Boston says no to Trump’s emergency

February 28, 2019

Shireen Akram-Boshar reports from Boston on a protest against Trump’s border wall that was part of a national day of action — and why more protests will be needed.

MORE THAN 250 activists and community members gathered at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Federal Building on February 18 to protest Trump’s declaration of a state of emergency to fund his racist border wall.

Despite the snow and frigid temperatures, demonstrators chanted, sang and spoke in both Spanish and English to voice opposition to Trump’s wall and highlight the struggles of immigrants in Massachusetts.

The rally was called by Cosecha Massachusetts, which describes itself as a “nonviolent movement fighting for permanent protection, dignity and respect for all immigrants.”

The Boston protest was one of at least 300 that occurred on President’s Day across the country in opposition to Trump’s wall. The demonstrations rejected that there is a national emergency at the border and called for solidarity with migrants and refugees. Many organizers saw themselves countering the Democratic Party’s inaction and lack of real opposition of immigration, where party leaders embrace failed, punitive “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Protesting Trump's national emergency declaration in Boston
Protesting Trump's national emergency declaration in Boston (Cosecha Massachusetts | Facebook)

Within two days of Cosecha’s call for the Boston rally, more than 30 local organizations representing a range of community and labor organizations and left-wing groups had signed on as co-sponsors.

These included Boston Feminists for Liberation, Boston College Graduate Employees Union-UAW, If Not Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, Muslim Justice League, Boston Democratic Socialists of America, the Boston branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the Cape Verdean Association of Boston and the Brazilian Women’s Group.

Members of Cosecha began by rejecting Trump’s declaration of a state of emergency and demanding that attention be paid to the dire situation of migrants and refugees at the border and throughout the country. “The real emergency,” they said, is how migrants are being treated — by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in detention centers, and even in Massachusetts.

A young immigrant who had crossed the border, was detained by ICE and had just arrived in Massachusetts recently spoke, telling the crowd through an interpreter that he had friends in the migrant caravan who are still waiting at the border, and others whom he has not heard from and is worried about.

Other speakers connected Trump’s attempts to build a wall with over a century of U.S. imperialism in Latin America, calling for organized protest against the attempted U.S. coup in Venezuela.

The crowd raised chants against both ICE and the police: “La migra: Shut it down! The police: Shut it down! The whole damn system: Shut it down!” Another that spoke to the internationalist struggle went: “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go!”

A brass band and singing group, Vocal Opposition, which formed after Trump’s election and aims to sing at every protest that emerges against Trump in Boston, also raised the spirits of the crowd with songs like “We Shall Overcome” and the anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao.”

TRUMP’S DECLARATION of a national emergency at the Southern border comes after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

After federal workers pressured Trump to end the month-long shutdown, Republicans and Democrats came to an agreement, with Democrats once again capitulating and agreeing to give Trump $1.375 billion for 55 miles of “fencing” on the border, another $1.7 billion for border security, funding for over 40,000 beds in Trump’s overcrowded detention centers, and no mention of protection for the DREAMers — the section of undocumented youth given temporary legal protections under Barack Obama.

Despite all this, Trump made his declaration to secure an additional $8 billion to build his desired 1,000-mile border wall.

Although Democrats in the House voted against Trump’s state of emergency — forcing an upcoming vote in the Senate — Trump will be able to veto this resolution if it passes. In that case, a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate would be needed to override his veto — a vote that will likely depend on the amount of popular protest that emerges against it.

Trump’s emergency declaration is not his first, nor is it unprecedented for modern presidents to invoke a state of emergency in order to grab funding for pet political projects. Trump himself has already signed three state of emergency declarations, while George W. Bush signed 13, and Barack Obama signed 12.

Most of these are still active today, allowing for continued bans, sanctions and discrimination against immigrants from Muslim-majority and so-called socialist countries, among other policies.

Judy, a member of the Boston ISO, spoke about her family’s experience as immigrants fleeing the results of U.S. imperialism:

I am a proud first-generation Salvadoran-American. My parents emigrated from El Salvador in the 1980s during the civil war. Like thousands of others, they fled the violence of U.S.-backed death squads. They emigrated to the U.S. in search of safety and job opportunities.

Today, migrant families and individuals face similar situations. They are no different from my parents. We should be welcoming them as fellow human beings seeking a better life. Instead, the government is criminalizing and demonizing these brave migrants.

When we talk about immigration, we must acknowledge how U.S. interventions have brutalized the countries these migrants are fleeing: from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, to name only some....

This is not a new phenomenon. Before Trump, we called Obama the “Deporter in Chief.” There has never been a time in this country when immigrants were treated the way they should be. We are here to say the future will be different.

We must also be clear that racism is embedded into the capitalist system because capitalism needs a divided working class. They tell us we’re different, they tell us someone is better or worse, so they can pay all of us less.

We have a duty to raise our voices alongside those who are blatantly ignored and most easily exploited. To do so, we must lead the way, not the politicians. We do not accept “comprehensive immigration reform.” We demand pro-immigrant reform, pro-worker reform. We must reject any framework that trades relief for some undocumented people in exchange for increased repression on other current and future immigrants.

Trump’s efforts to fund a 1,000-mile wall and the Democrats’ latest capitulations on issues of border security and rights for DREAMers, are a continuation of decades of betrayals and broken promises on citizenship and permanent protection.

Instead, such polices focus on control over the labor force, tying “reforms” offering temporary work permits to border militarization, criminalization and punishment of immigrants.

The rally in Boston was an acknowledgement that we have a world to win, and that we must be the ones to fight for it.

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