International Workers’ Day, celebrated yearly on May 1, draws thousands across the country to celebrate laborers and the working class. This year, the Harvard rally—called “Workers and Students United for Sanctuary” focused not only on workers’ rights, but also rights for undocumented immigrants.
Representatives from Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers and UNITE HERE Local 26—a Boston-based union representing Harvard’s dining hall workers—attended the event, along with several undergraduate organizations. Harvard Medical School professors and Cambridge City Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen also spoke at the rally.
At the demonstration, protesters spoke out against the federal government's crackdown on undocumented immigration and University President Drew G. Faust’s decision not to designate Harvard a “sanctuary campus.” In December, Faust said that the term has no clear legal meaning and could offer “false and misleading assurance” for undocumented students on campus.
A number of immigration policies enacted by President Donald Trump’s administration have drawn criticism from across the University. Earlier this year, at least four Harvard affiliates were barred from entering the United States after one of Trump’s executive orders suspended immigration from several majority-Muslim countries. Faust wrote a Harvard-wide email condemning the order shortly after it was issued, and signed a letter defending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—which provides young undocumented immigrants with some government protections—in November.
Daishi M. Tanaka ’19—who leads the immigrant advocacy group Act on a Dream—shared his story as an undocumented student and said his undocumented parents from Japan and the Philippines felt “external and internal stress” as a result of some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric. With Tanaka’s summer savings for airplane tickets, he said, both of his parents left the United States last year after 13 years in the United States.
Tanaka, one of roughly 40 undergraduates protected by DACA, said that he was “disappointed” by Faust’s decision to not dub Harvard a sanctuary campus and urged the University to reconsider.
“A sanctuary campus means that Harvard will stand by the immigrants that have sweat, bled, and cried to call this country home,” he said. “A sanctuary campus means that [Harvard] will lead the charge for this greater national movement. It means that Harvard will use its influence and privilege to do what it right.”
Last year, Faust, in an email to Harvard affiliates, wrote in a message that the Harvard University Police Department will not ask about the immigration status of Harvard affiliates or enforce federal immigration laws.
Mazen urged the crowd to establish a network of community organizers to further activism towards immigrants’ and workers’ rights.
“I hope you will find those in your network who are altruists, who are excited by the work of community organizing, and who are looking forward to the next phase of organizing in your community,” he said.
Medical School lecturer Phillip L. Rice implored demonstrators to stand against the Trump administration.
“We’re going to say no, we’re not going to accommodate, we’re not going to conciliate, and we’re not going to collaborate with this regime,” Rice said. “What needs to happen is that we need to drive it out.”—Staff writer William L. Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @wlwang20
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