News & Events

Bilingualism is an asset, and Mass. schools should promote it

It’s time to free schools to teach English language learners in the ways that best meet their needs – and to enable high school graduates to earn a ‘Seal of Biliteracy’.

Language opportunityWhen children who don’t speak English enroll in a Massachusetts public school, they go into an English “immersion” program – not just to learn the language, but for math, science and all subjects. Their teachers are specially trained to work with “English language learners,” but by law, even if they speak a student’s native language, they can’t use anything but English in the classroom.

For some children, immersion works well, and they quickly learn enough English to succeed in school. Others struggle, however, and fall behind significantly in their education.

And whether or not they thrive in English, often students who were fluent in their native language when they arrived get “rusty” after a few years. They may still do fine in casual conversation, but struggle to read, write or use the language in a more formal setting.

Bills before the Massachusetts Legislature this session aim to change that.

Read more: Bilingualism is an asset, and Mass. schools should promote it

Why now, more than ever, Boston needs an Immigrant Defense Fund

The Boston City Council is considering the creation of a fund to help residents going through immigration-related legal proceedings. MIRA’s Sarang Sekhavat explains why it’s so crucial.

MIRA Federal Policy Director Sarang Sekhavat addresses the Boston City Council. Click to see video of the hearing.

More than a quarter of Boston’s residents were born in another country. And while the vast majority are now U.S. citizens or green card or visa holders, many have family members who are undocumented – and any non-citizens could face deportation proceedings if they run afoul of the law, potentially even just for a misdemeanor.

In February, recognizing that under the Trump administration, immigrants will face much harsher treatment than under President Obama, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson proposed creating a city-sponsored defense fund to support legal challenges involving immigrants.

On Monday, April 10, the City Council’s Committee on Healthy Women, Families & Communities held a hearing on the proposal (watch the video). Sarang Sekhavat, MIRA’s federal policy director, testified in support of the fund. What follows is a lightly edited version of his testimony.

Read more: Why now, more than ever, Boston needs an Immigrant Defense Fund

New immigration enforcement directive will hurt hard-working people

BOSTON, April 12, 2017 – Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a new memo to all federal prosecutors calling for an increase in criminal immigration enforcement, to focus on what the U.S. Department of Justice described as “particular offenses that, if aggressively charged and prosecuted, can help prevent and deter illegal immigration”.

Immigration already factors into 52% of all federal criminal prosecutions, and 7 of the top 10 crimes that are brought in federal court are immigration related crimes. Similarly, the majority of federal law enforcement dollars are already spent on immigration enforcement agencies.

Read more: New immigration enforcement directive will hurt hard-working people

1,500 immigrants & allies advocate for their priorities at the State House

Largest-ever Immigrants’ Day at the State House offers a powerful rebuke against bigotry

IDSH2017 Matias
State Rep. Juana Matías, House sponsor of the Safe Communities Act, introduces the speaking program.

BOSTON, April 5, 2017 – About 1,500 immigrants, children of immigrants and their allies came together at the State House today to advocate for a Commonwealth where all people feel welcome to pursue their dreams and feel safe, regardless of where they were born.

This was the 21st Immigrants’ Day at the State House, and the largest to date. The annual event, organized by the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), brings the community to Beacon Hill to celebrate their contributions to the state’s economy, culture and civic life, and to speak with legislators about bills and budget items that are priorities for foreign-born residents.

“We knew to expect a big crowd, because people were eager to speak out against the bigotry and xenophobia that we’ve been witnessing,” said Liza Ryan, director of organizing at MIRA. “Still, it was awe-inspiring to see the Great Hall packed with people from all over the world who’ve made America their home, and who came to speak out for themselves and their communities.”

Read more: 1,500 immigrants & allies advocate for their priorities at the State House

MIRA calls for robust funding of key programs that support immigrants

Priorities include citizenship, English and adult basic education classes, job-seeking support, health coverage, domestic and sexual violence prevention.

BOSTON, March 31, 2017 – As federal policies become increasingly hostile to immigrants, MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona today submitted testimony in support of public programs that help keep communities healthy and safe, build workforce skills, and transition eligible immigrants to citizenship.

“Now more than ever,” she told the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, “we respectfully request your support in the state budget for funding of programs that promote immigrant integration, opportunity and safety, strengthening the Commonwealth’s economic, civic, and social fabric and fueling economic growth.”

In particular, MIRA is advocating for four line items in the fiscal 2018 budget, plus a policy change:

Read more: MIRA calls for robust funding of key programs that support immigrants