UU Ministers Participate in Boston Press Conference to Support Immigrants in Massachusetts
On Monday, November 7, interfaith allies and immigrant justice groups held a press conference at Church of the Covenant in Boston. The press conference was in response to a recent wave of anti-immigrant activity following the August death of a Milford man by a drunken driver, and the resulting draconian anti-immigrant bill introduced in the State House. The legislation has been explicitly tied to the incident in Milford but includes 24 provisions that focus on immigrants rather than decreasing crime in Massachusetts. Much of the backlash comes after progress made in Massachusetts to create policies that keep immigrant families together.
Participants in the press conference included Rev. Terry Burke, Minister of First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist; Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead; Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, Senior Pastor Roxbury Presbyterian Church and President Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO); and Shannon Erwin, state policy director for the MIRA Coalition. Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, First Church in Boston and Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, First Parish in Milton stood with other clergy as part of Standing on the Side of Love and UU Mass Action.
Rev. Hamilton spoke on behalf of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), a congregation-based community organization made up of fifty-two congregations and community organizations, including First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist.
Rev Hamilton said: “Brutalizing the defenseless, scandalizing the vulnerable and terrorizing the innocent simply because of the color of their skin or where you think that they have come from will not produce a national immigrant policy.”
Rev. Burke and Rev. von Zirpolo shared stories of immigrants who have been harassed and treated badly in the wake of a drunk driving accident in Milton involving an undocumented man from Ecuador. Both recounted numerous experiences of immigrants having bottles thrown at them, cars and property vandalized, verbal insults and harassment, and profiling at the hands of Milton police. Both emphasized that the current anti-immigrant legislation in Massachusetts has only enhanced the fearful atmosphere in Milton and across the state.
Rev. von Zirpolo said: “I also know the violence we condone and create through Secure Communities is not the answer. This is not simply about Milford or even Massachusetts. There is a storm brewing in our country, fueled by fear and delivering hate. The storm takes incidents such as these, entwines them with the collective challenges of our economy and seeks to separate us. It scapegoats and criminalizes entire communities and identity groups. It calls it patriotism and promises safety. It is a lie.
The truth about Secure Communities and [anti-immigrant] legislation in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and other places is that they create violence. Violence against entire families who are ripped apart, at times one parent delivered across the border in one town, another miles away and a child dropped in yet another town.”
The other speakers emphasized the call to elected officials to speak out against anti-immigrant harassment. Shannon Erwin, state policy director for the MIRA Coalition, said: “It’s time that they [politicians] state publicly that the cruel behavior you heard about today has no place in the commonwealth.”
At the end of his remarks, Rev. Burke reminded everyone of the numerous religious traditions that have a story of the stranger, the immigrant. He said: “It is important for people of faith to speak out for immigrants. Our faith traditions speak of holy immigrants. Jesus travels as a little boy with his parents Mary and Joseph to Egypt, like many of the DREAMers who traveled to this country with their parents. In the Jewish tradition, Abraham and Sarah answer God’s call to ‘Go!’ to a Promised Land. The Prophet Muhammad and his family fled from religious enemies to the Kingdom of Ethiopia. These holy immigrants remind us that ALL immigrants are holy, and deserve our respect and support.”