, the Bill’s Senate author, clarified that by ‘immigrants’ we are talking about people who work hard, pay taxes, support their families, and strive to attain a good standard of living.
These are people who live their lives without harming anyone: the majority of immigrants deported from the Boston area have no criminal record. Rich Rogers, executive treasurer to Greater Boston Labor Council, explained that this broken policy was targeting 11 million workers who are vital to the US economy. These immigrants are, each speaker stressed, no different from all the other people who have migrated to this country over history and who have made America their home.
With great courage, a woman currently facing deportation herself described the fear within which immigrant communities now live. She talked about how people are afraid to call 911 in case it alerts Immigration and Customs Enforcement to themselves or their neighbors; she spoke about her own grief that she is to be separated from her family; and she told the crowd about the injustice of the legislation and her belief that the demonstration would create a ‘strong voice’ that might be heard.
Unanimous sounds of agreement rang out as each speaker gave examples of how S-Comm has failed: it targets non-criminal immigrants; it diminishes trust within urban communities and between the police and the communities they serve; it is expensive and diverts resources from criminal activity; it allows unscrupulous employers to exploit undocumented workers; it breaks apart families and affords immigrants fewer civil rights than those given to criminals.
Wednesday’s demonstration showed the strong solidarity which supports the proposed TRUST act: a broad coalition of civil rights leaders, trade union activists, charity organizers and religious organizations were represented. The TRUST Act is intended to rebuild trust across immigrant communities and make all the people of Massachusetts feel safer.
As events concluded, demonstrators were invited to join the event organizers as the Trust Act Bill was presented within Senate House.