Massachusetts – Immigration Mayhem!
Controversy Breaks out at the Mass. State House Surrounding Immigrant Minors
By Olivia McCormack and Chloe Ockey
As a part of our Youth Justice Training in Boston, offered by the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice (UUCSJ), one of the requirements was to intern at a social justice organization. In our case, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Our UUA liason (Susan Leslie) took us to the Massachusetts State House to view and observe the photo exhibit later mentioned in this post.
An estimated 57,000 minors from Central America have flooded across the border from Mexico to the U.S. in recent months, and gang leaders are reportedly filling their ranks from among them. Transnational gangs such as the Mara Salvatruca, also known as MS-13, and the 18th Street gang are using established juvenile members from Central America to cross the border and recruit other children to the cartels, say sources. From the Daily Mail article on border security:
“Whether it’s the adults or the young kids, one thing we consistently hear is, ‘Obama will take care of us,’” Border Patrol Veteran Chris Cabrera said. “The ‘magic words’ are something along the lines of ‘asylum,’ or ‘political asylum’ or to say ‘fighting in my home country,’” At least 80 percent of youth immigrants stopped at the border have one parent or a close relative already in the United States, said Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and senior fellow for the Migration Policy Institute.
With an anti-immigration perspective, Jeff Kuhner, the host of WRKO radio’s “The Kuhner Report,” organized the anti-immigration rally at the State House on July 26. This is what he had to say concerning immigrant minors. “These are not children. When you say child, the implication is 4, 5, 6 [years old]. They’re teenagers – many of them are gangbangers … If you’re 15, you’re not a child. A child is 12 and under.” Although gang members are supposedly recruiting young children from the facilities at which they are housed (Daily Mail – Border Security), there isn’t any data proving that statement.
The actual number of protesters in attendance is under heavy speculation. Some news reports say anywhere from a couple hundred to one thousand, while people at the protest say that it was closer to ten thousand (We attended and personally thought there were around 1,000 people.) The protesters held up signs including “Not Racist, Realist”, “Stop Using Children As Political Pawns” and “Put America First.” The feeling of the protesters was, “‘We need to put America’s needs before the needs of the immigrants.'” Several people spoke including Jeff Kuhner who said “If we don’t stop him (President Obama) now he is gonna turn Massachusetts into Mexichusetts.”
We heard several city officials speak concerning the topic of immigrant children being introduced to the Boston area. We were then given the opportunity to observe pictures of “The Immigrant Experience” (a photo exhibit showing how immigrants live in Massachusetts – Ed.). Coincidentally while this exhibit was being presented, a closed door summit was taking place in the House Minority Leaders Office. This summit’s focusing topic was the repercussions of sponsoring any more illegal immigrant minors. When the people viewing the exhibit learned of the summit, the majority of that group moved downstairs outside of the Minority Leader’s office to protest the lack of community conversation. The summit continued for over an hour after the immigrant rights activists gathered. The politicians then tried to call the press into their office, in an attempt to give a one-sided statement on the discussions that took place during the summit. One of the more vocal immigrant activists, Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente demanded to be let into the press conference, storming into the room with other immigrant activists behind her. As security attempted to push her and the other activists outside of the office, she spoke to the media, berating officials for not having members of the community present during the summit. Once the press conference began, Secretary of Public Safety Andreas Cabral spoke, stating Massachusetts would sponsor one thousand illegal immigrant children to stay in the state for a year. Once the conference came to an end Judith Kennedy the Mayor of Lynn and Patricia Montes got into a very heated discussion about the events of the day. The Mayor of Lynn’s assistant was then forced to lead the Mayor out of the side door, the Mayor stating, “I’m not backing down from this fight,” whilst pointing at Patricia furiously.
The controversy surrounding Immigrant Justice has only just begun. If you feel motivated or inspired by this issue, explore the issue of Immigrant Justice in your own state. If you want to learn more about Immigrant Justice and problems surrounding it, go to the Nation Immigrant Justice Center to learn more.