by Connor Edwards
On the morning of Saturday, February 4th, an estimated 4,800 people gathered in front of Somerville High School for the “We Are One Somerville: Sanctuary City Rally” in support of the city’s sanctuary policy. Led by the hashtag #OneSomerville, the event was presented by The City of Somerville and The Welcome Project, a local activist group supporting the rights of immigrants.
Those in attendance included Mayor Joseph Curtatone as well as members of the Board of Aldermen, the Somerville Police and Fire Departments and Congressman Michael Capuano.
Curtatone has been repeatedly outspoken in protecting Somerville’s status as a sanctuary city. During a recent press conference, he reaffirmed this notion in response to President Trump’s executive order on immigration, which threatened to cut off federal funding to any city refusing to report undocumented immigrants for deportation. If the city kept its sanctuary status, it would remain unlawful for officials to inquire citizens regarding their documentation. The rally also celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the city achieving its sanctuary status in 1987. Supporters of immigration held signs protesting the executive order and controversial rhetoric from the current administration. Food and music were provided to showcase the diversity of the community. During his address, Curtatone reiterated his disdain for the order calling for a border wall and cuts to sanctuary cities.
Refugee students showed their gratitude for being given the opportunity to receive an education in such a welcoming environment. Said Perla Hernandez, a Mexican native who became a Somerville resident, “Mexico will always be in my heart, but Somerville will always be my home.” Joe DiSouza, who emigrated to the United States 20 years ago to open Modelo’s Bakery in Magoun Square, stated: “My son went to school in Somerville, now he’s an engineer!” DiSouza’s five children attended school in the city.
While the rally was happening, the story itself was developing as the people spoke. The city of Seattle granted a temporary hold on the immigration executive order, resulting in a further evaluation of its constitutionality. The pending order will likely be either confirmed or denied later this week by the 9th circuit federal court. Although the president has promised to deliver on his campaign promises, it is uncertain which program’s funding will be negatively affected as congress holds ruling over the budget.
Regardless, this uncertainty did not dampen the mood of the rally. Residents, families, teachers, students, and business owners alike came together in the cold, during a time of fear and doubt, as a reminder of what made the community truly great, chanting the words “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” The citizens stood their ground and told those in power that the city’s sanctuary status will not be taken from them.
Said Curtatone, “We will not turn our backs on our neighbors, we will not tear families apart solely because of their legal status. And we will not violate the Constitution of the United States of America and hold anyone without just cause.”
Many powerful words were spoken, but perhaps Hernandez summed up the event best, stating “Know that you are beautiful, you are unique, you are loved, you are valuable, and that we will do our best in keeping you safe. I want you to grow without fear. I want you to raise your voice in the face of injustice, to stand up to bullies, embrace and love diversity, to speak for the helpless, and continue to be tolerant, respectful, passionate, and inclusive. You are the future of this nation.”