“Be not afraid to entertain strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares….” was the biblical exhortation chosen by Congressman Seth Moulton to anchor his remarks on immigration before a group of Bedford and Burlington residents at Temple Shalom Emeth on September 3. The Town Hall session was organized by Rabbi Susan Abramson and was well attended by local clergy, town officials, and activists from both towns concerned about the current immigration crisis.
Rep. Moulton recounted briefly the story of an undocumented immigrant who is now in sanctuary in a local church after her husband and oldest son were deported more than a year ago. This woman chose to remain in the US with her three American-born sons and sought asylum. She is currently in sanctuary and is being supported by Temple Shalom Emeth members and by congregants from many other area churches.
He also related the story of his recent trip to the border where he spent time on the Mexican side. There he was surprised to find a houseful of deported US veterans. He met with a man who had served in the US Navy for two decades, but due to an addiction problem, had incurred a DUI. He served his time, but when released, because he had failed to get the proper papers, he was sent to Mexico, a country he does not know and has not visited since he was a child.
Rep Moulton shared these stories, then concluded, “I could end on an optimistic note, but I am not going to give you false hope. There is not a lot of true hope to go around. We have to be honest about this. There is a tough road ahead. That’s why it matters that all of you have come here, today to join the conversation.”
Before Rep. Moulton spoke, Rabbi Abramson and two members of her congregation “set the scene” with poignant stories of their knowledge of – and direct experience with – the Holocaust. As students of history know, in the late 1930s, the US government was less than welcoming to refugees from Hitler’s Germany, refusing entry to many who tried to escape Nazism. As Rabbi Abramson said, the parallels are eerily similar. Temple Shalom Emeth has an active social justice committee which was partly responsible for the evolution of the day’s event.
State Rep. Ken Gordon (Middlesex 26th District) thanked those assembled, saying “the time is now to do something; if we do nothing, things will get worse. Our current leaders are using fear ‘of the stranger’ as a tactic to win voters.” Gordon mentioned he is co-sponsor of a bill to give driver’s licenses to undocumented residents on the belief that we want drivers on our roads to be insured. He is also co-sponsor of The Safe Communities Act, (An Act to Protect the Civil Rights and Safety of All Massachusetts Residents) which would ensure that Massachusetts tax dollars are devoted to protecting communities, not enforcing federal immigration law. https://miracoalition.org/images/Documents/Backgrounder-Safe-Communities-Act.pdf
Several audience members asked, “What can I do?” One young man, who said he would turn 18 tomorrow (to applause) mentioned that he did not see many people of his age as he looked around the room. How to engage younger voters? Moulton’s answer: “talk to your friends, tell them how much this matters. Go back to your high school and share what you have learned with your peers and get involved.“ One of the best things to come out of the 2016 election was the interest and involvement of young people, he said.
The final presenter DID offer some concrete suggestions for actions concerned citizens could take right here in their home towns. The Rev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken, minister at First Parish, Bedford, works with a group called BEYOND, a loosely organized cadre of volunteers who help undocumented immigrants in a variety of ways. One, in particular, is posting bail bond for those in detention, who may have no financial resources. Other ways to help are to accompany minors to court and to make sure their rights are safeguarded. The group does fund raising for bond or legal fees, provides rides for families to visit loved ones in detention, and helps with housing and other immediate needs of people released on bond who have no other resources in the community. Read more at BeyondbondBoston.org.
Faces in the Crowd