When xenophobic flyers appeared over the diverse neighborhood of East Boston, citizens responded by tearing them down, showing support for the local immigrant community that calls Eastie home. Days later, Centro Presente, a local immigrant advocacy group, held a fundraising benefit on Feb. 22 to support a member of the immigrant community affected by strict immigration policies. Patricia Montes, the Executive Director of Centre Presente, opened up the event by describing the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants. Rep. Adrian Madaro of East Boston also gave a speech emphasizing the importance of diversity to the establishment of East Boston community-based values and strength.
“It is the diversity that builds up our community strength,” Madaro said. “Immigrants needs to support each other from unjust policies and governmental regulations.”
The fundraiser was dedicated to Juan, an immigrant member of the organization who was reunited this past month with his son, who was detained in Tornillo, Texas. Tornillo was the location of an infamous detention camp for thousands of undocumented youth who arrived at the border without parents. The government closed the site in January. While his son is back with the family, Juan also faces difficulties stemming from health concerns and housing instability.
“The family we have here, they are just one of the many similar cases happened in the United States, they are not rare,” said Montes, describing Juan’s situation. “We need to get their voice heard by the larger public, to share their stories and feelings.”
The anti-immigrant posters appeared in East Boston around Thursday, Feb. 14. The flyers were hung up around the Eagle Hill neighborhood by a group of three men, all from out of Boston. The posters read, “Keep America American. Report any and all illegal aliens. They are not immigrants. They are criminals.” The three individuals were subsequently arrested by East Boston police for assaulting an officer and carrying dangerous weapons. East Boston residents were quick to tear down the flyers and report them to authorities.
The event gathered politicians, residents, and reporters to discuss the issues faced by millions of immigrant families such as racism, cultural stigma, discrimination, and more. Most of the audiences were migrants from Central America, and some European countries. They feel deeply connected to what had happened in Eastie, a place which consists of the largest immigrant population in Boston.
Madaro also shared the story of a boy he met in his early career, who was raised in an undocumented family and faced tremendous physical threat coming from the community, experienced gang-rape at a very young age and still grew up to be brave and empathetic.He also created non-profit organizations to help with kids who went through the same kind of experiences. Madaro said it is the resilience that made them stronger again, and people need to understand the traumatic events that are connected with that level of self-resilience, and made this immigrant community even braver. Montes also shared the situation on her behalf on what is like in Mexico and Central America. She described their government status and the social regulatory which pushes them to migrate to America. However, America didn’t recognize their human rights, and views them as aliens whose children without legal status could be sent to the detention center in places like Tornillo, Texas, and somewhere else apart from their parents.
The fundraiser lasted the whole event until the end, but still, more needs to be collected. Visit Centro Presente’s Facebook page to learn how to donate.