By Seth Daniel
Perhaps the most powerful moment in the press conference outside City Hall on Tuesday morning was near the end when Mayor Carlo DeMaria went off script.
Embracing Arisellas Flores, a seventh-grader from the Madeleine English School whose parents have Temporary Protective Status (TPS) and could be sent back to their native country in a matter of months, he called on the federal government to see the humanity in protecting little girls like Flores.
“This little girl is just in seventh grade,” he said. “Can you imagine what would happen to her is she is sent back to a dangerous country she has never known? What will happen to these little kids? This is why we need to take a stance. This is little Everett, and we’re in a blue state and all on the same page, but the legislators in red states need to know this is a human issue. This is a little girl. If the Republicans and Democrats can cut out the ‘BS’ and get an immigration bill passed that both parties agree needs to be done, folks like her can stay in our city, pay taxes and be productive citizens.
“I’d like to go to Washington myself to let them know this is a human issue,” he continued. “Boston Mayor (Martin) Walsh said it before that he would open his City Hall doors to people. I want you to know these doors at Everett City Hall are open to you too.”
That concluded a press conference that had brought together several local immigrant services organizations in Everett, including La Communidad, LUMA and the Everett Haitian Community Center, with City and State leaders. The combination of organizations is known as the Everett Safe and Welcoming Coalition.
A resolution from the City Council was heard Monday night, but did not pass. It is expected to go to committee and, likely, pass at an upcoming meeting.
The resolution calls for the federal government, and especially Congress, to pass permanent residency programs for those in the TPS program and those also in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Both are set to expire in the coming year, and the push is on now from several groups to get action now.
It is estimated that there are 600 Haitians in Everett with TPS, and 400 Latinos with TPS. There are approximately 200 in Everett with DACA – though that number could be much higher.
Flores, the seventh-grader, said her parents have TPS – a legal status given temporarily to those from countries suffering from natural disasters. She said they are very anxious because they don’t know what will happen to them.
“I’ve lived in Everett all my life, and I am a seventh-grader at the Madeleine English School,” she said. “I joined the campaign with the Everett Safe and Welcoming Coalition because both my parents have TPS. Without them, my sister and I have no future here…I am usually very shy, but now I’m speaking on behalf of those afraid to speak in my community.”
Iliana Panameno of La Communidad said the impact on families in Everett will be tremendous if all TPS and DACA recipients are ordered to leave.
“In our little office on Broadway, we serve 400 TPS recipients and 200 DACA recipients from Everett,” she said. “Imagine the impact on these families when these programs terminate.”
Lucy Pineda of LUMA said there are many risks involved if parents and children are sent back to their native countries, particularly in El Salvador.
“Of the 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS, there are 275,000 U.S.-born children with them,” she said. “They will be sent to a place that is very risky. It is a place they don’t know…We cannot send our U.S.-born children to a dangerous country where they do not belong. We need to fight for immigration justice and equity.”
Pineda said the Coalition will begin informational forums for elected officials, residents and community members with TPS or DACA in January.
Council President Anthony DiPierro said that despite the confusion with Monday’s resolution vote, he said the Council has the backs of those in the Everett immigrant community.
“Everett has always been a proud city of hard-working immigrants,” he said. “Without these programs – Everett families will be torn apart and hundreds of our residents will be impacted. It will be detrimental to our national and local economy. Political games in Washington are one thing – but when it comes to people’s lives – the games must be stopped…I want you to know that you have our support and we have your back.”
The TPS program has seen quite a bit of action in the last week. There are 10 countries where TPS has been granted and is still in effect. Last week, the federal government rescinded that status for Nicaragua, Honduras and Haiti.
Other countries like El Salvador are still in flux and their status has not yet been decided.
DACA was ended earlier this year, with President Donald Trump sending the matter to Congress to solve within six months.