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Harvard Activists Hold Rally on Campus to Advocate for TPS Recipients, Prison Reform

University affiliates rally to support workers with Temporary Protected Status.
University affiliates rally to support workers with Temporary Protected Status.
By Edith M. Herwitz, Sonia Kim, and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

Chanting, lofting a banner, and shouting into a megaphone, a group of around 75 Harvard affiliates rallied in the Science Center Plaza Friday afternoon to support workers with Temporary Protected Status and show solidarity with an ongoing nationwide prison strike.

The rally was hosted by the Harvard TPS Coalition, a group of workers who include members of Harvard’s campus unions and advocate for Harvard workers with TPS. It was the coalition’s first public demonstration of the school year and its first partnership with Act on a Dream, a student immigrant rights organization.

Temporary Protected Status is a designation the Department of Homeland Security grants to certain foreign nationals who are unable to return to their country of citizenship due to unsafe circumstances like an armed conflict or natural disaster. TPS recipients can legally live and work in the U.S. and are immune from deportation.

University affiliates rally to support workers with Temporary Protected Status.
University affiliates rally to support workers with Temporary Protected Status. By Molly C. McCafferty

Over the past year, the Trump administration has terminated the program for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan, collectively ending protections for over 250,000 people.

At the event, around 20 representatives from campus labor unions, student advocacy groups, and local organizations addressed a half-circle of congregated students, faculty, and staff.  Members passed out buttons that read, “Residency Now!” and flyers listing the demands of the prison strike, which include better conditions in prisons, wages for inmates, and “an immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of black and brown humans.”

Doris Reina-Landaverde, a Harvard custodian who is a TPS recipient, helped organize the event. She said the event showed the connection between issues of labor, incarceration, and immigration.

“We are TPS holders, immigrants. And we are workers — we have unions. And, you know, when the people are deported, they also go to jail — detention centers,” Reina-Landaverde said. “All the organizations here, we have connections.”

Reina-Landaverde said she hoped University President Lawrence S. Bacow would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Drew G. Faust, in publicly advocating to protect immigrants.

“The last president of Harvard, she wrote to the Congress and supported the workers here at Harvard,” Reina-Landaverde said. “We hope the new president can write to the Congress, too, to advocate for TPS holders in Harvard.”

University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson wrote in an emailed statement that the University is “deeply committed” to supporting Harvard affiliates impacted by the roll-back of TPS and other changes to national immigration policy.

“We will continue to make every effort to have our voice heard and to advocate for permanent legislative solutions to these challenging issues,” Jackson wrote.

Emily Pope-Obeda — a History and Literature lecturer who researches race, ethnicity, migration, and labor — also spoke at the event, calling on University faculty to “stand with those fighting for their rights.”

“As this gathering demonstrates, these horrific immigration policies impact people right here in our own communities,” Pope-Obeda said. “They impact our students and their families, faculty, and a lot of great workers on campus.”

“As faculty members, we need to fight for these issues not only because those affected are our students, our peers, and members of our campus community, but because they are also the critical moral imperatives of our time,” she added.

Cherrie N. Bucknor, an organizer for Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers and sociology Ph.D. candidate, agreed. She said Harvard employees impacted by TPS are integral to the University.

“Harvard University would be little more than an investment corporation if not for the work done in its dining halls, residence halls, and lecture halls," she said.

—Staff writer Edith M. Herwitz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @edith_herwitz.

—Staff writer Sonia Kim can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @soniakim211.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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