Upon arrival, unpacking their few possessions, and vast hopes and talents, Boston’s immigrants have offered us not only their cuisine, art, and culture, but also their industry and intellect. Like so many who came before them, many of today’s immigrants are asylum-seekers, fleeing war, famine, domestic violence, trafficking, or torture. They all deserve a better life.
I proudly joined thousands of others protesting the President’s recent immigrant ban at Logan Airport, at Copley Square, and at the Holocaust Memorial. At Logan, I met an anxious family waiting to greet their detained father, a post-doctoral mechanical engineering fellow. He was detained simply because of his Iranian passport. Thanks to the ACLU, I witnessed their profoundly moving reunion.
This is our moment to be bold – not only in words but in action. We must continue to welcome all people. That is why last week I introduced legislation to explore a public/private Immigrant Legal Defense Fund for Boston for documented and undocumented immigrants.
Some – including Boston’s Mayor – disagree. He believes this step leads to a “slippery slope.” As a Boston City Councillor, however, I believe it is critical for us to uphold both our Constitution and our regional economy. It is not only the right thing to do ethically, it is the responsible thing to do to protect our city’s economic security.
The loss of immigrants from Boston’s colleges and universities, or our medical, biotechnology and life-sciences, restaurant, hospitality, tourism, or IT industries is simply too profound to leave to chance. It is responsible policy to protect all of our residents. Their success is our success.
The MIRA Coalition estimates that from 2010 to 2015 only 4% of documented or undocumented immigrants without legal representation won their case. If they have legal representation, however, that figure jumped to 49%. We must ensure every resident has access to the due process our Constitution enshrines for all.
For a city that promotes itself as “progressive” and a “world-class city,” we are trailing behind Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and 5 other major cities that have already created a defense fund. In Chicago, they have pledged $3 million. In LA, their fund is $10 million.
Our failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform continues to deeply harm families. The MIRA Coalition estimates that each year an average of 492 U.S. citizen children in Boston have a parent who ends up both detained and deported. As Bostonians, we cannot stand aside while families are torn apart.
Whether Boston’s immigrants are documented or undocumented, the contribution of these people is immeasurable. If we stand by and allow our President to dismantle our Constitution and our regional economy, we will be complicit and irresponsible in our inaction.
It is not only time for strong words but also concrete actions to protect our immigrant communities. We are Boston. We must help them because our economy and our duty to protect fellow people depend on it.
– City Councillor Tito Jackson