On Thursday, April 19, 2018, the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO) lead the Children’s March at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. The march was organized to protest federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies that target immigrant families.
Marchers gathered at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in the Boston Common, with children directly affected by ICE policies leading the march, followed by ECCO leaders, clergymen, teachers, community members, and immigrant rights advocates.
Children and supporters held signs and chanted, “Show me what democracy looks like!” “This is what democracy looks like!” as they marched into the State House, with the protest peaking on the third floor where Governor Charlie Baker’s office is located.
Children wrote letters to Governor Baker and Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, urging them to sign off on amendments to the fiscal 2019 state budget aimed at helping immigrant families. The letters were hand delivered during the march by ECCO clergymen and the children.
Within the Massachusetts Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Bill, there are three proposed amendments essential to strengthening the protection of immigrant families and their communities.
According to a press release from ECCO, “The proposed amendments would bar police inquiries about immigration status, prohibit state and local 287(g) contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and provide due process protections for immigrants in police custody.”
Marchers gathered in the hall to share stories, pray, sing, and chant in protest. Sheets of songs and chants such as “This Land is Your Land” and “This Little Light of Mine,” were handed out, and were sung by protesters periodically throughout the march.
Alvaro Peters, a teacher at Kipp Academy, spoke in support of immigrants and their families during the rally. He said that that a majority of immigrants are law abiding, tax paying citizens, and they deserve to live without fear of deportation.
“What did you do when you found out there are, in fact, millions of families —undocumented— currently living in this country; seeking refuge and the pursuit of happiness. Did you think about how your ancestors got here? Because unless you’re Native American, your family were immigrants. Now, what did you do when you realized that your immigrant brothers and sisters still, in 2018, live their lives in perpetual fear?” Peters said.
Elizabeth Badger, a senior attorney at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), explained during the rally how children of immigrant families are immediately affected by their lack of rights in court. KINDS mission is to provide these children with proper legal counsel, “To prevent any child from going through the deportation process alone,” Badger said.
“Children need the right to free counsel in the deportation process so that they can be safe, free from harm, and with their families. But the resources in our state are not sufficient… We must find a way to provide a pathway to status for dreamers. We’re talking about legal relief that already exists in the laws, that were seeking to protect our children. But those laws are under attack right now,” Badger said.
ECCO was joined by more than 30 co-sponsors to organize the Children’s March, including Kipp Academy Lynn, United Interfaith Action, and American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.