Faith Unites the Push for New Immigrant Protection Policies in Massachusetts


Photo by Angelina Torre

Angelina Torre, Features Editor

The halls of the Massachusetts Statehouse make for great acoustics, as discovered by those attending and participating in the “Rally to Pass 4 Key Protections” early July.

I covered the rally with the New England Center of Investigative Reporting (NECIR) pre-college summer journalism institute at Boston University. At the rally, demonstrators supported the addition of four provisions concerning immigrant protection into the state budget.

“We need to make noise,” said rally-goer Gary Richards, “and let the legislators know that the people of the commonwealth are concerned about the safety of immigrants in our communities.”

Richards is the Pastor, of Belmont Watertown United Methodist Church, a position that has given him first-hand exposure to immigrant injustice in addition to an outlet for outreach in the immigrant community.

“I have a pulpit that I can preach from,” Richards said. “I have people that trust me, I can interpret what’s going on theologically and biblically so I can put a force behind the message and also provide comfort to those that are struggling.”

People of various religions joined together in prayer outside the Statehouse prior to entering its grand halls in joyous song. Though Richards came from the Methodist church, community members of other faiths attended and stood alongside one another, sharing their concern for their immigrant “brothers and sisters.”

“Our immigrant neighbors, I consider them family,” said Arrington Chambliss. “So if my family is being attacked, I need to show up, so, that’s why I’m here”

Chambliss belongs to the Episcopal City Mission. She recalled a story about a Colombian immigrant and mother of three children who was told she must leave the United States after having already been in the country for 20 years. Chambliss and the community gathered a legal team for the Columbian woman and she was able to remain in the country. The woman, however, still lives with constant uncertainty, apprehensive of ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the police.

The fear of law enforcement is common among the immigrant community, even those here legally, marchers explained. Two of the four measures would help allay these fears, by forbidding police from inquiring about immigration status by prohibiting the police from having any collaboration with ICE whatsoever.

“People are so afraid of being asked [their immigrant status] that they are not sending their kids to school, they’re not going to the doctor,” said Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin. “So we want to allow the police to do their job and not the job of ICE.”

The Rabbi of her synagogue, Ronkin is the mother of a 4-year-old with another child on the way, as well as co-organizer of the rally.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like to be separated from my children,” Ronkin said, describing her anguish when thinking of families who become separated during the immigration process. Stories of separations inspired many, including Ronkin, to join the rally.

A single woman speaks in front of the large group gripping signs outside the Statehouse at the Rally to Pass 4 Key Protections. She shouts words into a megaphone, they are powerful and pleading. After a long pause, the group behind her lift their heads and open their eyes.