Contributed by the Sanctuary Campus Coalition
The Sanctuary Campus Coalition (SCC) was created following the explosion of xenophobia and racism after November’s presidential election. As a group of allies, we hope to create an environment where students on campus can excel and feel safe regardless of their documentation status. Our goal is for our university to be open and transparent about available resources for undocumented students, as well as improving upon these resources since many are inadequate. A petition with hundreds of signatures from Northeastern students calling for our administration to create and implement sanctuary policies fell upon deaf ears in late December 2016. Since then, the SCC has partnered with organizations across Boston including C.O.M.B.A.T. and Movimiento Cosecha to organize protests, sit-ins, and campaigns in support of undocumented communities throughout the Boston area.We commit ourselves to working for the permanent protection, rights, dignity and respect, for all migrants in our communities and on our campuses.
Despite the efforts of over 1000 students who signed four petitions after November 8th, 2016, Northeastern has not officially declared itself a sanctuary campus. Many undocumented students who attend Northeastern cannot be sure of their status at the university and are treated as international students. The Northeastern University Police Department can still cooperate with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); however they have asserted that they never detain students, and the school can legally release students personal information to federal agents. One of the reasons Northeastern has cited for refusing to declare sanctuary status is its close partnership with the Department of Homeland Security. Northeastern prioritizes this relationship over the safety of undocumented students.
After the election of the 45th president, President Joseph Aoun issued a statement to all students offering advice such as: “let us turn this passion into compassion … let us respond to divisiveness with unity, and to hatred with love,” and “let us lead by example, and be a shining star for those who, at this moment in our history, are seeking light.” Empty, flowery words are meaningless unless they are accompanied by tangible commitments. Until Northeastern declares itself a sanctuary campus, provides adequate financial assistance to undocumented and DACA students, ensures staff and faculty are trained to assist undocumented students, commits to non-discrimination in hiring and admissions based on immigration status, strengthens protections for confidential student information, and establishes an act of noncompliance with ICE, students cannot be assured of Northeastern’s commitment to their full protection and dignity.
Immigrants are the backbone and driving force behind Boston’s history, economy and culture. From the Dominican Republic and Vietnam, to Haiti and Ireland, waves of immigrants continue to influence the city and are essential strands in the fabric of our community.
As of 2017, there are currently around 823,348 immigrant residents living in the greater Boston metro area, accounting for nearly 18% of the population. City leaders have done several things to formally recognize the importance of immigrants to Boston and provide protection for them. First off, Boston has some sanctuary policies. In 2014, Boston adopted the Boston City Trust Act, which prevents Boston law enforcement officials from honoring ICE detainer requests unless presented with a criminal warrant or if the individual has ever committed a felony, a violent crime, is a sex offender, or is on the terrorist watch list. Boston also does not engage in the 287g program, which allows ICE agents to deputize local officers. Massachusetts is also considering the Safe Communities Act, which would make Massachusetts a sanctuary state by ensuring that state resources are not used to enforce federal immigration law or in the creation of a Muslim registry. Mayor Martin Walsh (2014-present) is supportive of immigrants and undocumented people; he spearheaded the Boston Trust Act, supports the Safe Communities Act, and declared June “Immigrant Heritage Month”.
There are two resources available for young undocumented people: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
DACA provides undocumented immigrants under 31 years old who meet several guidelines and entered the United States when under age 16 to request a work permit and deferred action from deportation for a period of two years with the opportunity for renewal.
The DREAM Act is a proposal that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who grew up in the United States, but it has not passed on the federal level despite several attempts. However, several states have adapted their own distinct versions of the DREAM Act.
Now that you’ve learned more about Boston immigration in both the past and present, here’s more about how you can get involved in organizations in the city:
Cosecha is a volunteer-led, nationwide nonviolent movement working toward permanent protection, dignity, and respect for undocumented people through mass non-cooperation, boycotts, and strikes. Cosecha’s most recent campaign, A Day Without Immigrants, made headlines on May 1st, and the organization is now conducting a Migrant Boycott of businesses to demonstrate immigrants’ consumer power. Cosecha seeks volunteers in several capacities including communications, photography, business management, as well as other roles. Visit movimientocosecha.com or facebook.com/cosechaboston for more information on how to get involved!
Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Against Trump (COMBAT) is a coalition of students, artists, and workers organizing to creatively resist various forms of oppression and transform policies, institutions, and systems with give rise to social, economic, and environmental justice. COMBAT’s first action was a mass student walkout, but the coalition has partnered with other organizations for larger demonstrations. Those interested can email email@example.com and find more information on bostoncombat.org or facebook.com/bostoncombat. COMBAT holds weekly organizing meetings at 7pm on Wednesdays at MassArt dedicated to decision making, political discussion, and working group organizing.