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Shouting out about ICE Tactics: An hour well-spent at Centro Presente in Somerville, MA

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Oct 22, 2010

By Carolyn White-Lesieur

Rev. Fred Small and other community members gather at Centro Presente in Somerville, Massachusetts for a meeting on ICE raids in their community.Rev. Fred Small, Rev. Lilia Cuervo and other community members gather at Centro Presente in Somerville, Massachusetts for a meeting on ICE raids in their community.

I could not stay home and do nothing. I had to hear it for myself. Centro Presente, an immigrant rights group based in Somerville, was organizing a meeting to inform us that Arizona and ICE had come to Somerville, Massachusetts. (ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

The incident that sparked it? An innocuous attempt to locate a missing person who no longer lived in a building was the perfect opportunity to…”Oh, by the way, can I see your papers? Hmm, maybe we’ll ferret out some of these illegal aliens…these criminals….”

Whoa, stop! America, what hath thou become?! Where is the empathy, compassion, kindness, generosity, lending of hand, the Welcome Wagon, the America of our highest ideals?

They entered a building showing no search warrant. They went door-to-door, entering and searching the rooms of the apartments, ostensibly to search for this missing individual but along the way, they must have decided to kill two birds with one stone. They asked people for their names and identification in a not-so-innocent manner.

A 14-year-old Latino spoke with composure but evident distress about what happened to him, his 10-year-old sister, and his parents. They were interrogated and felt threatened and intimidated. The family feels insecure even though they are documented residents. The 10 year old girl was particularly traumatized by the experience; suddenly, her world was not such a nice place.

Imagine it were you. Wouldn’t you feel somehow shamed and sullied? It’s wrong and we cannot ignore it.

The First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church of Cambridge came with a large delegation to show their support. Senior Minister Rev. Fred Small reminded everyone that Unitarian Universalists “stand on the side of love with immigrant families”; that “every religious tradition teaches us to welcome the stranger. Jesus said ‘Love your neighbor.’ Jesus did not say, ‘Throw your neighbor under the bus.’ I want you to know that we will stand with you.”

He then led with the song “Marching into the Light.”

Rev. Lilia Cuervo delivered her message of support and indignation in Spanish and was much appreciated as well.

I was proud to be there, proud that our ministers saw the importance of our support and they, too, could not just stay home and do nothing.

Nancy Murray of the ACLU spoke firmly and pointedly that ICE agents are violating the Constitution, in particular the 4th Amendment, as well as the 5th and 14th. Remember the 4th Amendment? It states that it is the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. “SECURE in their persons, houses…”

Warren Goldstein-Gelb, Executive Director of the Welcome Project, continued by making the point that “we need to have a conversation about laws that protect persons….” He emphasized that the Constitution says persons; not the word “citizens”. Persons. These persons are not criminals. We need to bear that in mind. This family is not illegal, nor undocumented. They are fine, hard-working people.

Patricia Montes is the Executive Director of Centro Presente. She gave an impassioned speech about defending human rights in our communities. Yes, there are 12 million undocumented people in the United States, but it is a broken system. She pleaded that we all become better informed about rights and spread the word. It is UNACCEPTABLE to use such tactics of intimidation.

We must stand by the side of immigrants — documented or undocumented — and be vigilant that people’s rights are not trampled upon and laid aside during the debate on the thorny immigration issue. We cannot “stay home” on this issue if we want an America that stands on the side of love.

Rev. Fred Small of the First Parish in Cambridge, MA, performs “Marching into the Light,” which was written by Andres Useche in protest of SB 1070. The performance was part of a Boston New Sanctuary Movement breakfast held at the First Parish in Cambridge on October 21, 2010.

4 Responses to “Shouting out about ICE Tactics: An hour well-spent at Centro Presente in Somerville, MA”

  1. This story is both horrifying (what kind of a country have we become?) and inspiring given the SSL response. I’m proud to say that I know both Fred and Lilia and I know that SSL with immigrant families is where they’d want to be. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story. It will help me to be ever more vigilant in my community.

  2. Jeff says:

    Thanks for sharing the song that Rev. Small sang. It lifted my spirits on a dreary day. I don’t know what my partner and I would do without the support of our UU friends in the Ozarks and beyond. We’ve been together for almost ten years. Jose is in removal proceedings. We live for each day, hope for the best and plang for the future should he have to go back to Mexico. I share some things from Standing on the Side of Love with my friends on Facebook. Thanks from the Heartland. Together, we are marching into the light… one step at a time.

  3. I enjoyed reading this website. I need exellent information like this blog for my own.

  4. Sonia Whitin Inoue says:

    Dear Carolyn,

    I wonder if you are the same Carolyn that was my roommate at Wesleyan University a loooong time ago?! I am back in the United States after 28 years of living in Japan. Remarried. I live in Florida and switched professions from teacher to massage therapist. I love my new identity….I have been back here for about 10 years now. My two daughters (Emilie and Aya) both live in Burlington, Vermont. I wonder if you will ever get this…if you do, please write me back and let me know how you are…my sister lives in Switzerland so if you are still living in Paris I would love to have dinner sometime. Love and fond memories…..Sonia

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