Ellen Gerst / Gavel Media

Thousands Protest Immigration Inaction at State House

They held signs likening the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border to the Holocaust. They brought their own children along, explaining why some kids can't hold their mothers' legs like this in the simplest terms. They sang songs and chanted deafeningly in unison—all efforts against the American detainment of immigrant children and separation from their families at the border.

Thousands of protesters gathered on the street outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston Wednesday afternoon, protesting the House of Representatives' refusal to vote on a budget amendment that would outlaw Massachusetts law enforcement collaboration with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The amendment would also prohibit police officers from asking a person's immigration status and prevent the creation of a registry listing individuals on the basis of their race, country of origin, and immigration status.

While the amendment, up for vote as #1147, passed the state senate on May 24, it has stalled without a vote from the House. Governor Charlie Baker has also threatened to veto the amendment, destroying it altogether.

During the protest, news spread through the crowd that President Trump had signed an executive order reversing his policy on family separation. Protesters were happy to hear the news, but were still undeterred from their demands for action from the Massachusetts legislature.

The executive order does nothing to address the already 2,300 children separated from their parents at the border, and it only reinforces Trump's zero tolerance policy on immigration. Further, it does not even require law enforcement to keep children and parents together—it only encourages them to do so "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."

The Boston City Council passed a resolution during the protest, unanimously voting to condemn the actions of ICE and the president's policy at the border. Although the resolution has no tangible effect on policy, the council members—many of them children of immigrants themselves—felt that they needed to do something to address the issue, no matter how small.

"No borders, no nations, stop deportation!" the crowd chanted as it wound around to the back entrance of the State House. Protesters—some on their lunch breaks, some out of school for the summer, some wearing bright yellow vests to indicate they were volunteers working the event with the ACLU—formed a line around the block to file through security. Once inside, the chants continued, echoing through the marbled ceilings of the State House while employees lined the balconies above, looking down at the throng that had invaded the building's stoic interior.

Speakers, including activist and undocumented immigrant Eduardo Samaniego, took turns telling their stories in between chants. Protesters lined the hallway outside Gov. Baker's and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo's offices, demanding them to come out.

"Charlie's a coward! Baker, where you at? Grow a backbone, Baker!" the crowd shouted to seemingly deaf ears. An organizer called the crowd to attention to say that Gov. Baker was apparently in the building but was "unavailable to come out." Later, The Boston Globe reported that Baker had not been in the building at all during the protest.

The protesters settled in to wait for either Baker or DeLeo, neither of whom emerged at press time. Two state senators were set to appear and give statements, and the head of constituents was on hand in the State House to listen to and record protester's demands and concerns.

Nationwide demonstrations will take place Saturday, June 30 to protest Trump's immigration policy. Find the details for the one in Boston here, and if you aren't in the Hub for the summer, you can find one near you here.

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