The names and photos of seven migrant children who died in US custody adorned a child-sized white coffin outside the John F. Kennedy Federal Building on Monday morning, as Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders prayed, sang, and shouted appeals for immigration reform.
“No child . . . should die senselessly in the confines of a cage,” Bishop Dwayne Royster, national political director for the nonpartisan advocacy group Faith in Action, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd of more than 100.
“No child should be separated from their parents because their parents are striving to get them to a place where they can grow up with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Royster said. “No child [should] die because their parents are brown and come from Mexico and Central America and South America, because they are black and come from the Caribbean and Africa.”
Volunteer pallbearers plan to carry the cardboard coffin 76 miles in a funeral procession to the Strafford County House of Corrections in Dover, N.H., where US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains some undocumented immigrants.
In Dover, the Boston group plans to meet pallbearers making pilgrimages from New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine as they call on elected officials and 2020 presidential candidates to end the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants until the US overhauls its immigration policy.
Stoking controversy and dividing the nation, President Trump has made immigration a central issue of his presidency and his 2020 reelection campaign, aggressively seeking to limit the number of migrants entering the US and to remove undocumented immigrants and even some who have legal status.
Hilda Macario, a Guatemalan immigrant and mother of four small children, told the Government Center crowd about her husband Jose’s nearly three-month detention.
“We are worried because without him, we don’t know what will happen to me and my girls,” Macario said in Spanish through an interpreter. “He is our support, and we need him to return.”
Fawaz Abusharkh, a board member of the Islamic Society of the North Shore, told the crowd that all prejudice grows from the same rotten seed.
“Anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration, Islamophobia, it’s . . . the same thing, even though it might sound different or look different. . . . The enemy is the same, with many different faces and colors, but also the solution is the same,” he said. “The solution is us.”
Holly Aloha Jaynes, the longtime activist and artist who built the cardboard coffin at her Marblehead home, painted it white to symbolize the children’s innocence, she said, and decorated it with colorful heart shapes, as a child might.
“Kind of ironic, isn’t it?” she mused. “Decorated for a child, because it is for a child. A child who is no longer living.”