News & Events

Detainer bill would needlessly entangle police in ICE matters

ICE agent arrest
An ICE agent arrests an immigrant believed to be subject to deportation. Wikimedia Commons

The governor wants to give police the authority to hold people for ICE. Call him today – and call your legislators to urge them to kill this wrongheaded bill.

Last month, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that police and court officers in our state don’t have the legal authority to detain anyone solely on a civil immigration matter.

It was a landmark decision that made national news: Massachusetts leading the way, standing up for civil rights and due process and rejecting the anti-immigrant policies that have stoked fear in our communities.

But where we saw cause for celebration, Gov. Charlie Baker saw a problem to be solved. On Aug. 1, he filed a bill to allow police across the state to honor civil detainer requests from U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) for any “removable alien” deemed to pose a threat to public safety.

Read more: Detainer bill would needlessly entangle police in ICE matters

Mass. high court ruling a victory for due process, civil rights

Eva Millona testifies in support of the Safe Communities Act.
Eva Millona testifies in support of the Safe Communities Act.

‘Nothing in the statutes or common law’ of the state allows police or court officers to hold people on civil immigration detainers.

BOSTON, July 24, 2017 – Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that state officers – such as police, sheriffs and court officers – do not have the authority under state law to detain people on a civil immigration matter.

The case before the Court, SJC-12276, Sreynuon Lunn vs. Commonwealth, involved a man who was held on a voluntary civil detainer request from Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being arrested but then having all charges against him dismissed.

The Court found that holding someone under such circumstances constitutes an arrest under state law. No federal law gives state officers the power to make such an arrest, and based on a detailed review, the Court concluded that “nothing in the statutes or common law of Massachusetts” does, either.

“We are very pleased by the Court’s decision,” said Eva A. Millona, executive director of MIRA. “It provides much-needed clarity for Massachusetts law enforcement at a time when they’re under a lot of pressure from the federal government to detain non-criminal immigrants and support deportation efforts.”

Read more: Mass. high court ruling a victory for due process, civil rights

Celebrating diversity: Somerville’s Nepal Festival 2017

Co-hosted by Greater Boston Nepali Community and the Somerville Arts Council, the Nepal Festival offered a great chance to experience vibrant Nepali culture.

Dancers perform Lok Dohori in traditional Nepali clothes at Union Square on June 9, 2017. Photo by Bishal Suwal Photography.

A man and a woman share the stage. The music gets a bit quieter for an exchange between the two: He sings what seems like a question, and she sings a quick response. After each round, performers in traditional Nepali clothes dance at the foot of the stage.

I don’t know Nepali, but I don’t need to understand the words to enjoy the singers’ sweet debate – or the laughs, applause, and cheers of the crowd. From the music to the performers’ voices, body language, facial expressions, and dances, it is a celebration of the community.

This is called Lok Dohori, and it’s a part of Nepali folk tradition. The singers are both well known: Min KC, Boston’s most popular folk singer, and Nisha Sunuwar, a popular singer in New York. For me, it was a highlight of Nepal Festival 2017, held in Somerville’s Union Square on June 9. 

Read more: Celebrating diversity: Somerville’s Nepal Festival 2017

At Irish Famine Memorial, a strong show of solidarity for immigrants

U.S. Sen. Markey joined a diverse group of advocates to decry the mass deportation agenda and anti-immigrant legislation and pledge continued resistance.

Eva Millona at Irish Famine Memorial July 2017MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona called for unity against the agenda of mass deportation and xenophobia.

BOSTON, July 6, 2017 – U.S. Senator Edward Markey today joined members of labor and nonprofit organizations by the Irish Famine Memorial in downtown Boston to show solidarity for immigrants and send a strong message to federal officials that immigrants have made America great for over 200 years.

“The Trump administration’s immigration policies are unfair, unconstitutional, and un-American,” Senator Markey said. “Instead of immoral and punitive proposals like the Muslim ban, border wall, and a deportation force, we should focus on what matters most to our immigrant communities – good jobs, quality education and safe neighborhoods. I will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform and to ensure that the American Dream is achievable for all.”

Senator Markey appeared with members of 32BJ SEIU, MIRA, Jobs with Justice and the Irish International Immigrant Center. Together, they condemned the mass deportation strategy of the Trump administration and anti-immigrant bills recently passed by Congress.

Read more: At Irish Famine Memorial, a strong show of solidarity for immigrants

A day to put ourselves in a refugee’s shoes

Alan KurdiA Turkish coast guard carries the body of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian migrant who drowned in the Aegean Sea. AP photo.

Welcoming the stranger is a universal value, MIRA intern Beyza Burcak writes. Yet years into a global refugee crisis, our actions still fall far short of the need.

“If there were guns pointed at your children, would you not flee also for your safety? Do we not owe people enough humanity to stand with them when they flee for their lives?”

As Westy Egmont, director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College, challenged his audience with those questions, a screen behind him showed the iconic photo of a Turkish coast guard carrying the body of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi. The boy had fled war-torn Syria with his family and drowned in the Aegean Sea during the dangerous journey to freedom and safety in 2015.

The photograph – and Alan’s story – put a human face on the global refugee crisis: more than 65 million people displaced by persecution, war or violence. And yet here we were two years later, still trying to find an answer to the same question: How can we make a meaningful impact on the lives of these refugees?

Read more: A day to put ourselves in a refugee’s shoes