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    During illegal immigration crackdown, campaigns celebrating immigrants gain steam

    A mural on Paris Street in East Boston is part of the #ToImmigrantsWithLove campaign.
    David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
    A mural on Paris Street in East Boston is part of the #ToImmigrantsWithLove campaign.

    In the middle of a Jewish cemetery in East Boston, a chapel from 1903 is the future home of a center that will tell Greater Boston’s immigration story.

    A liquor store in Roslindale is the canvas for a new mural that celebrates Russian immigrants who established the business in 1933 and the owner of a nearby shop who moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic two decades ago.

    And on the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower, an exhibition on the history of the city’s immigrants is in the same spot where tourists gather to get a bird’s-eye view of Boston.

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    During a time when the Trump administration is restricting immigration, a host of efforts honoring immigrants and their contributions are gaining momentum in Boston and beyond.

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    “If ever there was a time that we needed to tell our story, this is it,” said Westy Egmont, a Boston College professor who developed the “Dreams of Freedom” exhibition, which has been at the Prudential since 2005. “It’s especially important when we have ahistorical leaders who rise to high positions in Washington.”

    The city of Boston has recently completed two murals celebrating immigrants as part of a national campaign called #ToImmigrantsWithLove.

    The city of Boston has recently completed two murals celebrating immigrants as part of a national campaign called #ToImmigrantsWithLove.
    David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
    The city of Boston has recently completed two murals celebrating immigrants as part of a national campaign called #ToImmigrantsWithLove.

    One mural is on Paris Street in East Boston. The other is painted onto Atlas Liquors in Roslindale. A third is planned for the East Boston Greenway, officials said.

    Each mural juxtaposes immigrants from the past with more recent newcomers. They also include a quote from Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh written in several languages: “You will always be welcome in the city of Boston.”

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    Veronica Robles, an immigrant from Mexico who is featured in the Paris Street mural, said it has made other immigrants feel secure at a time when some are so fearful of deportation that they skip medical appointments or keep their children home from school.

    “Seeing a woman in a Mexican hat standing on a big wall is something that inspires them and also makes them feel like they’re at home and safe,” said Robles, an East Boston resident and founder of the Veronica Robles Cultural Center.

    The Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement has also been distributing postcards for people to write notes to immigrants. Some include messages like, “Congrats on the big move!” and “My story is your story! We’re all immigrants!”

    At the Walnut Street Synagogue in Chelsea, members are developing a museum and cultural center to honor Jewish immigrants who established the congregation in 1887 and offer programming to immigrants who are new to the area.

    The museum’s first major event is scheduled for next month when the temple hosts three performances by Eureka Ensemble, a classical music troupe that presents interactive, kid-friendly concerts.

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    The free events are being put on with help from Chelsea Collaborative, which runs several programs for immigrants and refugees.

    ‘Seeing a woman in a Mexican hat standing on a big wall is something that inspires them and also makes them feel like they’re at home and safe.’

    Veronica Robles, an immigrant from Mexico 

    “Immigrant groups have always had a difficult time in America,” said Richard Zabot, a member of the synagogue’s board of directors. “These people are having an especially hard time right now . . . It’s very difficult to take on a new culture when part of it doesn’t want you just because you’re foreign. Something like this includes them.”

    The Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts Charitable Foundation is renovating a chapel where it plans to establish an immigration center, said Lisa Berenson, the group’s director of development.
    David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
    The Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts Charitable Foundation is renovating a chapel where it plans to establish an immigration center, said Lisa Berenson, the group’s director of development.

    In East Boston, the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts Charitable Foundation is renovating a chapel where it plans to establish an immigration center, said Lisa Berenson, the group’s director of development.

    “We want to make this into sort of like Ellis Island,” she said. “They used to come through the Port of Boston and now they come through Logan Airport.”

    The $2.5 million project would include exhibition space, classrooms, and meeting areas where immigrants could take English courses or get help becoming citizens.

    The foundation began raising money for the project in 2006 and plans to call the renovated chapel the East Boston Immigration Center, Berenson said.

    The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition plans to use the space for naturalization clinics and community meetings, said Eva Millona, the group’s executive director.

    Berenson is scheduled to give a lecture about the project on Wednesday at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.

    The chapel is in the Temple Ohabei Shalom Cemetery, itself a symbol of the discrimination that Jewish immigrants faced.

    Up until the city of Boston approved using the land as a Jewish burial ground in 1844, Puritan laws forbade Jews from burying their dead in Massachusetts, Berenson said.

    “Most Jewish people fled persecution, fled for their lives. They came here with nothing,” she said. “We’re a success story in this country.”

    Alex Castillo, 40, is featured in the Roslindale mural with Louis and Beatrice White, immigrants from Russia who established a business which is now Atlas Liquors.

    Castillo moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic when he was a teenager and now owns Digitech Electronic Solutions, an electronics repair shop, in Roslindale.

    He said he hopes other immigrants draw hope from the mural.

    “I was coming from a poor country,” Castillo said. “To be featured on a mural, it makes me feel really proud.”

    One effort to honor immigrants is the development of the East Boston Immigration Center at the site of Temple Ohabei Jewish mortuary chapel at Shalom Cemetery on Wordsworth Street.
    David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
    One effort to honor immigrants is the development of the East Boston Immigration Center at the site of Temple Ohabei Jewish mortuary chapel at Shalom Cemetery on Wordsworth Street.

    Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.