A six-day march to a New Hampshire jail launched Monday with a symbolic funeral procession in which demonstrators carried a small coffin bearing the names of migrant children who died either in U.S. custody or while trying to cross the country's southern border.
The roughly 76-mile trek protesting immigrant detention and deportation will take marchers from Boston through Lynn, Danvers and Newburyport, and ultimately on to the Strafford County Department of Corrections in Dover, N.H., a facility that organizers said is used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants. Along the way, they will connect with delegations from Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Clergy members from various faith groups joined immigrant advocates for a rally before setting off, gathering outside the JFK Federal Building, calling for presidential hopefuls — including Massachusetts candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Seth Moulton and former Gov. Bill Weld — to commit to ending detention and deportation.
"What do we want to see? Set the captives free," ralliers chanted.
Rev. Andre Bennett, youth pastor at Zion Baptist Church in Lynn, said the group wanted "to let all elected officials and presidential contenders know that we will not look away."
"We will not look away from the cruelty of the immigration system of these United States of America, which is imprisoning, separating and killing immigrants," he said, his comments punctuated by a sousaphone playing the background.
Hilda Macario, an immigrant from Guatemala who lives in Lynn with four daughters, said her children have not wanted to eat, sleep, or go to school since her husband was detained three months ago.
Speaking in Spanish with an interpreter, Macario said she came to America seeking security and freedom for her family, in hopes of being able to live without fear. She said her daughters need their father so that they can be well and feel safe and supported.
"I am here because I believe that together, we can achieve the change that we need," Macario said.
Marchers called on presidential candidates to join them as they walk, and for supporters of their cause to seek out candidates on the campaign trail.
The rally closed with a ritual honoring the memories of migrants whose deaths have made national headlines, as clergy members placed a heart bearing their names and photos on the coffin. The names included Claudia Patricia Gómez González, who was fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent; 19-month-old Mariee Juarez, who died of a lung infection weeks after her release from ICE detention; Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, who drowned in the Rio Grande; Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody; and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, who was also in CBP custody when he died within weeks of Jakelin.
"The United States is inflicting trauma and terror upon the folk that are coming from outside the borders of this land," said Bishop Dwayne Royster, of the national organization Faith in Action. "The problem we have here today is that each and every one of us standing here is complicit in this tragedy. We are complicit in what ICE does, and what Border Patrol does and what Homeland Security does and what the administration does. We are complicit because our tax dollars are paying for murder."
Royster said elected officials are "most complicit," because they "have the power to make a difference and have some rhetoric, but have no action to back up anything that's going to transform the situation."