News from MIRA
Why now, more than ever, Boston needs an Immigrant Defense Fund
The Boston City Council is considering the creation of a fund to help residents going through immigration-related legal proceedings. MIRA’s Sarang Sekhavat explains why it’s so crucial.
MIRA Federal Policy Director Sarang Sekhavat addresses the Boston City Council. Click to see video of the hearing.
More than a quarter of Boston’s residents were born in another country. And while the vast majority are now U.S. citizens or green card or visa holders, many have family members who are undocumented – and any non-citizens could face deportation proceedings if they run afoul of the law, potentially even just for a misdemeanor.
In February, recognizing that under the Trump administration, immigrants will face much harsher treatment than under President Obama, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson proposed creating a city-sponsored defense fund to support legal challenges involving immigrants.
On Monday, April 10, the City Council’s Committee on Healthy Women, Families & Communities held a hearing on the proposal (watch the video). Sarang Sekhavat, MIRA’s federal policy director, testified in support of the fund. What follows is a lightly edited version of his testimony.
New immigration enforcement directive will hurt hard-working people
BOSTON, April 12, 2017 – Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a new memo to all federal prosecutors calling for an increase in criminal immigration enforcement, to focus on what the U.S. Department of Justice described as “particular offenses that, if aggressively charged and prosecuted, can help prevent and deter illegal immigration”.
Immigration already factors into 52% of all federal criminal prosecutions, and 7 of the top 10 crimes that are brought in federal court are immigration related crimes. Similarly, the majority of federal law enforcement dollars are already spent on immigration enforcement agencies.
1,500 immigrants & allies advocate for their priorities at the State House
Largest-ever Immigrants’ Day at the State House offers a powerful rebuke against bigotry
State Rep. Juana Matías, House sponsor of the Safe Communities Act, introduces the speaking program.
BOSTON, April 5, 2017 – About 1,500 immigrants, children of immigrants and their allies came together at the State House today to advocate for a Commonwealth where all people feel welcome to pursue their dreams and feel safe, regardless of where they were born.
This was the 21st Immigrants’ Day at the State House, and the largest to date. The annual event, organized by the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), brings the community to Beacon Hill to celebrate their contributions to the state’s economy, culture and civic life, and to speak with legislators about bills and budget items that are priorities for foreign-born residents.
“We knew to expect a big crowd, because people were eager to speak out against the bigotry and xenophobia that we’ve been witnessing,” said Liza Ryan, director of organizing at MIRA. “Still, it was awe-inspiring to see the Great Hall packed with people from all over the world who’ve made America their home, and who came to speak out for themselves and their communities.”
MIRA calls for robust funding of key programs that support immigrants
Priorities include citizenship, English and adult basic education classes, job-seeking support, health coverage, domestic and sexual violence prevention.
BOSTON, March 31, 2017 – As federal policies become increasingly hostile to immigrants, MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona today submitted testimony in support of public programs that help keep communities healthy and safe, build workforce skills, and transition eligible immigrants to citizenship.
“Now more than ever,” she told the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, “we respectfully request your support in the state budget for funding of programs that promote immigrant integration, opportunity and safety, strengthening the Commonwealth’s economic, civic, and social fabric and fueling economic growth.”
In particular, MIRA is advocating for four line items in the fiscal 2018 budget, plus a policy change:
Bill aims to mobilize skilled practitioners trained abroad to help meet Mass. healthcare needs
More than 20% of foreign-trained doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other health professionals living in the Commonwealth are unemployed or working outside their fields.
BOSTON, March 28, 2017 – Massachusetts has a lot of doctors, but when it comes to meeting basic needs, it falls short. More than 7 percent of state residents lack adequate access to primary care, dental care, or mental health services. This includes more than 500,000 low-income people in 25 cities and towns in Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Middlesex, Suffolk and Worcester Counties.
A new bill before the Massachusetts Legislature aims to narrow the gap by tapping into a major source of underused talent: the 8,000 foreign-trained health professionals living in the Commonwealth, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and mental health professionals, among others. More than 20 percent of those practitioners are currently unemployed or working in lower-skilled jobs. They have been unable to reenter their professions due to complex and costly licensing requirements, lack of information, and lack of targeted career services.