The Safe Communities Act: Empathetic Immigration Reform
Dear Representative Jones,
I’m writing to urge your support of the Safe Communities Act, a bill that would ensure that Massachusetts resources are not used to support discriminatory and needlessly harsh deportation policies against immigrants in our state. If passed, this bill would prevent state support for President Trump’s proposed Muslim registry, protect the due process rights of people detained for immigration violations, and keep state, local, and campus police from participating in immigration enforcement activities such as raids, investigations, and arrests based solely on immigration status. As a Massachusetts citizen and your constituent, I believe that this bill is important to the welfare and character of our community, and that you should support it.
Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are a vital part of the economy in Boston. They make up 27% of workers in the Boston area between the ages of 25 and 64, and in 2015, more than half of the working-age people moving to Boston were foreign-born. Boston industries from food service to engineering would suffer from a stricter deportation system; in contrast, fostering an immigrant community and providing a safe path to legal working status for undocumented immigrants would grow the labor and talent pools in Massachusetts.
Protecting and integrating undocumented immigrants into society can also make law-enforcement easier, and Massachusetts communities safer. Although much of the negative rhetoric surrounding undocumented immigrants casts them as criminals, the truth is that immigrants do not have a higher crime rate than their native-born neighbors, and spreading fear of deportation only complicates the work of police officers by making it less likely for individuals to come forward if they are victims of or witnesses to a crime. Law and order can exist without unnecessary cruelty, and the safety of our communities will only be improved through the passage of this bill that allocates our valuable law-enforcement resources to preventing violence and crime, rather than performing raids, investigations, and arrests on peaceful Massachusetts residents.
I believe that our immigration policy as a state and as a country has the potential to show either the best or the worst of America. Throughout our country’s history, we have had opportunities to treat our immigrants in a way that allows us to live up to our highest principles of acceptance, opportunity, and freedom for all; however, in too many cases, we have turned away from these values in favor of fear, nativism, and selfishness. My ancestors on my mother’s side came from Ireland at a time when “Irish need not apply” was still a message displayed in many store windows. My great-grandparents on my father’s side both came from Poland through Ellis island in the early 1900s, only a few decades before the nationality-based quota system set in place by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921 would prevent thousands of other Eastern European Jews just like them from escaping their Nazi-occupied countries. I am extremely fortunate that my great-grandparents came to America at a time when they could immigrate legally, but had they tried to leave Poland ten or twenty years later, it is unlikely that I would be writing to you today.
We now have a chance to learn from the mistakes of our past and move towards a more empathetic immigration system. Recently, students from my high school met with visiting students from Spain to show them around Boston, and we discovered that at the state house, many citizens were celebrating Immigration Day by lobbying for the Safe Communities Act. Showing our Spanish friends around made me realize that this was exactly the kind of spirit that I would want anyone visiting our state to see: the compassion, inclusivity, and determination of our citizens.
You and your fellow representatives have the power to affirm that spirit on a legislative level by supporting the Safe Communities Act. In this way, you can ensure that our taxes go towards making Massachusetts a safer place for everyone, not hunting down undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding and productive members of our society. Even if it runs counter to the policies of the federal government, I believe that you and the other members of the Massachusetts legislature have the courage to make Massachusetts a state that I am proud to call home.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Pifko, Molly. "The Safe Communities Act: Empathetic Immigration Reform." 7 June 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 3, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/safe-communities-act-empathetic-immigration-reform>.