Youth lead Welcoming MA event in Somerville

Youth from the Welcome Project and Centro Presente together for Welcoming MAYoung immigrants from The Welcome Project and Centro Presente got together on January 27 with Somerville leaders including the police chief, our state senator, an alderman and a school committee member to talk about the problems they and their families face and ask for support of the Welcoming Massachusetts campaign.

You may have seen the front-page coverage they got in the Somerville Journal. No one could be unmoved by what they heard from these youth. Camara, a member of our youth program, told the story of her family. They came to Somerville four years ago, and her father got a job as a window cleaner to support his wife and six children. But four months later, he fell from a building and lost his life.

"Is the life of this father and the future of his wife and children less valuable only because of their immigrant status?" --Clivia Camara

The family was left without a father and with very little income. Such tragedies can happen to anyone, but it was worse for Clivia's family because the family was told that because of their immigrant status, they should not try to appeal the company's inadequate offer of compensation. If they appealed, they might lose everything.

Clivia asked the Somerville leaders a tough question:"Is the life of this father and the future of his wife and children less valuable only because of their immigrant status? Could it be that in a country of freedom and justice for all a piece of paper decides what you are worth or what you deserved?"

Tony Perez, a Centro Presente youth leader who, like Clivia, came here four years ago, told the group, "In Somerville and Boston, it felt like I was in the wrong place. Immigrants who look like me will always be criminals to some people."

Welcoming Massachusetts is a petition campaign affirming the principles of fundamental fairness and equality that are at the core of our American identify. The campaign is an opportunity to make more people aware of the problems faced by immigrants and to push for changes that can help. (Read more about it here or at The Welcoming Massachusetts site.).

In Somerville, several groups -- including The Welcome Project, Centro Presente, and The Somerville Community Corporation -- have been meeting with public officials and asking for local public endorsement of the Welcoming Massachusetts pledge.We are very happy that the youth programs from The Welcome Project and Centro Presente have partnered to help raise the profile of the campaign in Somerville.