Over 200 protesters gathered near the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s detention center on Bradston Street in Boston on Sunday to hold a Father’s Day vigil to honor undocumented fathers in detention.
“This was an intimate protest for dads [in detention] and I hope they get encouragement,” Virginia Leigh, a social worker at the Lynn Community Health Center and participant in the protest, said. “I wanted to show my kids and family there’s real people on the other end of this.”
The protest was organized by a number of groups, including Progressive Needham, Massachusetts Communities in Action, Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, the Paulist Center, and the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign.
Rev. Vernon Walker, co-chair of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, said one of the goals of the protest was to send a message of hope to separated immigrant families.
“I can’t even count the number of clergy out here that believe that it’s wrong and immoral for young children to be separated from their family,” Walker said. “It’s an immoral, ungodly code of ethics. We don’t stand by it.”
Organizers had hoped to give letters of encouragement to the fathers in detention at the facility. But because the letters were not addressed to specific individuals, ICE facility administrators did not allow them to be delivered on Sunday, John Kirk, a member of Progressive Needham said.
A spokesman from ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
In addition to supporting the detainees, organizers said they hoped the protest sent a message to lawmakers about the need to act on immigration legislation.
“One of the reasons I’m out here today is to really use my voice to encourage my colleagues to implement the immigrant protections that we can in the state budget,” said State Representative Mike Connolly, a Cambridge Democrat.
Connolly said he hopes that a bill prohibiting local and state officials from asking about a person’s immigration status will pass as part of the state budget bill for fiscal 2019.
Others said they hoped the protest would motivate ICE to stop separating families.
“I wanted them to see if you’re doing something that you don’t agree with, you can stop,” Amanda Grow, a protester, said. “I want ICE to see my treating them with compassion.”
This story has been updated to clarify a description of the budget bill that could contain the provision on immigration status.Marek Mazurek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org