Rally held at Northampton City Hall in support of undocumented immigrants

Those rallying sought to send a powerful message

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Rally held at Northampton City Hall in support of undocumented immigrants

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

By Will Mallas, Staff Writer

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NORTHAMPTON– Candle lights and signs filled the front steps of Northampton City Hall, as more than 200 people gathered together on Thursday night to form a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Dream Act, a congressional bill that proposed to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, otherwise known as the “Dreamers.”

DACA is a program President Obama signed through executive action in 2012, that was then reversed in September of 2017 by the Trump Administration. DACA allows for children who have been brought to the United States as undocumented immigrants to defer from deportation for two years in order to attend college or obtain a job.

The rally consisted of a variety of speakers, including students who have been DACA recipients or have been impacted by the U.S.’ immigration policy. Speakers also included local Jewish leaders. An assortment of songs and chants, both in English and in Hebrew, accompanied the various speeches. The rally was followed by a small gathering at the Pioneer Valley Workers Center building for discussion and singing.

Held by the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action and the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, the rally had a common theme of a bringing various communities together to push for immigration reform.

“[The rally] sends a very powerful message,” said Josue Sanchez, a freshman at Amherst College and DACA recipient who shared his story at the rally. “It shows people support Dreamers, shows people are impacted by government action.”

The rally also focused on the connection between the plight of the Jewish community and the struggles undocumented immigrants face in America.  

“Today we are here to be visible and heard that the Jewish community is standing with our country’s dreamers. Today we are crying out as a Jewish community and all people apart to not let our country become the hardened heart,” said Rabbi Riqi Kosovske, a speaker at the rally and the rabbi at Beit Ahavah, a Reform Synagogue in the Northampton area. “We are crying out, ‘Let our people stay.’”

In addition, Alice Levine, member of Beit Ahavah and a speaker at the rally, related standing in solidarity with undocumented immigrants to how the Danish people wore yellow stars of David in solidarity with the Jewish people  who were being persecuted during the Holocaust.

Levine said, “We need to stand up like the Danes. We need to stand up for all of the 11 million immigrants,” Levine said.

The issue of immigration has been a contentious issue in the previous weeks, as Democrats in Congress hope to pass immigration legislation amidst debate over the budget.

In the wake of the rescinding of DACA, University of Massachusetts chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy showed support for students who may have been affected by the change.

According to a written statement published from the UMass office of news and relations issued immediately following the rescinding of DACA, Chancellor Subbaswamy said, “We remain deeply committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming living-learning environment for all of our students.”

The rally was sponsored by Bend the Arc Jewish Action, a Jewish political advocacy group that pressures members of the government to push for progressive reforms.

Throughout the rally, the speakers emphasized the need to pressure politicians. When asked about the impact of such rallies, Sanchez expressed a similar sentiment.

Sanchez said, “A lot of people agree there needs to be a solution and [the rally] demonstrates that people do care, that the constituents of politicians care,” Sanchez said.

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected]