July 13, 2010
For three weeks last month, members of the Mass Hope 2010 Coalition occupied the steps of the State house, protesting the anti-immigrant amendments proposed in the State budget, known collectively as SA 172.1. The shifting but constant group of students, activists and community members held this post day and night, braving weather and hecklers.
The amendments included the establishment of a hotline to report people suspected of being undocumented, with the state legally obligated to follow up on all calls. Additionally, the amendments would have re-emphasized denial of in-state tuition to undocumented students, as well as reducing or limiting access to services such as food stamps and unemployment benefits for documented as well as undocumented immigrants.
This vigil was led by the Boston-area Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), whose members were moved to action after considering the effects these amendments would have on the immigrant community of Massachusetts. They were inspired by a similar action in Arizona, where the widely criticized SB 1070 allows police officers to investigate anyone they suspect of being undocumented, and makes undocumented immigration to the state a misdemeanor. After learning of the amendments on June 6, students began the vigil the next day.
Though only starting with three SIM members, the vigil attracted dozens of supporters and over 40 sponsoring organizations. Many of the sponsor groups held workshops or teach-ins at the vigil.
On June 24, all but one of the amendments – one barring state contractors from hiring undocumented workers – were stricken from the budget. This is a huge victory for all of us in the Commonwealth! The coalition held a press conference the next day, marking the end of the vigil, and began planning next steps the following weekend. One target for continuing immigration reform on a national level is the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students access to higher education nationally. The DREAM Act is currently pending approval in both houses of Congress, and will be voted on this July. For more information, please contact the Student Immigrant Movement.