Monday, December 22, 2014
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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.

Blogger: Frank
Frank Soults is Communications Director at MIRA.

Fixing the Adams Scholarship

The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, established in 2004, provides a tuition waiver for up to eight semesters of undergraduate education at a Massachusetts state college or university for eligible non-citizens. However, we’ve learned that his year some eligible non-citizens have been informed that they are not eligible for the scholarship due to their immigration status. Luckily, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute is now helping redress this problem for those who have been denied. You may qualify for the scholarship if you or a family member has applied for or been granted any of the following statuses:
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"E Pluribus Unum," African Style


Ethiopian_storeWEB"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.

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Putting Inaction to Rest


Funeral_RallyWEB1As 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.

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Four for the Fourth

Tmarcus_santoso celebrate the Fourth of July, MIRA staff spoke to four New Americans about their perspectives on the immigrant journey, and about the plight of Aspiring Americans — the 11 million undocumented immigrants who this summer are hoping Congress will pass sensible and humane immigration reform. Here are their stories!
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A Message To Mira Members and Supports (AND clinic cancellation)

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.

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The Boston Marathon Bombing

MIRA sends its deepest condolences to the victim's of yesterday's heinous bombings at the marathon in our hometown, Boston.

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The Waiting Ends for the End of Waiting

waitingBy 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.

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Political Grandstanding: more from the town of Milford

The town of Milford has been surprisingly successful in drumming up media attention around its agreement with ICE to sign on to its "IMAGE" program, which would give the city access to the controversial E-Verify system. Although we would like to ignore this piece of political theater, we are obliged to state our reservations concerning the program.
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Targeting undocumented immigrants - Globe editorial by Eva Millona

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

The Legislature recently pushed through a provision in the state budget that clearly targeted undocumented immigrants, requiring the RMV to ask for “proof of legal residence” before applicants could register their vehicles. In seeking to amend that language, Governor Patrick noted that “it serves the public’s safety interests to know, through registration, the name and whereabouts of the owner of every vehicle on the Commonwealth’s roads.” But the Legislature sided with state lawmakers from Arizona to Alabama who want to dedicate state resources to the federal issue of immigration checks — by the Department of Transportation’s estimate, the provision will cost over a million dollars to implement.

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State News: MIRA Testifies!

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.

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Advocates Testify Today Against Anti-Immigrant Bill

sb2061postcardssmAt 1 p.m. today, February 28, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on “An Act to Enhance Community Safety,” a bill that is not only anti-immigrant, but actually detrimental to public safety.

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.

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Estatus de Protección Temporal Extendido para Salvadoreños

El gobierno anunció hoy la extencion del Estatus de Protección Temporal (TPS, por sus siglas en inglés) de los ciudadanos elegibles de El Salvador por un período adicional de 18 meses, comenzando el 10 de marzo de 2012 y terminando el 9 de septiembre de 2013. Reinscripción esta abierto hasta el 12 de marzo de 2012. El gobierno aceptará solicitudes presentadas desde el 9 de enero de 2012 hasta el 12 de marzo de 2012.

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Justice Says No to Sheriff Joe

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.

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A New Hampshire Student Reflects on the Power of Names

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.

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Mitt Dares to Care

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.

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Immigrants Once Again Scapegoated in the Name of "Public Safety"

Anti-immigrant fervor has reached an unbearable pitch.The introduction of the Anti-Immigrant Bill “Act to Enhance Community Safety,” 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.

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Sheriff Says Undocumented Immigrants Are “Like Terrorists”

“Much like terrorists, [undocumented immigrants] are looking for a place to go where nobody’s going to notice them,” said Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson today.

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Apparently ICE Didn't Get the Memo.


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 Communities’ 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.

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Part Time Position Available - Program Coordinator for AmeriCorp New Americans Integration Program

• 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 cities—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.

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Do Local Sherrifs Know Their Own Jails?

Today, the Boston Herald published an article highlighting the efforts of two MA Sheriffs – Thomas prison_0Hodgson of Bristol and Joseph McDonald of Plymouth – 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 what’s already happening in the jails they are supposed to be running.

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