UPDATED: March 31, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
Harvard faculty members, students, and workers, as well as affiliates of other Boston-area universities braved brisk winds to protest in support of immigration rights outside the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston Tuesday afternoon.
A mix of Harvard professors and faculty at other local universities worked to organize the event, which included a variety speakers from across the Boston area who ranged from educators to union leaders. Organizers gathered a list of demands from protesters at the end of the event to pass along to Massachusetts senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. The organizers said they chose to assemble in front of the building during the workday because of the building’s ties to immigration policy.
“The point of that is that we wanted to be there during working hours in the federal building where USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] is located and where Immigration Court is located,” said organizer and Divinity School professor Ahmed Ragab.
The protest follows a September demonstration in which professors blocked traffic on Massachusetts Avenue in an act of civil disobedience to protest Trump administration immigration policies. More than 30 professors from Harvard and other universities were arrested. Since the protest, Ragab said he and other organizers have kept an email listserv, which approximately 70 professors have used to plan other immigration advocacy events, including the Tuesday protest.
In particular, protesters advocated for protections for residents covered by the now-endangered Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs. Trump rescinded DACA—an Obama-era program that allows undocumented youth to legally live and work in the United States—in early September. Trump originally set a March 5 deadline for Congress to pass permanent protections for undocumented youth, though federal judges since then have ruled the Department of Homeland Security must continue to renew existing DACA permits. Still, the department is not accepting new DACA applications—and without a legislative solution, the future for current DACA recipients remains uncertain.
The Trump administration also recently chose to end the Temporary Protected Status program for immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador, among many other countries, affecting thousands of immigrants across the nation and dozens of Harvard affiliates.
Organizer and History of Science Professor Sophia Roosth, who participated in a sign-making session hosted by the organizers earlier Tuesday afternoon, said it was important they hold a protest now to “keep the momentum going.”
“We feel that after March 5, there’s been a lot of inattention to what’s going on, and we’re concerned that that’s going to lead to people becoming a bit complacent,” Roosth said. “It’s important even as time continues to draw attention to this really important matter so that it’s not forgotten.”
History Professor Kirsten A. Weld, who spoke at the protest, said she teaches undocumented students in some of her classes and thinks about what her classroom would look like without those students.
“I think their absence would impoverish our community not just for the students who would be deprived of an education, but for all of the other students who could learn from them and could learn from their experiences,” Weld said in an interview after the protest.
Weld added that she thinks she has a responsibility to support her students and show them their professors care about the struggles they’re going through.
“When our students are treated unjustly, our professors are going to stand up and say, ‘This is unacceptable,’” Weld said.
Weld was one of the professors arrested in the September demonstration.
Holding a sign that read “No human being is illegal,” Divinity School student Kat G. Poje said she wants to create an environment where people can learn without the fear of being taken away from their homes.
“This is a way of saying we, as those especially involved in education in the greater Boston area, are against this,” Poje said.
Doris Reina-Landaverde, a Harvard custodial staff member from El Salvador, was one of the speakers at the protest and said she fears for her future employment if her TPS status is revoked.
Her daughter, Virginia Landaverde, a middle school student, also voiced concerns about her family situation during a speech at the protest.
“This is kind of my dream college because my parents work here, so I kind of grew up running around the halls of the Science Center,” Landaverde said of Harvard. “I’ve always wanted to go there, and it’s hard, because I also have to think about other things.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: March 31, 2018
A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that Divinity School student Kat G. Poje held a sign that read "No immigrant is illegal." In fact, the sign read "No human being is illegal."
—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22
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