Advocates Stand United in Opposition to Proposal to Evict State’s Most Vulnerable Immigrants from Public Housing
BOSTON — Today, over 50 advocates for immigrants, affordable housing, workers’ rights and survivors of domestic violence gathered at the State House to express unified opposition to Senate Amendment 28, “Public Housing Assistance Priority for Legal Residence,” to the Housing Bond Bill. On Tuesday, July 30, the Senate is scheduled to consider the amendment, which would exclude many classes of immigrants from state public housing. Among those who would be harmed are vulnerable undocumented and mixed status immigrant families and many categories of documented immigrants, including those with Temporary Protected Status, such as survivors of the devastating Haitian Earthquake and Salvadoran civil war; victims of serious crime holding U Visas, such as domestic-violence survivors; survivors of persecution applying for asylum; and many others.
Following the rally, attendees visited their Senators’ offices. Many having traveled long distances, they hoped to share with lawmakers how their lives would be directly impacted by the loss of stable housing.
Shannon Erwin, State Policy Director for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition welcomed over 50 individuals from the community as well as a diverse field of organizations who had planned the event including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts; the Anti-Defamation League; the Association of Haitian Women in Boston (Asosiyasyon Fanm Ayisyen nan Boston); Boston New Sanctuary Movement; Cleghorn Neighborhood Center; Haitian Church of God; Irish internationalImmigration Center; Interfaith Workers Justice; Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless; Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations; Jane Doe, Inc.; Jewish Community Relations Council; Jobs with Justice; REACH Beyond Domestic Violence; and Service Employees International Union 1199. Erwin highlighted the groups’ message, “We stand united in support of all our neighbors’ rights to safe and stable housing, and we ask the Senate to reject this dangerous amendment which would evict and re-traumatize some of our state’s most vulnerable. We urge constituents to call their Senators and ask them to oppose this harmful amendment”
Victims of domestic violence and their advocates expressed alarm at the prospect that victims and children who have been the target of unconscionable violence could be re-victimized if the legislature passes Amendment 28. Gladys Ortiz, an advocate with REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, said, “Yesterday, I had a two-year-old child in my office with scars from a belt on her back. We fear that many women and children will be forced to choose between returning to their abusers for housing or becoming homeless, which places them at risk of losing their children to state custody if they can’t provide for them while without shelter. Amendment 28 would be another powerful weapon an abuser can use to maintain control of victims.”
Dora Rivera, herself a survivor of domestic violence, shared Ortiz’s fears. “ I don’t want to see the faces of my children when I have to tell them we have to move again after having waiting seven years for housing. I want to make a good life for my children, but I don’t have money to pay for regular rent. I am terrified that my children will be taken away from me.”
Herbert Jean Baptiste, Vice President of SEIU 1199 expressed concerns about the impact the proposal would have on workers in his Union, “We have over 45,000 members; 4,000 of them are Haitians. Together we will do everthing we can to stop this amendment. Too many people are unable to afford market-rate housing and will be out on the street. This amendment seeks to divide the community. It’s not about Haitians, Latinos or any other single demographic. We are all in this together: All immigrants. There is no heart in this amendment.”