Two local elected officials—state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz—supported Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to house undocumented immigrant children in the state.
The country is facing a growing crisis of immigrant children, mostly from Central America, entering the country illegally. Detention facilities in border states are overcrowded, and the Obama administration initially asked Patrick for Massachusetts to house some of the children. Early this week, the White House backtracked on that request, but only after Patrick had already agreed.
Sánchez said he supported the governor’s plan, noting that the immigrant children are usually fleeing from something, such as violence in Honduras.
“Honduras has a murder rate five times that of Iraq,” he said.
Sánchez said that as he attends events in Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain, he has heard mostly support for the plan.
“They believe it is a humanitarian crisis,” he said.
But, Sánchez said, he has also heard people against the plan, such as when he goes to Mike’s Donuts and listens to “very aggressive commentary along the lines of [TV station] Fox25.”
“They think the children will destroy society,” he said.
Sánchez recently attended a rally hosted by African American and Latino leaders at the Boston Irish Famine Memorial in downtown Boston. He said the rally was an attempt to bring people’s attention to the fact that the immigrant children’s plight today is similar to the Irish fleeing the famine.
Chang-Díaz said supporting the governor’s plan was “the right thing to do.” She said when she talks to people about the situation she refers to Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty that welcomes immigrants to the country. It includes the famous line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
“That is a statement of our values,” said Chang-Díaz. “It doesn’t say, ‘Except unaccompanied children from Central America.’”
She also noted that the immigrant children would not be the responsibility of local or state government, but of the federal government.
In Mission Hill, more than 125 non-citizen immigrants attended Action for Boston Community Development’s annual “Citizenship Day” event July 31 at ABCD’s Parker Hill/Fenway Neighborhood Services Center on Parker Street. The event encourages and assists people in applying for citizenship. ABCD has a long wait list of clients seeking citizenship, according to a press release. For more info, see bostonabcd.org.