MIRA advocates for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, and strategic communications.
By CARA FOSTER-KARIM
"I came [to] America like everybody else who imagines America as a great nation," says Yiheyis Derebew. “At first I worked as a parking lot manager at Logan Airport, but I was always looking for a way to introduce the great culture of Ethiopia to this country.” When Derebew arrived in Massachusetts in 1997, he was surprised to realize that Americans’ main impression of Ethiopia, and Africa in general, was one of famine, poverty, and desperation. Determined to set the record straight, he and his wife saved up enough until they were able to open their own business. Their store, Lalibela, is located on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and sells Ethiopian clothing, jewelry, books, and traditional food items such as teff flour, spices, and coffee beans. In response to people’s misconceptions, he says, “I wanted to show that that was not the right picture of Ethiopia. It’s the only non-colonized country in Africa, with very nice weather, very good soil, and rich history and cultural traditions.” Although his store primarily serves Ethiopian and other African customers, Derebew says people frequently walk in off street, intrigued by the window displays, who have never even heard of Ethiopia.
Yiheyis Derebew is one of many African immigrant entrepreneurs in Massachusetts who not only contribute to the local economy, but also help to enrich their neighborhoods by sharing their culture. According to a recent Boston Globe article, immigrant-owned businesses in Massachusetts generate $2.8 billion in income annually, 14 percent of the state’s total. Immigrants are also twice as likely as native-born residents to start a business.
As many Democrats and Republicans have cautioned, those who prevent the passing of immigration reform often commit political suicide. Yet unfortunately, a large portion of Republican members of the House of Representatives seem to be digging their graves right now. Instead of taking up the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, House Republicans together decided to take a piecemeal approach, and not to deal with the issue until after the long August recess.
In response to the House’s inaction, a New Orleans-style funeral procession—complete with an energetic jazz band quartet and makeshift coffin held high-- made its way on a recent Wednesday from the Massachusetts Republican Party Headquarters at North Station to the historic Granary Burying Ground. There rally-goers symbolically laid inaction to rest . Passersby paused to get a better look, and cars honked in support as a couple dozen marchers from community-based groups holding signs to “Keep Our Families Together!” This mock-funeral mourned the demise of a political party that has continued to ignore the pleas of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
On this terrible day of tragedy and uncertainty in Greater Boston, we at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition extend our deepest condolences to the family of officer Sean Collier, who was killed in the line of duty yesterday. We also offer our hopes for a speedy recovery to those hurt, and our prayers for continued safety and security to all residents of the Bay State.
By Sarang Sekhavat, MIRA Federal Policy Director:
After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally issued the final rule for provisional waivers of inadmissibility, what advocates are calling the “Family Unity Waiver”. DHS initially announced back in January 2012 that it would make changes to the way that undocumented relatives of US Citizens could re-enter the United States after leaving the country to obtain an immigration visa abroad. In April, DHS issued an interim rule and requested comments from the public. On January 3, 2013, DHS released the final rule which incorporates some of the suggestions from public comments, but leaves many of our major concerns untouched. The final rule will go into effect on March 4, 2013.
The Old Rule
The new rule is necessary because of the unfair way that the federal government processes I-601s, Applications for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), certain undocumented relatives of US Citizens who benefit from a family-based petition had to leave the United States in order to obtain their immigration visa from a US consulate. The problem is, once an undocumented individual leaves the country, they are subject to a 10-year bar to returning. So essentially, the person is leaving the country to obtain documents required to be here legally, but once they leave, they are not legally allowed to return for 10 years. The INA does allow an individual to file the I-601 to request permission to return to the United States prior to the 10 years, but current regulations say that the individual must file the I-601 outside the country. That means that the beneficiary of the immigration visa must leave the country and be subject to the 10 year bar first, then file the application and hope they are allowed back into the country.
The Boston Globe's blog "The Podium" published an editorial by MIRA's executive director, Eva Millona, explaining why the new RMV provision won't make Massachusetts any safer. Read the article or see the full text below. Take action on this issue!
Targeting undocumented immigrants
By Eva A. Millona | JULY 24, 2012
With the deadline for reporting bills out of state legislative committees fast approaching, several bills that would impact immigrants have received their hearings in recent weeks, and MIRA has provided testimony. Most notably, on February 28, MIRA testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in opposition to S.B. 2061/H.B. 3919, "An Act to enhance community safety." This was a wide-ranging bill with numerous provisions that would harm immigrants and Massachusetts communities more broadly, and about which we regularly updated our members since its filing in late September 2011. MIRA worked with our members and allies to bring informative testimony to the hearing, and also mobilized community members to deliver hundreds of postcards about the bill, signed by registered voters, to legislators.
Senate Bill 2061 and its counterpart House Bill 3913 have been widely condemned by advocates, including faith-based organizations, poverty law attorneys, and health care providers. The bill was introduced last fall in the legislature as a political response to media uproar over the tragic death of a U.S. citizen by a drunk driver who happened to be undocumented. Instead of tackling the problems of alcohol abuse and driving under the influence, the bill imposes punitive measures on immigrant communities by focusing on matters related to federal immigration law. These measures would send painful reverberations through immigrant, mixed status and non-immigrant households alike by damaging community-police relations and our economy.
El gobierno anunciÃ³ hoy la extencion del Estatus de ProtecciÃ³n Temporal (TPS, por sus siglas en inglÃ©s) de los ciudadanos elegibles de El Salvador por un perÃodo adicional de 18 meses, comenzando el 10 de marzo de 2012 y terminando el 9 de septiembre de 2013. ReinscripciÃ³n esta abierto hasta el 12 de marzo de 2012. El gobierno aceptarÃ¡ solicitudes presentadas desde el 9 de enero de 2012 hasta el 12 de marzo de 2012.
This past Thursday, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice officially concluded that the Maricopa County Sheriff Office (MCSO) violated the civil and constitutional rights of its Latino residents. At the core of this controversy lies notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, who has been overstepping the boundaries of his position for years. Before sparking controversy over his harsh enforcement of illegal immigration, Arpaio was criticized for his treatment of inmates in Arizona prisons. Arpaio's intolerance toward the Latino community has bred a dangerous culture in the state of Arizona. This report is the first step to ending his gross display of unconstitutional policing.
After Eva Castillo, New Hampshire Immigrant Project Organizer, gave a presentation on immigration to a group of students, she received the letter from Julie Becher reprinted with permission below.
According to the L.A. Times, Mitt Romeny is in big trouble with some Republican voters because he didn't "Let 'em die!" -- as one audience member infamously shouted when a candidate was asked about the plight of the uninsured at a recent Republican debate.
Anti-immigrant fervor has reached an unbearable pitch.The introduction of the Anti-Immigrant Bill â€œAct to Enhance Community Safety,â€ S.D. 2109 this past Monday, September 26, is another devastating reiteration of heightening intolerance toward immigrants in our communities. The anti-immigrant bill invites racial profiling, promotes intolerance, and drives a deeper wedge between immigrants and the community at large.
â€œMuch like terrorists, [undocumented immigrants] are looking for a place to go where nobodyâ€™s going to notice them,â€ said Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson today.
Maria Sacchetti wrote a great article in the Globe last week about the problems implementing prosecutorial discretion in deportation. Check it out here.
Although Secure Communitiesâ€™ stated deportation priority is serious convicted criminals, this article highlights the egregious disconnect between stated goals and actual implementation.
Sam Mejia-Reyes and Elida Perez were deported in 2007, tearing them apart from their three children.
â€¢ MIRA and English For New Bostonians are embarking on an exciting new initiative, the MA AmeriCorps New American Integration Program, in partnership with the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants (ORI) to match 30 AmeriCorps Members with community-based refugee and immigrant serving organizations in three Massachusetts citiesâ€”Lynn, New Bedford and Boston. Members will support and deliver 1) English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) instruction; 2) Civic Education and Citizenship Assistance and work to connect immigrants and refugees with community resources. They also will work with host site staff to enhance volunteer recruitment capacity to develop ongoing expanded services. The Program Coordinator reports directly to the ENB Director, oversees 15 site supervisors at AmeriCorps host sites and works closely with ORI's Program Coordinator, MIRA's Organizing team, and ENB staff to meet the goals and objectives of the position. The position is part-time, 20 hours per week.
Today, the Boston Herald published an article highlighting the efforts of two MA Sheriffs â€“ Thomas Hodgson of Bristol and Joseph McDonald of Plymouth â€“ who are trying to join the federal Secure Communities (SComm) program. Under Secure Communities, all people who are arrested would have their fingerprints run through the federal IDENT database which contains nearly 100 million records of people who have had previous contact with US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or Customs and Border Protection. Apparently, these sheriffs are ignorant of whatâ€™s already happening in the jails they are supposed to be running.
Immigrant advocates might be weary of Barack Obamaâ€™s words at this point, but weâ€™ve got to give him credit for taking some risks Monday by giving a speech at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).
For starters, Obama risked eliciting more wisecracks about his blatantly empty-handed courtship of Latino voters (see, for example, John Stewart on the Presidentâ€™s four-hour foray to Puerto Rico).