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Immigration Update III by Vicky Steinitz

Poor Peoples United Fund Newsletter,, Fall 2019:  The endless stream of Trump administration attacks on immigrants continues. The targets of these cruel proposals are invariably among the most vulnerable: victims of domestic or gang violence applying for asylum, severely ill foreigners here for medical treatment, DACA children who have grown up in the United States and know no other home. At the same time though, efforts to halt these hateful moves and to accompany and advocate for our immigrant neighbors are growing in number and intensity. Here, I want to celebrate some of the recent immigrant rights victories and also to underline the importance of joining the struggle here in Massachusetts. 

 
Widespread outrage against the Trump administrations’ termination of the medical deferred action program which allows severely ill foreigners to remain in the country while they receive treatment appears to have been successful in getting the policy change rescinded. The program has been reinstated although thus far no new requests have been processed. Similarly, public disgust with the proposed changes in the “public charge” criteria which would have denied green cards or visas to immigrants if they’ve used federal aid programs such as Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps) or housing assistance or if they did not have medical insurance was expressed in an extraordinary 260,000 public comments opposing the changes and twelve lawsuits in opposition.
 
 Lawyers working with immigrant rights organizations have been doing an incredible job of immediately filing briefs against these egregious proposals, often the day after they are announced. Time after time, judges have ruled in their favor, issuing injunctions which prevent adoption of the new regulations. Important rulings include: a permanent injunction issued by a California judge upholding the Flores decision which limits the number of days children can be held in detention, thereby blocking the administration’s attempts to create an endless family detention system; and injunctions striking down the public charge and medical insurance criteria in five District Courts across the country. 
 
The most exciting immigrant rights actor on the local scene is BIJAN, the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network. In addition to fundraising for bond and legal fees and accompanying detainees to court and ICE check-ins, BIJAN recently created a hotline where detainees can make free calls to their families and lawyers. The recent decision by the Suffolk County Sheriff to sever his jail’s contract with ICE meets a longtime goal of immigrant rights activists. In some ways, it is a victory but it has led to new problems. 180 detainees have been scattered, the men to Plymouth, Franklin and Rhode Island county jails, the women to Batavia NY, 6 ½ hours west of Boston. It is harder now for detainees to keep in contact with their lawyers, for families to visit and for BIJAN to provide accompaniment. BIJAN’s hotline and bond programs are critical resources. 
To make a contribution, go to https://beyondbondboston.org/donate 
 
Efforts to pass immigrant rights legislation in Massachusetts continue to be frustrating. The Work and Family Mobility Act which would allow qualified drivers to obtain standard drivers’ licenses did have a committee hearing in September and a hearing for the Safe Communities Act, which limits state cooperation with ICE and protects undocumented immigrants’ due process rights, has finally been scheduled. These bills have broad support but Governor Baker has said he will veto them and Speaker DeLeo has taken no steps to move them forward. Attend the SCA hearing—10 am, Dec. 2, Gardner Auditorium at the State House Also, let your state senator and representative know you support this legislation. An easy way to do this is thru the ACLU website https://action.aclu.org/send-message/ma-protect-immigrants.
 
 Furious letters to the Governor and the Speaker would be good next steps. These are challenging times which call on us all to do everything we can to assist our vulnerable neighbors  
 
 
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