Hours after they attended a vigil to draw attention to migrants being housed in unsanitary camps at the US-Mexican border, immigration advocates and activists filled a sunlit Cathedral of Saint Paul in Boston on Saturday to strategize about how best to help the local immigrant community.
The diverse crowd learned about a range of national and state issues, including temporary protected status, or TPS, of immigrants to bills pending in the state Legislature, during the session organized by Boston Lights for Liberty, an advocacy group.
In small group settings, people learned how to organize demonstrations and other community actions to help immigrants cope with unyielding fear and grief about the prospect of seeing loved ones deported in raids scheduled to be carried out by federal authorities Sunday in 10 US cities.
“This is for after you light the candle,” said Leah Bloom, an organizer with Boston Lights for Liberty.
Although Boston is not on the list of cities where raids are expected to be carried out, the fear of ICE raids has alarmed the immigrant communities of Massachusetts, with some choosing not to go to work and even refusing to go to the grocery store, the Globe reported Saturday.
The operation is expected to take place over multiple days in at least 10 major cities, according to The New York Times, which first reported the planned raids.
On Saturday, some shared their stories on immigrating to the United States from troubled homelands.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work, to drive, to live my American dream, said Doris Landaverde, a Salvadoran immigrant who arrived in 2000 and has TPS, which allows her to work and live in the United States.
In her nearly 20 years in the United States, Landaverde managed to save up enough money to buy her mother a house in their homeland, she got married, she had three daughters — who are all American citizens by birthright, and are underage. In other words, she built a life.
But when President Trump announced the end of TPS for Salvadorans in 2018, Landaverde feared for the worst, so she resolved to tell her story.
“That was a very hard process,” she said in Spanish, detailing how she even went back to school to improve her English so she could “bring my story to the American community because they need to know what’s happening to us.”
“They need to know we’re good people who come here to work, to build a family, a better future,” she said. “We’re not the people this government is saying — criminals.”
Other speakers tried to reassure undocumented workers fearing deportation.
“Even if you’re undocumented, you still have rights,” said Natalícia Tracy, executive director of the Brazilian Worker Center.
Massachusetts has the second largest Brazilian population after Florida, according to a 2017 report from the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and a lot of them come from mixed-status families, Tracy said, meaning at least one member might be undocumented.
“That causes horrible fear that someone is going to get deported, family separation,” she said.
“Children are afraid that their mother [or] father is going to get picked up by ICE.”
Tracy, who has lived in the United States for the past 28 years, said there were a few years where she, too, was undocumented.
Having first arrived to work as a nanny, Tracy found herself in an untenable situation, making $25 a week for 90 hours of work, she said. The family let her paperwork expire, she said, and didn’t inform her. But to Tracy, that she was unaware of her undocumented status is an example of how immigration in the United States has changed over the years.
“It was not the same as it is now,” she said, later adding that “people were just people.”
“We always have to deal with race in the US,” Tracy said. “People always question where you’re from and when you’re going back, but they didn’t treat you like you’re a criminal.”