The Struggle for Immigrant Rights in Massachusetts

The steps of the Massachusetts State House have once again become the site of a struggle for immigrant rights in the Commonwealth.

One year after the 19-day, 18-night vigil that defeated a set of anti-immigrant amendments to Massachusetts’ FY 2010 budget, the legislature is once again targeting immigrants. And once again, the MassHope 2011 Coalition is taking a stand.

Led by the Student Immigrant Movement and 24 other organizations, including UNITE HERE Local 26, the MassHope Coalition has been keeping a 24/7 vigil on the steps of the State House. Starting 8:00 a.m. on Monday, June 21, 2011 and continuing indefinitely, vigil participants are supplied with donated food, umbrellas, and a firm conviction that these amendments will place an unfair burden on immigrants and citizens alike. The coalition has led lobbying delegations, teach-ins, phone banks, and a press conference to educate the public and the legislature about the dangerous nature of these amendments.

Known as Redraft of Governor’s 122, the amendments target immigrants’ access to education, employment, and social services. One amendment would require all small businesses that contract with the state to use E-Verify, a status verification system that would be costly and redundant, since contractors must check the immigration status of employees before hiring.

As a local that represents over 5,000 immigrant workers, UNITE HERE Local 26 is proud to be a sponsor of the vigil. We sent a delegation to the press conference on Friday, June 24, and have been lobbying the conference committee to reject these hateful amendments. We know that immigrants make up an important part of Boston’s economy and we will continue to stand with our brothers and sisters who were born in other countries and have come here to seek opportunity.

-Karen, Sandra, Nathan, Neal, Cielo, Remeike, and Sam: Boston