More than 400 people spilled out of the Bethel AME Church in New Bedford and onto the hot summer streets, to protest federal immigration policies. The gathering was one of many across the country.
Advocates and activists are decrying new policies that prosecute illegal border crossers, resulting in the separation of children from families. They also seek a resolution to the fight over DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era policy that protected young people brought into the country as children from deportation.
Inside the church sanctuary in the city people held signs and fans, as speakers shared personal immigration stories from the pulpit. Attendees also got tips for taking action, and listened to reflections from faith leaders.
One of the speakers, Fairhaven resident Pricilla Gamboa, came to this country from Mexico, and has received protections under DACA.
“I cannot vote and I’m not a citizen,” Gamboa said. “I think advocating for the community, having a voice for the immigrant community brings light to people who are not aware of the situation.”
Outside, Rebecca Eissenova an immigration attorney in Fall River, held a sign saying “immigrants improve communities”
“The fear among immigrants is really high right now, and the area we’re in right now is no exception,” Eissenova said. “So there’s a lot of fear, and we hope to decrease that fear by showing there’s a lot of people on their side too.”
She said she hoped her presence would send a message to the many new immigrants living in the area.
“Just showing solidarity everywhere,” Eissenova said. “We have a large immigrant population in southeastern Massachusetts. And showing that people here care about that community as well even if they’re not immigrants themselves and just being counted.”
Rallies were also scheduled for Providence and Cranston.