TRUST Act and Safe Driving Act — May 7 Public Action

The MA Safe Driving Coalition and MA Trust Act Coalition unite to advocate for better public policies in our state.
La Coalición de Conducción Segura y La Coalición Para El Acta de la Confianza se unen para abogar por mejores políticas públicas en nuestro estado.

YES WE CAN! Come to the public action to launch the campaigns
¡SI SE PUEDE! Ven a la Acción Pública para lanzar las campañas.

Thursday, May 7, 11:00 am/Jueves, 7 de Mayo, 11:00 am

WHERE/DONDE: In front of the MA State House/En frente de la Casa Estatal

For more information please contact/Para Mas informacion:
Patricia Montes: Centro Presente/MA Trust Act Coalition 617 959 3108
Thalita Dias: MIRA/Safe Driving Coalition

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Hidden Out of Sight But Not Forgotten

As I drew near the South Bay House of Correction, I reflected on how this building of oppression is often missed by our community members and that relatively few people know that immigrants and legal permanent residents (LPRs) are held here in detention without due process. Even though I have been to several vigils and now organize them, I am still struck by this.

Yet, it is designed to be missed, and go unnoticed. The building is tucked away by the ramp to I-93, and its nondescript facade blends into the industrial area. The Boston Medical Center is across the way, within eyesight though. Still, South Bay is not meant to be seen. The people within its walls are meant to be forgotten. The Boston New Sanctuary Movement has not forgotten though. We organize vigils four times per year to help garner attention for the the plight of those immigrants detained, jailed, and locked away here locally.

On the Sunday before the marathon, approximately 40 people of faith gathered in prayer and reflection of this unjust immigration system and to let those who are detained at South Bay know they are not forgotten. That there are people on the outside thinking of them, of their families, of their isolation and pain. In this small gesture, we try to bring hope.

After gathering on the corner of Bradston Street, songs and words of prayer are offered. Then we read off the names of all those who have died in detention across the country, including one person at South Bay (1), and then we march. This time though the gate we normally walk through is locked with a bright, fluorescent orange chain and padlock. We shall not be deterred. We march down Bradston Street, around the fence, down the sidewalk of the Mass Ave Connector, alongside of the jail, cross the street to a stairwell leading up to another sidewalk on the bridge. All this so we may view immigrants inside the jail. So they know we are there for them. Something is off today though. One floor is dark, there are no people at the windows of the fourth floor, only detainees with their fluorescent yellow ICE shirts are visible on the third floor. Where are the immigrants and LPRs that are normally there? Does this mean they are in isolation? Have they been transferred, or have they been released? How long have those cells on the fourth floor been empty?(2)

We wave to those on the third floor, continue to sing and chant; crying out for justice, for peace, for the lives of our siblings in spirit. We gesture to one another, signs of peace, forming hearts with our hands, and trying to let them know we care. More prayers are shared, more songs, and we pause in a moment of silence to reflect on those out of sight and for those who are no longer on the fourth floor. Eventually, it is time to go. We can return home. Our new acquaintances cannot. But we shall return.

Why do I keep returning? My faith calls me to do this work. I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I believe in justice and compassion. I believe we are all connected in an interdependent web and for every policy or action the U.S. takes in another country, it may influence people to migrate here. If our country’s actions are in part the cause of one’s migration, then why are we holding fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters — children of God — in a cell without an opportunity to fight their case? The answers seem to lie in economics and the same industry that incarcerates Black and Brown people en masse. Immigrants’ lives are now for sale too. And we are called to bear witness, and to fight back alongside those families whose lives are affected.

Denise A. Garcia is a Unitarian Universalist and a Steering Committee Member of Boston New Sanctuary Movement. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism in Advertising from The University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and a Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University. She currently lives with her spouse and 10 month old daughter in Chelsea, MA. Learn more at

(1) Pedro Tavarez, a Providence, RI shuttle driver who was being held for deportation to the Dominican Republic, died Oct. 19, 2010.

(2) Volunteers who make pastoral visits with the immigrants at South Bay through Refugee Immigration Ministry have discovered that the fourth floor has been closed for renovation, and the men shifted to other floors or other facilities.

Photos from April 19 vigil

April 19 vigil at the Suffolk County House of Correction

Newell Hendricks, longtime stalwart member of BNSM, passes away

 by Tim Groves, Church of the Covenant

Newell Hendricks

Newell Hendricks at the 2012 BNSM clergy breakfast

On Friday, April 3, Newell Hendricks passed away after a long siege with prostate cancer.  Newell has been an inspiration to our work at BNSM and a friend to so many in our larger community.

Newell connected with members in immigrant communities in Boston through a sister relationship his church, Church of the Covenant in the Back Bay, has with a community in rural Nicaragua, Dulce Nombre de Jesus.  He was welcomed as a brother in Nicaragua.  He saw economic unfairness on a scale new to him and saw the courage of the poor to organize and to struggle for life.  Throughout his life, Newell has always committed himself with great passion for what he believed to be right and fair.  He saw that same strength in the struggle of people both in Nicaragua and in Boston.

Newell understood how we must all organize to struggle together.  He learned to create workshops, lobby for legal changes, to write and to sing together songs of justice and liberation.  Newell loved music.  He was a composer, a singer, a pianist, and a performer.  He encouraged all of us to make music that needed to be sung.

Newell was a builder.  He learned from his brother how to build a house from stone and timber.  He learned how to build a garden to grow his own food.  He learned how to install solar panels to generate his electricity.

Newell was a father, a husband, a true friend.  His spirit needs to continue to inspire us all to meet each other across lines of language, of race, of class, of religion.  Newell celebrated the struggle with joy.  Newell Hendricks, ¡presente!

April 14: Immigrants’ Day at the State House!

Raise your Voice on Beacon Hill for Immigrant Justice!

Save the Date! Tuesday, April 14th raise your voice for immigrant justice at the MIRA Coalition’s Immigrants’ Day at the State House, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Meet with your state legislators and advocate for the Trust Act, the Safe Drivers Bill, tuition equity, Funding for English and Adult Basic Education classes, legal protections for survivors of abuse, health care access, Language Opportunities for Our Kids, expanded election participation, and protection from discrimination in state services. For more information or to register, go to or contact Thalita Dias,, 617-350-5480 ext. 205.

The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition is prioritizing advocacy for the following pro-immigrant bills in the current state legislative cycle:

  • Safe Drivers Bill. (HD.2965, Jehlen, Farley-Bouvier, An Act relative to safe driving.) The Safe Driving Bill would make the roads safer for all Massachusetts residents by removing immigration status as a barrier to going through the licensing process. If passed, Massachusetts would allow all qualified residents to take the driver’s exam, buy insurance, and carry a valid driver’s license – making all residents safer on the roads.
  • Hope for Abuse Survivors. (SD.61, Creem, An Act Relative to Special Juveniles; HD.517, Kafka, Relative to petitions to the Juvenile Court or Probate Court on behalf of certain special juveniles.) The Special Juvenile Bill would eliminate a technical loophole that prevents abused, abandoned and neglected immigrant youth ages 18, 19 and 20 from accessing state courts, a step they are required to take before they may apply to the federal government for a status called “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.”
  • Trust between Immigrants and Law Enforcement. (SD.1698, Eldridge, For legislation to restore community trust in Massachusetts law enforcement; HD.3204, Carvalho, For legislation to clarify the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law.) The Trust Act would limit the impact of programs like “Secure Communities” (now the “Priority Enforcement Program”) which blur the line between local police and immigration officers, would rebuild trust between police and immigrants and would help protect localities from liability for violating residents’ constitutional rights.
  • Language Opportunities for Our Kids. (SD.743, DiDomenico; HD. 2211, Sanchez, An Act for Language Opportunities for Our Kids.) The LOOK Bill would give schools flexibility they need to offer programs that help all students achieve English proficiency and to increase language-learning opportunities for native English speaking students, improving our education system and supporting a stronger workforce.
  • Higher Education Equity. (SD.599, Chang-Diaz; HD.1035, Provost, An Act regarding higher education opportunities for high school graduates in the Commonwealth; and SD.690, Forry, Relative to the eligibility of students for in-state tuition rates and fees at public higher educational institutions.) These Higher Education Equity Bills would allow all students, regardless of immigration status, who attended a Massachusetts high school for at least three years and graduated or earned equivalency degrees to pay the same in-state tuition rates at public colleges as their fellow classmates. Additionally, SD.599 (Chang-Diaz) and HD.1035 (Provost) would remove immigration status as a barrier to qualifying for state financial aid.
  • Health Care Access. (SD.557, DiDomenico and HD.2589, Malia, An Act improving the children’s medical security program and simplifying the administration process; SD.1349, Jehlen and HD.1023, Balser, An Act to Preserve Affordable Health Care for Massachusetts Residents; SD.656, Lewis and HD.1690, Farley-Bouvier, An Act to keep people healthy by removing barriers to cost-effective care; and SD.1601, L’Italien and HD.2709, Cronin, An Act to Ensure Continued Health Insurance Coverage for Children.) As part of the Affordable Care Today (ACT!!) Coalition, MIRA supports bills that would improve health care access for immigrants and all residents.
    Local Choice to Expand Election Participation. (HD.377, Rushing, For legislation to enable cities and towns to extend voting rights in municipal elections to certain non-citizens of the Commonwealth.) This bill would allow city councils and local voters to decide if non-citizens could vote in municipal elections (for example, to vote for school boards that make decisions about their children’s education) and would eliminating the requirement that such proposals move through the state legislature as a petition for home rule.
    Protection from Discrimination. (HD.2903, Rushing, An act ensuring equal access to services for all residents of the Commonwealth.) This bill would limit state agencies from inquiring about clients’ immigration status unless legally necessary.

Food Drive for Chelsea Collaborative

The Religious Education and Immigrant Justice (Beyond Borders – Sin Fronteras) groups at First Parish Cambridge are holding a food drive for Chelsea Collaborative, a BNSM partner organization that has been working with unaccompanied minors from Central America. Please bring non-perishable items to 3 Church St. in Harvard Square between 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, or Sunday, March 22.

Items requested include beans (canned and dry), tuna, pasta, rice, oatmeal, canned soup, and canned fruits and vegetables. For a full list, see the article here.

Sanctuary: Stand with Immigrants!

Hear the story of loving father and husband Luis Lopez Acabal, and the decision University Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ to offer him sanctuary. (video credit: national New Sanctuary Movement,

What does offering sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation entail? What would it take to organize a sanctuary network in the greater Boston area? Denise Garcia, steering committee member of the Boston New Sanctuary Movement, led a consideration of these questions at our February 7th Immigration Justice Forum. BNSM will continue this discussion at our next meeting, Monday, March 16th at 7:30 pm at Arlington Street Church in Boston. (Directions at

• Take time to enter into discernment and prepare the way. Bring a speaker to your congregation to tell his or her immigration story and organize other educational events. Organize members of your congregation to work side by side with immigrants and participate in the work of BNSM’s immigrant-led partner organizations.

• Consider logistics. Think of your own everyday routine: eating, bathing, relaxing, having fun, cooking, sleeping. Does your congregation have spaces which can accommodate these activities? Can you create them? Can you enter into a partnership with another congregation whose building is better equipped than your own? Other logistical details include advocacy with a legal team to successfully close a case, working in view of the public, and drawing media attention.

• Choose to support or declare Sanctuary. After a faith community completes discernment, it can then choose a supporting role, or to invite immigrants to take up sanctuary in its building. Denise encourages us not to embark on this work alone. “If we work as a collective, we can be ready to answer the moral call to provide sanctuary and work in solidarity with the person or family residing within the walls of the host church.”

In conclusion, Denise draws our attention to the sacrifice that people entering into sanctuary will make in their lives and for the immigrant rights movement. “This will not be easy for them. … They will set their own boundaries and let people know what they need. We must remember that we do not lead this movement, those who choose to enter into sanctuary are the leaders.” Can we answer the call?

For more information, download the national New Sanctuary Movement’s toolkit for congregations at

Executive Action: Stand With Immigrants!

At BNSM’s February 7th Immigrant Rights Forum, attenders heard updates from Gabriel Camacho (American Friends Service Committee) and Patricia Montes (Centro Presente) on President Obama’s Executive Order and the ongoing struggle for justice. The president’s Executive Action expands the number of immigrants eligible for temporary legal status and a work permit under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and provides temporary legal status and a work permit to parents of US citizens and Legal Permanent Residents under a new program, DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability). Neither DACA or DAPA offer Legal Permanent Residency (“green cards”) or a path to citizenship. They merely defer deportation for those immigrants whose applications are approved.

The Executive Order affects about 4.5 million people who are currently undocumented in the United States. Another 7 million undocumented immigrants are not eligible, including unaccompanied children and immigrants who have entered the US since Executive Action was announced in November. Meanwhile, the proposed federal budget expands funding for detention and deportation.

Since our Forum, several states filed legal cases against implementation of the Executive Order, and a judge in Texas declared an immediate injunction on expanding DACA and implementing DAPA. President Obama’s administration is appealing this ruling. The appeal may take months. In the interim, the Attorney General is expected to ask for a stay of this ruling, which would allow immigrants to file applications under the expanded DACA program or DAPA while the judge’s ruling goes through the federal court appeals process.

What can people of faith do?

• Centro Presente, Chelsea Collaborative, the Student Immigrant Movement, and other immigrant rights groups are training volunteers to help immigrants to apply for DACA and DAPA. Contact Peter Lowber,

• The Chelsea Collaborative is organizing volunteers to drive undocumented immigrants to appointments with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Behavioral Interventions (BI), both in Burlington, MA, or accompany them to immigration court hearings in Boston. BI monitors the GPS ankle shackles immigrants are required to wear as a condition of their release. Contact Alexandra Early,

• Stand for immigrant justice at BNSM’s next vigil at Suffolk County House of Corrections in Boston. Unfortunately, extreme weather forced us to cancel our February 15th vigil. Watch your inbox for the new date!

• Join the effort to push forward state legislation like the TRUST Act, Safe Drivers Bill, and Education Equity Bill. Watch your inbox for the latest action alerts. More info on these bills is posted at

• Become active in the Boston New Sanctuary Movement! Help build an inter-faith organization educating and mobilizing people of faith for immigrant justice in the greater Boston area.

Press coverage of Nov. 9 vigil

Our quarterly vigil at the Suffolk County House of Correction was held on Sunday, November.  The Daily Press ran a great article (use of the I-word notwithstanding) with photos and quotes from several BNSM members and participants.  Check it out!

Singing with raised hands at the vigil

Rev. María Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa (left) Interim Second Minister at First Parish in Brookline, joins in singing to support the immigrants detained in the Suffolk County House of Corrections Sunday. PHOTO BY MIKE DESOCIO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF