News & Events

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

Decision on travel ban spares family members, students and workers

Somali refugees in KenyaWith a population of 350,000, Dadaab is the world's largest refugee complex. Some Somalis have lived here since 1991 and still depend on humanitarian aid for their daily needs. EU ECHO photo/Flickr

BOSTON, June 26, 2017 – The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to examine whether President Trump’s travel ban was a legitimate exercise of executive power, and in the meantime, stayed two injunctions that had blocked the implementation of the travel ban.

In a careful attempt to balance competing interests, the Court only allowed the travel ban to be applied to foreign nationals who lack “any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

For individuals, the Court ruled, a “close familial relationship” is required. For entities, the relationship must be “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course,” such as a student’s admission to a U.S. university, an offer of employment, or an invitation to give a lecture.

All other citizens of the six designated countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen – may be barred from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The Court also upheld a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, and a reduction of the annual cap from 110,000, as former President Obama had planned, to 50,000. In fiscal 2016, the U.S. admitted 85,000 refugees.

Read more: Decision on travel ban spares family members, students and workers

‘You have to come close to other people to see them’

Amira at World Refugee Day 2017Amira Alamry, a Syrian mother and former schoolteacher now living in Massachusetts, speaks at a World Refugee Day event at Boston City Hall, with her portrait in the background.

A City Hall exhibit and World Refugee Day event offer a glimpse behind the numbers.

BOSTON – The portraits are displayed in pairs: one life-size, the other a close-up, with a questionnaire in the middle that includes the subject’s name, the year of departure from Syria, and tidbits of daily life: fondest memory, favorite TV book, favorite TV show, hopes for the future.

We learn that Raed, who left Syria in 2013, loves the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, but also the lyrics of the Arabic-language singer Majida Halim El Roumi. Ali, who fled Syria in 2014, loves The Simpsons – but in English, not the German dub, which isn’t funny. He’d love to meet Angela Merkel.

Talar, who left Syria in 2012, misses school life and her friends, many of whom are still in Syria. Rawa’a, who was resettled in Canada, wants to make Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proud of the Syrians his country has welcomed. Oh, and she loves the phrase “How’s it goin’?”

Read more: ‘You have to come close to other people to see them’

Good news for Dreamers – but not for immigrant parents

Dreamer at IDSH2017Elias Rosenfeld, who was brought to the U.S. from Venezuela when he was 6 and is now a student at Brandeis University, spoke at Immigrants’ Day about his experience with DACA.

BOSTON, June 16, 2017 – U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said yesterday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect – though a Homeland Security spokesman said today that the future of DACA “continues to be under review with the administration.”

Secretary Kelly’s update on DACA came on the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the program, a single line in a larger announcement that President Obama’s 2014 memorandum creating the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, which has been blocked by court action, is being rescinded.

“We are pleased and relieved to see DACA continue at least for now, despite the president’s campaign promises to eliminate the program,” said Eva A. Millona, executive director of MIRA. “Since DACA started, more than 7,900 Massachusetts residents have successfully applied, with huge benefits not only for these young people, but for our entire communities.”

Read more: Good news for Dreamers – but not for immigrant parents

A flood of opposition to deputizing law enforcement as ICE agents

The message from advocacy groups, legal experts, faith-based organizations and citizens was clear: let the federal government handle immigration matters.

Cabral witnesses crowd May2017Rep. Antonio Cabral (far left, next to Rep. Denise Provost) prepares to testify, backed by a roomful of supporters.

BOSTON, May 11, 2017 – State Rep. Antonio Cabral said he doesn’t want to debate immigration policy. “That is the responsibility of the federal government,” he told the Joint Committee on Public Safety on Monday.

Instead, the New Bedford Democrat urged the committee to support his two bills, H.3033 (An Act Relative to Enforcing Federal Law), and H.3034 (An Act Limiting the Use of Prison Labor), on fiscal grounds. “State dollars ought to be used for state programs, period,” he said.

The first bill would bar the use of state funds to implement “287(g)” collaboration agreements between Massachusetts sheriffs and correctional facilities and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Under those agreements, which have been signed by the Bristol County and Plymouth County Sheriffs and the state Department of Corrections, officers of those agencies are deputized to question people about their immigration status, arrest them for immigration violations, and start deportation proceedings.

Read more: A flood of opposition to deputizing law enforcement as ICE agents