Immigrant Advocates Push Bill At State House Rally

Immigration advocates rally on the State House steps Wednesday. (Asma Khalid/WBUR)

Immigration advocates rally on the State House steps Wednesday. (Asma Khalid/WBUR)

BOSTON — Immigration activists rallied on the State House steps Wednesday, demanding new legislation to stem the tide of deportations. But immigration officials say there’s nothing to stop — their deportation system is working well.

Irasema Zapata lives in Lawrence with her three U.S.-born kids. But she’s not a U.S. citizen; she’s a Guatemalan living in Massachusetts illegally. Through an interpreter, she told her story at the immigration rally.

Irasema Zapata, who is living in Massachusetts illegally, has a deportation order but doesn't want to be separated from her family. (Asma Khalid/WBUR)

Irasema Zapata, who is living here illegally, has a deportation order but doesn’t want to be separated from her family. (Asma Khalid/WBUR)

“I have a deportation order. And, I don’t want to be separated from my family,” she said. “That is why I am here.”

Zapata joined some 50 other activists Wednesday to push for a new law called the TRUST Act (PDF), which would help limit deportations like her own.

Last year, Massachusetts had no choice but to join the federal immigration program called Secure Communities. That program takes fingerprints gathered by local police and matches them with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration database. The goal is to catch and deport dangerous criminals.

But some, like state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a Democrat from Acton, say the federal government is going after the wrong people.

“The very immigrants that the federal policy was not supposed to target, in other words those with no criminal convictions, are the ones being deported,” Eldridge said. “And that’s making … the immigrant communities — both those who are here legally and those who are undocumented — feel very nervous about their general life.”

So Eldridge has introduced the TRUST Act. The bill would give local law enforcement the freedom to release immigrants held under the Secure Communities program for detention.

Statistics from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency show that more than half of all immigrants deported so far under this new Secure Communities mandate here in Massachusetts have no criminal record.

Despite that data, ICE says its system is working just fine.

“In order to be encountered by Secure Communities, you have to be arrested and charged with a crime,” said ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein. “What we’re doing is we’re prioritizing the removal of individuals. Obviously, the most important people we want to remove are convicted criminal aliens. But, we also have other priorities as well.”

Feinstein says those other priorities are people who have overstayed their visas or ignored previous deportation orders.

At least two other states — California and Connecticut — have introduced similar bills to limit deportations.

This post was updated with the All Things Considered feature version.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Tazman316 Jay Leonard


  • Susan

    You give birth to three children in this country and yet you couldn’t take the time to LEARN THE LANGUAGE??? With an attitude like that – don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Take your anchor kids with you and they are free to return to the USA when they are of age to take care of themselves.

    We are tired of rewarding those that choose to look the other way regarding our laws. You have no respect for us, why do you want to be here?

    INCREASE DEPORTATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get every single illegal out of here!

  • sjw81

    Why do you use the misleading title of “immigrant advocates…” when clearly this issue and story is about Illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants who dont bother even learning our languate or assimilating the way our ancesters did to form this nation. They dont pay taxes on income, drive down wages ( if it affected politicians jobs or wages, you would see the laws enacted and enforced tomorrow), increase costs to our schools, our medical system, clog our emergency rooms….bankrupting us all and destroying our nation of common values and backround and purpose. THe joke of thier children , “no fault of their own” please! The parents obviously are coming here for exactly that reason…

  • tacuazin

    Susan, Jay and the other, you represent what’s wrong with this country, nicely I must add, stupid, xenophobic, ignorant, racist, hateful, intolerant, arrogant, selfish, unhappy, and whats worse not knowing any history on the subject that you commented. You dears are descendant of immigrants, learn your history, ah forgot, you know it all.

    • myles

      We just dont want to see our country and our culture destroyed. I dont see too many of you moonbats rushing to live in Revere and Chelsea by the way.

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