A crowd of more than 300 gathered in Chinatown Saturday afternoon to protest President Trump’s controversial executive order that bars immigrants from some predominantly Muslim countries and refugees from entering the country.
Marching toward the State House, the protesters held signs reading, “Immigrants make America great” and “No trade war,” as they chanted, “Donald Trump, you racist clown! Build a wall, we’ll tear it down!”
Trump, elected in November, made immigration a top issue in his presidential campaign, vowing to build a wall along the country’s southern border with Mexico and deport many undocumented immigrants. In the days since he took office, Trump has signed several executive orders that could have long-reaching effects on the country’s immigration system.
Under a Friday order, Trump suspended entry to the country for all refugees for 120 days and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely. Immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — has also been suspended for 90 days.
The order has created chaos for people who were in transit to the United States. Boston-area academics, including members of the MIT and Harvard communities, are among those affected by Trump ’s order.
Ron Newman of Somerville, who attended the rally, said the order reminded him of how the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Germany, was turned away by countries including the United States in 1939. Many of the refugees later died in concentration camps.
“It seems like Donald Trump wants to repeat that history,” said Newman, who is Jewish. “I think anyone who fought in World War II, whose family fought in World War II, should consider this [executive order] to be a betrayal of what they fought for.”
“Immigrants are giving more than they are taking,” said Martha Rodriguez, a Venezuelan immigrant who attended the rally with her two young sons. Rodriguez said she became a citizen last year but has relatives who are undocumented.
Many undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, Rodriguez said, and they can’t benefit from government assistance because of restrictions already in place.
“The three of us are here for those who are too afraid to speak for themselves,” she said.
The rally was organized by Boston May Day. The immigrants’ rights group is affiliated with Cosecha, a group that is organizing a “Migrant Boycott” with immigrants pledging to abstain from shopping, as well as attending work and school, to show the influence of immigrants on the economy.
Gerardo Molinari of Somerville, who attended the protest as a member of a local chapter of the International Socialist Organization, said he moved to the United States from Central America in 2009.
“I’m not here because I want to be,” Molinari said. “I work 40 hours a week. I’d love to be in my house resting, but I feel like I need to be here in solidarity with those standing up to Trump’s hate speech.”
In front of the State House, the group listened to speakers, several of whom criticized President Obama’s immigration policy along with Trump’s. The Obama administration deported more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants — the most of any administration in history.
“Obama voted for the wall; Hillary Clinton voted for the wall,” Lyn Meza said. “Donald Trump is just increasing a wall that is already there, that has been voted for by Democrats.”
“We continue to be the working class,” said Sergio Reyes, with Boston May Day. “Let us not have the Democrats hijack our people’s movement.”
Cairo Mendes stressed the importance of intersectionality as he addressed the crowd, saying that he would stand with Muslims and LGBT people, calling them his “family.”
Mendes, an organizer for the Student Immigration Movement, said he and his family are undocumented immigrants. His mother works as a housekeeper and must drive to work every day without a license, he said.
“Being an undocumented immigrant is a walking embodiment of resistance,” he said.
As Amy Cardoso of Woburn reached the State House with the other protesters, she said she was happily surprised by the turnout. Her husband Rivelino immigrated from Brazil, she said, so she knows the country’s broken immigration system firsthand.
“If I changed one person’s mind on the way here, that’s success to me,” Cardoso said.
The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations has organized another protest against Trump’s executive order, scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Copley Square, followed by a 2:30 p.m. Muslim prayer.
By 5 p.m. Saturday, more than 5,000 people had RSVP’d to the Facebook event, with another 15,000 indicating interest.