Marty Walsh Supports Boston Integration Agenda at MIRA's Thanksgiving Luncheon

Ninth annual State House event features keynote by Boston College Law Professor Dan Kanstroom, comments by Senator Eldridge and others

T-Day2013_WEB2Nov. 26, 2013 BOSTON — "Over one in four residents of Boston is an immigrant," said Boston Mayor-Elect Marty Walsh this morning at MIRA's annual Thanksgiving Luncheon. That's why, he stressed, he had  come to the State House to speak before an audience of over 400 immigrants, legislators, and community-based organizers and advocates committed to immigrant rights and integration."Together, we can create a Boston Integration Agenda to work on citizenship initiatives, workforce development, professional re-credentialing and easing entrepreneurial ventures," Walsh said.

Followed by a bustling pack of photographers, the incoming mayor spent much of the event demonstrating his commitment to the New American demographic to which he himself belongs ("New Americans" are measured as immigrants plus the children of immigrants). Mr. Walsh took time before the event to stand with MIRA employees and volunteers to serve guests a turkey dinner with all the fixings. Aside from declaring his support for a Boston Integration Agenda, Mr. Walsh also mentioned his support for Citizenship program funding and In-State Tuition and Drivers License bills, and his opposition to the imposition of the "Secure                                                                                      Communities" immigration enforcement program.

Mr. Walsh was followed by CeltiCare Senior Vice President Jay Gonzalez, who spoke of his own background as the child of immigrants, and of the importance of healthcare reform. Keynote speaker Dan Kanstroom offered a ten-minute address about the pride of claiming America as a nation of immigrants, while at the same time working mightily to improve what he called "a work in progress." That work stretches back to 1776, when Tom Paine asked his American revolutionary comrades to "prepare an asylum for mankind," and it continues today when the debates are "over legalization of the Dreamers and access to health care and, I hope, reform of our very harsh deportation and detention laws."Hall_of_Flags

The promise and problems of that work in progress were also illustrated by two immigrants who offered their health care stories. The victim of a horrible mugging, Dominican immigrant Pelagio De La Cruz spoke of the transition he has experienced from lacking adequate healthcare, due to state budget cuts in 2009, to awaiting the promise of expanded coverage now offered through the Affordable Care Act. Miryam Wiley, the Vida Verde Coordinator at the Brazilian Woman's Co-Op, spoke for her client Valdirene Oliveira, who has struggled to adequately care for her daughter who suffers from Spina Bifida, most acutely because she lacks a license to drive. In closing the event, State Senator Jamie Eldridge highlighted the Safe-Driving Bill as a potential solution to Oliveira’s dilemma. Along with the In-State Tuition bill and the Trust Act, the Safe Driving Bill is a major provision that legislators, MIRA, and other organizations are working on right now to improve immigrant lives in Massachusetts.

"Today's event demonstrated the power and forward motion of the effort to create a state as welcoming as the spirit of the first Thanksgiving," said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the MIRA Coalition. "With the incoming mayor, with our friends at the State House, and with the growing size and prosperity of the community of New Americans voters, we will surely fulfill the 'work in progress' of which Professor Kanstroom so movingly spoke."