From Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill to Trump Tower in Manhattan, the issue of immigration is taking center stage in public policy debates.
One year after the Boston City Council passed the Trust Act, which dissuades police officers from detaining a person due to immigration status, immigrant activists converged on the steps of the State House, calling on Beacon Hill to adopt a statewide version of the Trust Act.
They also protested DHS’s Priority Enforcement Program, demanded a face-to-face meeting with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and called out Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump on his plan to nix birthright citizenship.
"The deportation machine is still active and functioning," Centro Presente Executive Director Patricia Montes said. "We're also here to let our governor know that here in Massachusetts we don't want another Donald Trump."
Baker has voiced opposition to any bills that would provide legal leeway for undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts, which has set off a reaction from the same local activists groups and legislators who pushed the Trust Act.
Stories of unauthorized entry in order to flee violence and poverty have given a face to the ongoing struggle. Marylyn Granados, who once was lawyer in El Salvador, said she walked into Texas with her husband and two daughters after a gang slipped a note with a bullet attached to it under their door.
Granados did not plan to turn herself into the authorities, but she was detained in Texas and is now seeking political asylum. Speaking through a translator, Granados criticized Baker for his recent veto threat over legislation providing legal protections for undocumented immigrants.
“I came to the United States on the 25th of June this year,” Granados said. “My two daughters and my husband fled the violence and the poverty that put us in serious danger.”
About 2.5 percent of Massachusetts' population is undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center: Hispanic Trends. Lawmakers passed the Trust Act to give undocumented immigrants the ability to report crimes they may have seen or been a victim of without repercussion. Prior to the Trust Act, members of immigrant communities, documented or not, were reluctant to report crimes because they then could be targeted and detained through the Secure Communities Act, a legal pipeline for authorities to check immigration status in a federal database.
Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV star who is the leading Republican presidential candidate, said that he would defund sanctuary cities, like Boston, and end birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship for children born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents.
City Councillor Josh Zakim, the author of the Trust Act, said that political figures like Donald Trump are lightning rods for divisive, xenophobic nativist ideals and that his surge in popularity is concerning.
“Its an unfortunate commentary that anyone with those views could be leading popularity polls,” Zakim said. “The 14th Amendment was written to protect the children of slaves, so that they would be granted equal rights as those whose parents were born here. Many, if not all, Republican candidates are on the same page, and it goes against the ideals that the country was built on. We have a failed federal immigration system, and I don’t think it’s worth our time money or resources to stop people from coming here from doing what our ancestors did, to make better lives for themselves here or sending them back when they haven’t committed any serious crime.”