Six announced Boston mayoral candidates mostly struck a deal as they discussed a range of immigration issues at a virtual forum hosted by the Brazilian Workers’ Center and SEIU Local 32BJ last Thursday.
It was the second of six forums planned by a coalition of progressive nonprofit groups that included the participation of Mayor Kim Janey, City Councilors Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi George and Andrea Campbell, State Representative Jon Santiago and John Barros, former head of economic development for the city of Boston.
The candidates offered almost identical positions on many issues, including the issue of the issuance of driving licenses for undocumented migrants, which drew a chorus of yeses. During a quick section of the discussion – in which candidates were asked to answer with a yes or no – there was solidarity in favor of immigrant rights.
All candidates answered “yes” when asked the following questions:
• Do you accept municipal ID cards for Boston residents regardless of their immigration status?
• As mayor, would you use the power of your office to advocate for the passage of state legislation ending the use of our criminal justice system for federal law enforcement? immigration matters – that is, the Safe Communities Act?
• Do you support increased funding and resettlement opportunities for refugees in the Boston area?
• Do you support the allocation of resources to ensure that more people in Boston have legal representation in their immigration cases?
• Do you support expanding state hate crime laws to include gender and immigration status as protected classes?
The forum also focused on Covid-19 stimulus plans for immigrant communities. Each candidate presented a plan focused primarily on securing federal funds in vulnerable business districts.
“I would also create a worker empowerment leader… to streamline and report on all the ways we should support workers and grow our industries right now,” Wu said.
“We continue to be devastated not only by Covid, but also by job losses,” Campbell said. “So number one is just to make sure that there is immediate help to residents of low-wage workers, frankly, who are losing their jobs, and of course, to small businesses that need immediate help. . “
Essaibi George added: “There is no larger population that has been so affected [by the pandemic] as our immigrant community here in the city of Boston.
For her part, Janey said: “Just because Trump is absent doesn’t mean that everything is fine. We must continue to make sure that we do everything to protect our immigrant brothers and sisters and that is what I will continue to do as mayor.
Another question posed to applicants was about the Working Family Mobility Act, which would allow all Massachusetts residents to qualify for a standard driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status. All the candidates said they support the bill and will push for its passage as mayor.
“This driver’s license bill is about economic fairness… because it’s not just about getting a license for someone, driving to improve safety,” Santiago said. “These are economic opportunities.”
Essaibi George said that “by providing driver’s licenses we are giving our immigrant communities not only the ability to support their own families, but also the peace of mind and security that they can and should continue to contribute to our city, to our economy, and certainly to provide for the needs of their families.
The language barriers that persist in Boston were highlighted as a major issue by both moderators and candidates.
“It is extremely important that we make sure that we are culturally competent and accessible to the plethora of languages that exist in the city of Boston,” Santiago said. “I know the importance of this because it’s my job, not just at the State House as a representative, but also in the emergency room.”
Janey said: “We shouldn’t translate documents after the fact and treat people who speak languages other than English as an afterthought. We need to make sure that we are delivering real-time information in the language people understand.
The next forum will be hosted by the Greater Boston Labor Council on May 20 from 6 to 7:30 pm The topic will be “Jobs and Workers”. Subsequent forums include Education (May 27); Climate justice (June 3) and Housing and land (June 10). An earlier NAACP-sponsored event in May focused on racial justice.
For more information on how to participate or to view previously registered forums, visit bostonmayoralforums.org.