Vigil focuses on immigrant rights

By Caitlin Gallagher/Correspondent
Thu Oct 16, 2008, 12:44 PM EDT

Cambridge — While the issue of immigration has faded from the headlines, a group of Cambridge residents this week brought it back to the center – or to Central Square, at least.
“In particular we are standing in solidarity with those people who have been detained and deported,” said Vicky Steinitz, a coordinator for the Cambridge United for Justice with Peace group, which was behind a candlelight vigil in the square Wednesday night. “We are particularly concerned about the rounding up, the raids, the deportation of people who have for years been contributing to... the economy.
“Many people have children who are citizens and are faced with this horrible choice of taking their children with them or leaving them behind.”
As part of the vigil, passersby were asked to sign Welcoming Massachusetts' “pledge” – a commitment to “publicly reject the politics of division and isolation that fan anger and hate against any person or community, and to work towards just, workable and humane immigration policies that are anchored in America's finest ideals and core values.” Welcome Massachusetts, an organization that aims to make Massachusetts a “welcoming state” for immigrants, is one year old, and has gathered more than 5,000 pledge signatures towards its ultimate goal of 100,000.
“The idea” said Jim Wallace, 73, of Cambridge, “is to get a lot of people and a lot of organizations to sign a pledge that says 'We appreciate the role of immigrants in this country. Many of us were immigrants, or our ancestors were immigrants to this country, and we know what immigrants can contribute, and don't count us amongst the people that you hear on hate radio.'”
Wallace and his wife were involved with the formalization of the relationship between the city of Cambridge and San Juan-Las Flores, Cambridge's sister city in El Salvador, over 20 years ago.
In addition to gathering signatures for Welcome Mass's pledge, the approximately 30 vigilers held banners and candles and distributed plastic “peace beads” to commuters on their way home from work. Cambridge United for Justice with Peace, the Area 4 Coalition, and the Cambridge Peace Committee started hosting its weekly Community Peace Vigil on Wednesdays in Central Square in 2003, but decided to make this week an immigrant rights vigil. The turnout was bigger than usual, largely because of the number of organizations involved in the event.
After the vigil, the sponsoring agencies held a showing of “Detained”, a movie about the immigrant raid in New Bedford. The movie was followed by a community discussion.


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