By Meredith McCulloch
Congressman Seth Moulton was in Bedford on April 12 to meet a constituent who is living in sanctuary in a nearby church to avoid ICE arrest and deportation. Others in the room were her lawyer, the Congressman’s aides, Bedford’s Town Manager, a few supporters, and reporters from WBUR and The Bedford Citizen. Her real name is withheld for her protection, but she goes by “Maria.”
There was a hushed atmosphere and several moist eyes in the room as Maria told her story through an interpreter. It was a tale of ongoing abuse by a neighbor and her fear for her life as he followed her even as she moved about her home country trying to escape. He threatened her husband as well.
Eventually, they fled to the United States where they were able to get working papers and to establish a normal life in a nearby city. Then her husband was deported. A year later her eldest son, who had been like a father to his brothers and the primary breadwinner, was also deported.
She has been in this country for 24 years, but 15 months ago was faced with deportation and leaving her American born children behind. The day before her deportation order went into effect, she sought sanctuary in a local church. There she lives in a one-room apartment but will be at risk if she leaves the property. She has three teenage children, American citizens, who live in the area. “Maria” is desperate to remain in the United States and to keep her family together while providing guidance to her growing sons.
She thanked Congressman Moulton for listening to her story, adding that throughout her efforts to remain in the United States, this was her first opportunity to actually tell her story to any government official.
Moulton apologized for her ordeal, saying, “I’m sorry this has happened to you. It is not what our country is about.” Then they went to her apartment for a more private conversation.
Later when asked for a comment about their meeting, Moulton said, “Maria’s story is gut-wrenching. She’s a mother separated from her kids by an immigration policy that’s fundamentally broken. From April to May of last year–the height of the president’s plan to separate families–45 mothers and fathers like Maria were being separated from their kids every day, and the administration is still locking kids in cages under highway overpasses. I believe America is better than this.”
He went on to comment further about immigration. “We have never gotten immigration right, but we’ve always believed that it is worth trying to make our system better. I believe we can build an immigration system that protects our borders and our values at the same time. I also believe we should make smart investments in foreign aid that address the insecurities that are causing people to leave their homes and seek asylum in the first place—not cut aid as the president recently did. This will only happen when leaders in Washington are willing to work together and fix this broken system.”