Immigration

Student ‘super excited’ to intern for Warren

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Dulce Gonzalez, a rising junior at Lesley University, will be interning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Washington D.C.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Dulce Gonzalez, a 20-year-old Lynn resident, and her family came to the United States from Guatemala 15 years ago, fleeing violence and seeking the American Dream.

This summer, Gonzalez will be interning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). A graduate of KIPP Academy, she was only one of eight alumni selected this year for the KIPPtern National Fellowship Program, and the only person chosen from Massachusetts.

Steve Mancini, director of public affairs for KIPP nationally, said KIPP supported eight alumni to find internships in congressional offices, including Gonzalez.

Through the program, interns have their costs covered in Washington D.C. for the summer. Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Schools in Massachusetts, said the program pays for room and board, and provides a generous stipend for the interns. He said the program is highly competitive, with 10,000 KIPP alumni across the country.

Gonzalez, a junior at Lesley University, said she applied for the program in early November, and found out she was accepted the following month, but didn’t learn that she had been accepted into Warren’s office for the summer until the end of March.

“I was super excited,” she said.

As a political science and global studies major, she said the internship is very aligned into her career path. She said she’ll be focused on Capitol Hill tours and working with constituents and their issues they bring to the table. She said she’ll be specifically focused on immigration and educational issues, which will include research.

Celebration time for North Shore students

Gonzalez said she is excited to get to know the team in Warren’s office, as “they’re doing incredible work across the country.”

Her past internships have included stints for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. She said she plans to go to law school after graduating and plans to study human rights law.

Gonzalez said she is passionate about human rights, and her goal is to work for the International Criminal Court in Switzerland. She has volunteered for the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, which has an office in Lynn, since her senior year of high school, and works as a project coordinator. Her father, Juan Gonzalez, is a representative for the organization, and also volunteers.

Gonzalez said her family came to the United States fleeing violence from the civil war in Guatemala, which included gang members and extortion. She said her family also came seeking the American Dream, which means different things to lots of people. For them, she said it means progressing. She said being “part of this amazing opportunity,” through the internship aligns with that.

Juan Gonzalez said he was proud of his daughter. When he left Guatemala 15 years ago, he said many of the immigrants were looking for the American Dream, so he thinks Dulce’s success is kind of that dream not just for him, but for her and the entire family.

“Dulce is an accomplished young woman already, as only still a junior at Lesley,” said Mancini. “Dulce is the child of Guatemalan immigrants who fled the civil war to come to America. She was an honors student at KIPP Lynn Collegiate, who (was) working through high school in her family restaurant … Dulce is a real go-getter.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

 

RAW project lets students head HOME

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The Lynnway was the site of the second night in which snapshots and video footage from Cambodia, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala were displayed.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The work of student filmmakers from RAW Art Work’s Real to Reel Film School was on full display on the Lynnway Tuesday night.

In a project called HOME, Cyntheara Tham, Tony Peguero, Nadia Healey, Marylys Merida, Rajaiah Jones, and Daymian Meija traveled to countries of their respective families’ origin last year, said Chris Gaines, artistic director of Real to Reel. They each created a personal film about their experiences framed in the concept of home.

One student visited Cambodia for the first time. Her parents, both 100 percent Cambodian, fled the country during the Cambodian Civil War, said Gaines. Not only did they leave behind the life they knew, but they lost contact with many relatives.

“She had family there that she had never met,” he said. “We took her there to meet her family and connect with her roots.”

Another student visited Guatemala, while the rest traveled to the Dominican Republic.

Snapshots and video footage from the three countries and from Lynn were displayed for four hours Monday and Tuesday.

Gonzalez says Gov. Baker OK with status quo

“If you’re Dominican and you’re driving down the street and you see shots of streets and storefronts in your hometown, it’s kind of sweet,” said Gaines. “It’s a way to say thanks to all the people who have chosen to make Lynn home and to the people who call Lynn home. But it’s also like a portal — what if you could stand in your street and look to the other side of the world.”

On Monday night, images were projected onto the face of the Lynn City Hall building. Tonight they will be projected onto the flatiron building at 23 Central St.

The project also plays on the idea that home isn’t always just one location.

“RAW is an art therapy organization,” Gaines said. “We have to recognize that home doesn’t always have a positive connotation. We decided we wanted to take a year and talk about home. The question of ‘where is home’ is such a deep, important question, especially right now with this political climate. Lynn has a huge population of immigrants.”

The screening will move to RAW’s gallery on Thursday, where it will be included as part of the opening reception for HOME, the organization’s newest exhibit of more than 200 art pieces created by youths of all ages. The exhibit is largely supported by a grant from Adobe. RAW was one of seven organizations in the world to receive  the Creative Catalyst designation.

The exhibit will open at 6 p.m. and viewing is free to the public. Gaines also encourages each passerby to honk, wave, stop to appreciate the work, and show their love for the city of Lynn.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Lynn police warn of latest phone scam

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a warning about a telephone scam in which calls appear to come from the Canadian government’s Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada call center.

The Lynn Police Department advised residents on their Facebook page Tuesday to hang up on such calls. These scammers have their caller IDs set to appear as though they are calling from the agency, police said.

Callers are told that they are under federal investigation. There have also been reports of callers telling victims there is a legal case or allegations pending against them.

For Colucci challenger, youth are priority

In order to verify if a call comes from USCIS, call them at (800) 375-5283 to inquire about your case or immigration status.

USCIS said they will never threaten or ask you for payment over the phone or in email.

Anyone who receive a scam email or phone call can report it to the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 382-4357.

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee adopted a policy to protect students from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It would be bad if we turned our backs on these kids,” said Oscar Ross, who has a daughter in Lynn Public Schools who dreams of being both a police officer and a cook. “If we don’t give them the chance to be what they want to be.”

Mary Sweeney, a retired teacher, said that during her career, students had to worry about getting their homework done.

“I never faced situations of kids being deeply afraid,” said Sweeney. “I think with the issues of immigration and ICE — it’s a reality.”

The panel voted unanimously to adopt a policy that affirms the schools are safe and welcoming sanctuaries for all students, regardless of their immigration status. The document said the resolutions are intended to ensure that all Lynn Public Schools students have the same right to a free, public education and will be treated equally.

“The mission of Lynn Public Schools is to maintain a multicultural school community dedicated to the realization of the full intellectual, physical, social and emotional potential of its students,” reads the resolution. “The city is enriched and strengthened by its diverse cultural heritage, multinational population, and welcoming attitude toward newcomers.”

Committee member John Ford pointed out that while he agreed with where the resolutions were coming from, he believed they were only reaffirming what the district already does. Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham agreed.

“I believe we have welcoming schools and that our teachers are wonderful and welcoming,” said Latham. “We have not had a case where ICE has come into our schools.”

She added that she believes ICE is restricted from taking immigrants into custody at schools and churches.

“Rather than us saying we already do that, we’ll be able to say that we have a policy for that,” said committee member Donna Coppola. “I think it would be a huge reassurance to our students. Let’s be upfront and be what we are — a proud community — and show others that we care.”

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

Latham and committee members expressed concerns about a resolution included in the original draft that prohibited federal immigration law enforcement officers, or personnel assisting them, from entering a school building.

“I worry about training teachers not to allow law enforcement to come into the building,” she said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy added that she was “very uncomfortable” with the section of the resolution because it should be recognized that federal law supersedes local law.

“It seems to me that it’s not a valid exercise of a city’s rights in the presence of federal government,” she said.

The panel amended the resolution to state that law enforcement can enter the building, but must remain in the main office until his or her credentials are verified and the superintendent is notified. The vote will be subject to final approval of the language.

Under the policy, the district will not inquire about, record, or request information intended to reveal the immigration status of a student or their family members. They will not disclose private information without parental consent, and staff will refuse to share all voluntary information with immigration agencies to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

All requests for information from a student’s education record will be immediately forwarded to the School Department’s attorney. The motion also noted that the district does not ask for immigration status when families register children for school.

A letter will be sent to parents and staff summarizing the resolutions in simple language. A list of all available resources, including community-based organizations and legal service organizations, will be provided to each student and made available at each school. It will be translated when necessary. Teachers will be trained on the policy before the start of the school year, when they become familiarized with all other policies.

In the next 90 days, Latham will be expected to develop a plan for training teachers, administrators and other staff on the new policy and best practices for ensuring the wellbeing of students, who may be affected by immigration enforcement actions. The plan will be implemented within five months.Legis

A copy of the resolution will be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General and to Lynn’s federal, state, and local legislative representatives.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

 

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Days after a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump’s effort to withhold funding from sanctuary cities, nearly two dozen groups are organizing a May Day rally.

The “May Day March for Immigrant and Worker Rights” is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall. Before the march, organizers plan a teach-in at 1 p.m. at 112 Exchange St.

Activists are inviting people from all backgrounds to celebrate Lynn’s history as a home for immigrants and as a leader in the fight for dignity, respect, and a living wage for workers. “People from other parts of the state are bringing their own histories of resistance,” said the invitation. “Let’s all come together to carry the struggle forward.”

Dozens of members of the coalition, which includes labor, community and faith organizations from the North Shore, are expected on the downtown march.

The annual event, which will take place in cities nationwide, comes on the heels of a federal judge’s ruling in San Francisco that rejected the administration’s argument that the executive order applies only to a small amount of money. The judge ruled Trump cannot set new conditions on spending approved by Congress.

Child-abuse scars not always visible

The president has targeted sanctuary cities, ones that refuse to cooperate with U.S. immigration officials. But the judge rejected the order.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves,” said U.S. District Judge William Orrick.

The injunction will stay in place while the lawsuits work their way through courts, which could include the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reince Priebus, the president’s chief of staff described the ruling as another example of the “9th Circuit going bananas.”

“The idea that an agency can’t put in some reasonable restriction on how some of these monies are spent is something that will be overturned eventually, and we will win at the Supreme Court level at some point,” Priebus told Associated Press.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.comMaterial from Associated Press was used in this report.

 

Peabody man suspected in trafficking operation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. A Peabody man is one of 15 people suspected in a major heroin and cocaine trafficking operation that stretched across three New England states.

Vladimir Arias, 31, is facing charges of conspiracy to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin and unlawful use of communication facilities in committing or facilitating the commission of felony controlled substance offenses.

The arrests of Arias and the members of the Valdez Drug Trafficking Organization were based on information developed by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force in an operation dubbed “Operation Triple Play,” a reference to the three Valdez brothers.

The Valdez Drug Trafficking Organization is supposedly run by three brothers, Hector Valdez, 47 and Claudio Valdez, 44, Dominican nationals living in Woonsocket, R.I., and Juan Valdez, 50, a Dominican national living in Milton.

The three brothers, who allegedly re-entered the country after previous convictions of felony drug crimes and deportation, arranged for several shipments of multi-kilograms of heroin and cocaine to be brought from Mexico to stash houses in Cranston and Woonsocket, R.I., according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The drugs were then distributed to mid-level drug dealers and street dealers in the greater Providence and greater Boston areas and in Hartford, Conn., authorities say.

Budget cuts make waves for beach lovers

Immigration detainers have been lodged against nine of the defendants charged in the matter, identified as Dominican nationals, most living in the United States with what are alleged to be stolen identities.

During the course of the investigation that began in September 2016 and as a result of search warrants executed this week — authorities seized nearly 4 kilograms of heroin, 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl, 2 kilograms of cocaine, 155 grams of crack cocaine, more than 100 pounds of cutting agents, approximately 12 kilograms of powdery substances that have been sent for laboratory analysis, approximately $95,000 in cash and nine vehicles.

Upcoming film festival walks two worlds

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
High school students Yakelin Lopez, Farzana Alfrose, and Kushma Monger watch videos about their lives for the first time.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — The Living in Two Worlds Film and Photo Exhibition on Wednesday, April 12 will allow viewers a peek into the lives of students from around the world.

Peer mediation coordinator Ginny Keenan said the program, which meets once per week, is in its fifth year thanks to funding from the Cummings Foundation/One World Boston and the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.

Keenan said the films evolve over the course of the year through meetings with individual students, many of whom are recent immigrants. They’re interviewed about their personal stories, which are eventually edited into finished pieces.

“They’re very heartfelt,” said Keenan. “It’s become a real passion to work with these kids … The students stay very connected to it.”

A father-son reunion at Brickett Elementary

In addition to the 11 short films, six students will tell their stories through photography with narrative and captions.

This year the program has students from Iraq, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Guatemala. Keenan said they purposefully cultivate a diverse group, and that she has been personally struck by many of their stories.

“Sometimes you don’t know who’s sitting in your class,” said Keenan. “It’s really just a great experience for everybody.”  

The festival will be held in the Lynn English High School auditorium from 6-8 p.m.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

McGee leading transit talk tour

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
State Sen. Thomas McGee speaks with The Item.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It might be one of the few times when you talk and politicians listen.

Two dozen state senators are expected to attend the latest Commonwealth Conversations next Tuesday at the J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody at 6:30 p.m.  

But don’t expect speeches, these Town Hall-style forums put the microphone in your hands.

“We don’t talk, we listen,” said state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “You get two minutes to make a comment, ask a question or both.”

The Massachusetts Senate launched the statewide listening tour in 2015 designed to connect legislators with constituents to hear their ideas, concerns and suggestions.

“On that tour, we got input from the public that helped us develop our legislative priorities for the session,” McGee said.

Two years ago, legislators heard from the public about the cost of higher education, mounting student debt, college affordability and income inequality.

“As a result of those listening tours in eight Massachusetts regions, we passed legislation to create the college savings plan and expanded the earned income tax credit,” said Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport).

Time for adult conversations

So far, the common denominator at forums in Greater Boston, the South Coast, South Shore, MetroWest and Western Massachusetts have brought out voters who are fired up about immigration issues, global warming and renewable energy.

“We’ve been surprised at how energized people are about what’s happening in Washington,” said Rodrigues. “We expected that in the more progressive parts of the state, like MetroWest, Northampton and Amherst, but we heard the same in Ashland.”

The sessions have had anti-President Donald Trump undertones, the senators said.

“There hasn’t been much speaking directly at the president, but clearly they oppose his policies on immigration and climate change,” said McGee. “That has been universal.”

A separate transportation forum will be on the same day from noon to 2 at the Lynn Museum. Sponsored by the Barr Foundation, the Boston-based nonprofit with assets of $1.6 billion, will explore ways to improve and increase investment in transportation.

“We need to transform our state so that it has a fair and equitable transportation system that benefits everyone,” McGee said.

The senators acknowledge the biggest challenge on transit and infrastructure improvements is raising the money.

“It all boils down to dollars,” Rodrigues said. “It’s difficult to have an adult conversation around taxes because there’s an innate mistrust of government that we don’t spend tax dollars wisely. Everyone thinks about tax policy on their own wallet … it’s challenging.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

NSCC president lays out 2017 goals, plans

LYNN — There’s a lot going on at North Shore Community College (NSCC) over the coming months, including a new bookstore.

Patricia Gentile, the school’s president, said there are plans to move into the new development on the Lynn Campus over the month of June.

The temporary entrance on the side of the main campus building will remain, and the current bookstore will be moved from the interior of the building into an area that is now occupied by offices, said Gentile.

The new bookstore will be open to the public for retail and carry more than just textbooks. The college has submitted a request for proposal for potential bookstore vendors.

Gentile said that by 2018 they’re hoping to have the bookstore settled so the college can move on to other renovations within the building. The school is seeking funding for a Lynn-based veterans center and is in the midst of building a health center. The work, funded by the Workforce Skills Capital Grant Program, is being done over the summer and should be completed by fall.  

Peabody union has dim view of raise

A number of events are coming to the campus, such as the Forum on Tolerance at 6 p.m. on April 20 and a town hall meeting with Congressman Seth Moulton this Saturday. Law Day on April 27 at 7:30 p.m. constitutes a presentation about the 14th Amendment regarding immigration rights.

“We’re trying to get the public involved as well as students,” said Gentile.

She said another new initiative at the college is a pilot of the North Shore Promise Award, which reduces the direct cost to attend NSCC to zero for the first 100 full-time students who are eligible for financial aid but lack enough grant funds to cover tuition and fees.  

“We know affordability is becoming a major hardship for folks,” said Gentile. “Coming to a community college makes a lot of sense but even that can be individually unaffordable.”

Gentile said the award is a response to the fact that financial factors have dissuaded many students who apply to the school from attending.

 

Committee ponders meaning of ‘sanctuary’

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — The School Committee continued a discussion regarding the concerns of immigrant students on Thursday.

Member Maria Carrasco initiated the conversation at the previous committee meeting, saying she has been approached by a number of students who are worried about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) entering the schools.

In response, attorney and committee member Jared Nicholson drafted a resolution meant to clarify the law and reassure students.

Nicholson read aloud from the resolution, which stated the Lynn Public Schools’ commitment to providing a safe learning environment.

The resolution reiterated that city schools do not request immigration status information from students.

School attorney John C. Mihos said the resolution doesn’t constitute a policy change, just a restatement of the laws as they already exist.

Carrasco and committee member Donna Coppola both spoke in support of the concept of becoming a “sanctuary school district,” a distinction that Mihos said would only alter the title of the resolution and not its purpose.

“The word ‘sanctuary’ means protection for somebody who feels chased,” said Carrasco, who argued that the word alone does have some impact.

Saugus Rotary up to speed

Member Patricia Capano said there have been no incidents regarding students and immigration enforcement in city schools. She said the resolution is an attempt on the committee’s part to be proactive.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she spoke with Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett regarding the subject and was told there have been no deportations in the county.

Carrasco disputed that claim, but said she could not ethically provide the identities of the individuals impacted.

A vote to adopt the resolution was tabled in order to bring the topic to a full committee for further discussion.

Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

The Irish know about ‘receiving end of bigotry’

By EDWARD T. CALNAN

Edward T. Calnan

When I consider the notion of bigotry I am reminded of what my parents, who were immigrants from Ireland, experienced and what we, their children, experienced as first-generation Americans. As Irish citizens my parents grew up in a country as subjects of a colonial power that, over an 800-year period, subjected them and their ancestors to cruel injustices and brutal oppression in a program of ethnic cleansing that was as bad as the world had seen to that point. Through a series of punitive laws priests were killed for saying Mass; small farmers were evicted from their fertile holdings, which were then given to others; education was forbidden; and the Gaelic language was outlawed.

In the mid-1500s Oliver Cromwell appeared on the scene and he and his army swept across Ireland indiscriminately killing men, women and children. He captured more than 50,000 Irish, mostly women and children, herded them aboard sailing ships and transported them to the West Indies. There they were sold to plantation owners in Barbados and other islands for slave labor in the sugarcane fields. The Irish were among the first slaves in the Western Hemisphere.

In the early part of the 20th century the Irish once again tried to throw off the yoke of oppression. And this time, through a series of events, they were successful. The first event was a long labor strike by the Transport and General Workers Union in Dublin in 1913. Next came the armed Easter Uprising in Dublin 1916. Finally, in 1919, Ireland’s War of Independence was launched. My father fought in this war when he was in his late teens. In mid-1921 a truce was called by England and, for the first time in 800 years, Ireland became self-ruling and on the way to establishing a republic.

Great numbers of the Irish arrived in this country in the mid-1800s to escape poverty and widespread hunger in Ireland. They were opposed by anti-Irish nativist gangs that formed a secretive entity called The American Party, also known as the “Know Nothings” and their bigoted rhetoric led to violent attacks on the newcomers. This was the period when “No Irish Need Apply” signs were hung in windows of businesses. Caricatures of the Irish as ape-like barbarians prone to lawlessness, laziness and drunkenness abounded. So after all this, I would say the Irish know a thing or two about how it feels to be on the receiving end of bigotry.

My parents met in the mid-1920s upon their arrival in this country. They settled in the Brickyard section of Lynn. Before long the family grew to include eight children. The Brickyard could be described in those days as a multi-cultural, multi-racial place. There were many nationalities living there. Besides Irish there were Italians, Greeks, French, Polish, Lithuanians, West Indians, Armenians, Scots and Chinese, among others. Whites were prominent but Blacks and Asians were part of the mosaic as well. The one thing we had in common was a recognition that most of us were poor.

‘We all have the bigotry demon inside of us’

Stereotypical terms such as harps, thick micks, paddies, greenhorns, lace curtain Irish, kitchen canaries and other names were prevalent in describing the Irish in the neighborhood. The police wagon was called the Paddy Wagon and the term is still used by some people and is as objectionable to Irish people now as it was many years ago. To be sure, the stereotypes existed for each of the nationalities in the neighborhood and the Irish were as guilty as any others in exploiting the differences of the groups. I’m just glad that through education and time spent in getting to know others as individuals, we’ve collectively determined that we have more in common with each other than we have differences.

For many Irish people St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day. It’s also a day that is celebrated by people the world over whether they’re Irish or not. Besides honoring our patron saint, it is a way to celebrate the waning of winter and the promise of a warmer spring. It’s a very social day, people aren’t expecting presents and they can just have a good time. Greeting-card companies, however, hold on to some of the themes of those bygone days and cartoon-like images that display the Irish in many of the old and hurtful ways can be found in any store selling St. Patrick’s Day cards.

Some years ago the national office of the Ancient Order of Hibernians urged their local divisions to be vigilant and to protest directly to local merchants. One of my local heroes in this regard was Joe Kidney, division 10 president who took it upon himself each year around St. Patrick’s Day to visit local merchants and talk to them about it. Joe delivered his message in a polite but firm way as he described how the most egregious cards offended Irish people. Most of these business people were fair and bought into Joe’s argument, removing the cards in question. Joe did his part along with others across the country to blunt the effects of bigotry in a small, but meaningful way.

Many lessons can be learned from the Irish immigration experience as well as the experience of other nationalities that encountered bigotry during their journeys to assimilate and to become an integral part of American society. Everyone here now is an immigrant in the historical sense. We need to be more sensitive to that reality. The present-day newcomers to our country should be given the chance we had without being disparaged because of their accents, beliefs and customs. We need to get to know people better to dispel feelings of suspicion and create a welcoming atmosphere. We will all be stronger for it.


Edward T. Calnan is a former city councilor and director of community development in Lynn.

Off and running in Lynn

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
State Sen. Thomas McGee, with his wife Maria, signs his nomination papers as election coordinator Mary Jules watches.

State Sen. Thomas M. McGee’s decision to take out nomination papers Monday and declare his candidacy for mayor kicks off the 2017 municipal election season in Lynn.

It would be easy to call the matchup between Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and McGee a Lynn mayors race for the ages. But doing so might prompt Kennedy to point out how she essentially ran a write-in campaign in 2009 to defeat two-term mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr.

She beat Clancy only after a recount, but Kennedy received electoral vindication in 2013 by soundly trouncing former City Council President Timothy Phelan, a popular councilor who made the Council Chamber a stage for his agenda during the 2013 campaign season.

The late Patrick J. McManus also did his share to make Lynn political history. In his first run for mayor, McManus took on not only Mayor Albert V. DiVirgilio, but another popular local political figure, John L. O’Brien Jr.  McManus won the election and the only political hiccup he faced during his 10 years as mayor came when he finished second in the 1993 preliminary election behind former Councilor Joseph Scanlon III. McManus went on to beat Scanlon in the final.

McGee hasn’t run a tough, knock-down campaign since 2002 when he won election to succeed Clancy in the Senate. But the 61-year-old Pine Hill resident combines a quiet deliberative manner with an outspoken passion for the the city of Lynn. McGee will surround himself in the coming weeks with smart, experienced campaigners.

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

Like Kennedy, he supported the failed proposal to build two new local middle schools. But McGee and Kennedy kept fairly quiet in the weeks leading up to the March 21 special election that saw the school proposal and a proposed property tax debt exclusion get squashed by the voters.

Both candidates will examine the school vote with a practiced eye and calculate its political ramifications. The strong “no” vote sent a message about city finances and voter anger over a city demand for additional taxes to build new schools.

It also prompted a negative reaction to the city’s newest arrivals. More than one “no” voter took to social media to oppose building new schools and provide educational opportunities for immigrants. Kennedy and McGee are both above this sort of rhetoric, but that does not mean they will not be asked to address it during the mayoral campaign.

McGee in his first comments as candidate for mayor took the smart approach in analyzing the school vote. Now is the time, he said, for the city to “step back and take a deep breath” and then begin a dialogue over “what new schools mean to the community.”

Kennedy, meanwhile, is wrestling with the realities of what it means to be mayor by asking city department heads to make across-the-board cuts.

City finances, schools and a host of other issues, including development, will be on the agenda when McGee and Kennedy face off in campaign debates. Long before the first debate is scheduled, people who like both candidates and have relationships with them will have to pick someone to support or declare themselves neutral. Let the campaign begin.

On ‘A Day Without a Woman,’ where will you be?

Wednesday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. according to the website for the Women’s March on Washington. And now, the organization is also declaring it “A Day Without a Woman.”

It’s a day when “women and our allies will act together for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity,” the website says.

Anyone can join in making the day “A Day Without a Woman” in one or all of the following ways, according to the website: women take the day off from paid or unpaid labor (click here for a sample letter to employers and here for an out-of-office email response); avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses); or wearing red in solidarity.

“When millions of us stood together in January (at the women’s marches), we saw clearly that our army of love greatly outnumbers that of fear, greed and hatred,” the website says.

“Let’s raise our voices together again, to say that women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability.”

Lynn marchers see hope, but feel doubt

 

Warren: Trump is trying to bully mayors

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tours the Lynn Community Health Center.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — As President Donald Trump signed a new version of his controversial travel ban Monday while Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in town, the CEO of the Lynn Community Health Center said she fears for her staff’s family and patients who have uncertain immigration status.

“I’ve never been so upset about anything in my life,” said Lori Abrams Berry. “There’s a level of tension that everyone in this health center and in Lynn is feeling about this.”

Berry made her remarks during a roundtable conversation with Warren, local officials and clinic executives. The liberal Democratic senator toured the facility to learn how doctors are integrating services among specialties as well as with other health care providers.

Warren used portions of her 90 minutes in Lynn to unleash on Trump’s promise to withhold funds to so-called sanctuary cities, communities including Boston and Somerville, whose police forces refuse to assist federal immigration agents or inquire about immigration status.

“The Trump administration is trying to bully local mayors into changing policing so they’ll double down, so it’s no longer just the federal agents doing this,” she said. “That’s clearly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot condition grants in one area on compliance in other areas … I met with mayors last week who are prepared to go to court the minute federal dollars are withheld to sanctuary cities.”

Berry’s comments came after the television news crews exited the room.

“One of our board members’ brother-in-law got picked up and is in detention because he was stopped for a minor traffic violation and didn’t have a license,” she said. “All the agencies in Lynn are very concerned about this. We need a rapid response network so we can start to help families. We are starting to feel like we need to give people information on their rights.”

Hundreds of jobs coming to Medford

Trump’s latest executive order on immigration and refugees still restricts new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries and shuts down the nation’s refugee program.

The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries but still affects visitors from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

Last month, in a speech to police chiefs, Trump asked for their help in identifying and deporting illegal immigrants.

“I want you to turn in the bad ones,” Trump said. “We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We’re going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice, and we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.”

In a question and answer session with reporters following the tour, Warren said she recently met with Seema Verma, Trump’s pick to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. Trump has said he favors restructuring funding for the Medicaid program, which provides health coverage to the poor and disabled, through block grants.

“I made it clear that I will try to work with her if she is confirmed and do everything possible to keep our community health centers in Massachusetts fully supported, and that means not doing block grants,” she said. “If people need healthcare, we need to find the most effective and economical ways to do it, but make sure we are able to deliver healthcare. We don’t say: ‘You’ve met some arbitrary cap with the state of Massachusetts, and now you’re done.’”

On Trump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his New York home, Warren dismissed the allegation.

“It’s becoming clearer every day that President Trump is failing and he knows it,” she said. “That’s what these wild accusations are about.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com. Material from Associated Press was used in this report.

Trump: ‘The time for small thinking is over’

PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Donald Trump arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington.

By JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Heralding a “new chapter of American greatness,” President Donald Trump stood before Congress for the first time Tuesday night and issued a broad call for overhauling the nation’s health care system, significantly boosting military spending and plunging $1 trillion into upgrading crumbling infrastructure.

Striking an optimistic tone, Trump declared: “The time for small thinking is over.”

Trump’s address came at a pivotal moment for a new president elected on pledges to swiftly shake up Washington and follow through on the failed promises of career politicians. His opening weeks in office have been consumed by distractions and self-inflicted wounds, including the bungled rollout of a sweeping immigration and refugee executive order that was blocked by the courts.

Trump, who typically relishes flouting political convention, embraced the pomp and tradition of a presidential address to Congress. He stuck largely to his script, made occasional overtures to Democrats and skipped the personal insults he so often hurls at his opponents.

The president was greeted by enthusiastic applause as he entered the House chamber, though it was filled with Democrats who vigorously oppose his policies and many Republicans who never expected him to be elected. Most Republican lawmakers have rallied around him since the election, hopeful that he will act on the domestic priorities they saw blocked during President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.

Topping that list is undoing Obama’s signature healthcare law and replacing the sweeping measure. Trump offered a basic blueprint of his priorities, including ensuring that those with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and offering tax credits and expanded health savings accounts to help Americans purchase coverage. He suggested he would get rid of the current law’s requirement that all Americans carry insurance coverage, saying that “mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America.”

Making a direct appeal for bipartisanship, Trump turned to Democrats and said, “Why not join forces to finally get the job done and get it done right?”

Democrats, now firmly ensconced in the minority, sat silently while Republicans stood and cheered. Some wore blue, pro-health care buttons that read “Protect our care,” and dozens of Democratic women wore white in honor of the suffrage movement.

Trump was vague in his call for tax reform, another Republican priority. He promised “massive tax relief for the middle class” and a reduction in corporate tax rates, but glossed over how he would offset the cuts.

The president also urged Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package financed through both public and private capital.

“The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding,” he said.

Trump sent unexpectedly mixed messages on immigration, one of his signature campaign issues. He pledged to vigorously target people living in the U.S. illegally who “threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.” But he told news anchors before his speech that he was open to legislation that could provide a pathway to legal status, and he told Congress he believed “real and positive immigration reform is possible.”

The president’s words on immigration and “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees had to have been of special interest to recent Lynn Classical High School graduate and a refugee from Iraq, Tiba Faraj, who attended Trump’s speech as the guest of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

Faraj, 22, came to Lynn in 2010, along with her parents and siblings. She became an American citizen last year.

Before the speech, Faraj said in a phone interview that she was excited to be attending.

The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth junior now lives in Boston. She used the services of the New American Center, which serves the refugee and immigrant population in Lynn, during her school years for help with homework. She said Lynn is great for immigrants and people of different races and religions, calling it a place of diversity.

Warren’s decision to bring Faraj as a guest comes after Trump’s recent executive order, which temporarily banned entry to the United States by refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. The order has since been blocked by a federal judge. Trump is reportedly expected to release a new executive order on immigration this week, but didn’t specifically mention his plans in Tuesday night’s address.

Faraj said she sees the United States as the country to welcome everyone.

“I think, like refugees are the people who built the country,” she said. “I’m one of the refugees. I went to school like everyone else.”

Warren said in a phone interview on Tuesday that she decided to bring Faraj because she wanted people all across Massachusetts to hear her family’s story and to know how hard she has worked. The senator also wanted people to remember how Faraj and other refugees and immigrants have added to the country and helped make it safer.

Classical graduate goes to Congress

First lady Melania Trump sat with special guests who were on hand to amplify the president’s agenda, including the family members of people killed by immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The widow of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia also sat alongside Mrs. Trump, a reminder of the president’s well-received nomination of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat.

The majority of Trump’s address centered on the domestic, economic-focused issues that were at the center of his presidential campaign. His national security message centered largely on a call for significantly boosting military spending and taking strong but unspecified measures to protect the nation from “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Underscoring the human cost of those efforts, Trump honored Chief Special Warrant Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a raid in Yemen during his first days in office. Owens’ widow sat in the guest box with tears streaming down her face as the crowd stood and applauded at length.

Owens’ death, as well as the killing of several civilians, have raised questions about the effectiveness of the raid. Pushing back, the president said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had assured him that the operation generated “large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”

Trump also voiced support for NATO but reiterated his call for partner countries to meet their financial obligations to the military alliance. Trump has previously called NATO “obsolete,” setting some allies on edge about his commitment to the partnership.


Gayla Cawley of the Item staff contributed to this report.

Swampscott is showing signs of love

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Beth Balliro of Swampscott places one of her “Love Your Neighbor” signs in front of her house.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Since Valentine’s Day, signs have been sprouting up all over town, encouraging inclusion and diversity.

The signs read: “Love Your Neighbor. Your black, brown, native, immigrant, disabled, religiously different, LGBTQ, fully human neighbor,” and are displayed on residential lawns.

Beth Balliro, 43, a Swampscott resident and mother of three young children, bulk-ordered 250 signs after seeing one on a Burrill Street lawn on her way to the train station. The artist commutes to Boston, where she teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

“The big picture here is that I think after the unfoldings, after, even during the election cycle, but certainly after, there were a number of people in this community that were having intense emotional responses and one of those people was my neighbor, Shayne Spaulding, and the other was my mom, my neighbor on the other side,” Balliro said.

The signs were initially created by a Minnesota minister around the time of the presidential election. The signs became so popular in the woman’s hometown that she subcontracted a printer and they are now available online, according to Balliro.

Following the election, Balliro said people in town weren’t sure if it was safe to express their emotional response. She was picking up her son from preschool and encountered another mother, who was concerned about the way people were being treated after the travel ban, referring to the executive order President Donald Trump signed temporarily restricting entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations. A federal judge has since blocked the order.

She said she was trying to figure out what to do in response to those feelings when she saw the sign near the train station. Valentine’s Day seemed like an appropriate time for a collective community “spread the love kind of spirit,” Balliro said.

Former Classical grad goes to Congress

“I think for people to reappropriate Valentine’s Day as a way to affirm a more humanist love,” Balliro said. “It’s also sort of playful and I think we all need a lighter side right now. Everything has seemed for many, very dire. And I think in that way, activating Valentine’s Day was sort of a soft edge to a heavy problem.”

Balliro said she spoke with her neighbor, along with people involved in other group projects in town. The idea for the signs was posted on Facebook, which caught the attention of local groups, For the Love of Swampscott, SPUR and S.U.R.E. (Swampscott Unites, Respects and Embraces), who spread the post.

From there, Balliro said her email box lit up with hundreds of responses. She hooked up with a local printer, and added the word “native.” People were able to purchase and pick up the signs at her home. She’s sold the 250 she ordered and is directing others online to buy their own at northernsun.com.

“The point of this is to spark conversation, so I think in that sense, it’s been successful,” Balliro said. “It’s not a perfect sign. It’s not a perfect gesture. So, some of that conversation was around inclusion and exclusion.”

Balliro said some have felt that the sign should also say “white” to be inclusive, while others felt that it shouldn’t because the point was to underscore people who are particularly targeted at the moment. She felt the signs may be a risky gesture at first, and was not expecting the progressive response they received. She said one woman who didn’t have any lawn space wanted a sign for inside her home.

Balliro doesn’t want the focus to be on any one person for the success of the signs. She said she had an initiative, but every other person had the intention and it took a little bit of a catalyst to make something happen.

“There’s a sense that what we stand for, the very core of what many of us think is our national identity, which is inclusion and immigrant experience, and sort of open arms, global open arms is under siege, under threat right now,” she said. “So for that, I think this made people feel like at least we can state our philosophy and reaffirm our core belief even if it isn’t being demonstrated at the federal level. We can affirm it here at home and say this is the kind of home I want. This is the kind of neighborhood I want.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

 

ICE rumors send chill through North Shore

PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN President Donald Trump’s high stakes effort to target millions of undocumented immigrants has frayed the nerves of many North Shore residents.

“There’s tremendous fear, uncertainty and confusion over what is happening with the administration’s crackdown and it’s not just people from Muslim countries,” said Denzil Mohammed, a director at the Immigrant Learning Center, a Malden nonprofit that educates the public on the contributions of immigrants.

During the campaign, Trump promised to end immigration as we know it. This week, the president equipped the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, with the tools to potentially remove millions of undocumented residents from the country. The administration said serious criminals will be a top priority, but some are not so sure.

“People are worried and many of us are trying to figure out how to protect our families,” said Jose Palma, a Lynn resident who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador nearly 20 years ago and works as an organizer at Neighbor To Neighbor, a local advocacy group. “Everyone is talking about what we should do if immigration enforcement officers show up at our homes and what kind of documents we must have to keep us safe.”

Day without immigrants hits Lynn

Juan Gonzalez, a Guatemalan native and founder of the American Latino Committee, said rumors are rampant about raids that may have been held in Lynn.

“The chief of police has assured me that this is not true, but people are still on edge,” he said.

Through a spokesman, Deputy Chief  Michael Mageary said no ICE raids have been made in the city.

Typically, ICE agents notify the Lynn Police Department before coming to the city and inform them about any actions they intend to take, according to Lt. Rick Donnelly.  

If an arrest is to be made, a Lynn police officer would accompany the ICE agent and the suspect would be taken to the police station for documentation before being sent to a federal facility, he said.

“We will assist ICE if they have a warrant, but we are not immigration officers and we don’t knock on doors asking residents if they are here legally,” Donnelly said.

An ICE spokesman confirmed the agency is not conducting any operations in Massachusetts.

Still, as part of its work, ICE officers target and arrest criminal aliens and other individuals who are in violation of the country’s immigration laws, the spokesman said.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts is part of a global community and he has no plans to change enforcement measures when it comes to immigrants.

“We benefit enormously from the presence, the intelligence and vitality of foreign-born people in the commonwealth and we are going to work hard to remain a welcoming place for everyone,” Baker told The Item. “We have no intention of changing any of our policies.”

Mohammed said there’s confusion among newcomers over Trump’s aggressive immigration policies.

“Everything is happening so fast,” he said. “Many immigrants are questioning their futures in this country. Think of how damaging it would be for local economies of big cities where immigrants have moved in and are helping to sustain and rebuild them.”

A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms, found that Massachusetts immigrants play a key role in the state as taxpayers and consumers.

In 2014, immigrant-led households in the Bay State earned $36.8 billion, 15 percent of all income earned by Massachusetts residents that year, the survey said. With those earnings, the state’s foreign-born households contributed more than one in every seven dollars paid by residents in state and local tax revenues, payments that support schools, police and fire protection, the study found.

Through their individual wage contributions, immigrants also paid about $4.6 billion into the Social Security and Medicare programs that year, researchers found. By spending the money they earn at businesses such as hair salons, grocery stores and coffee shops, the study said immigrants also support small business owners and job creation in the communities where they live.

The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Day without immigrants hits Lynn

PHOTO BY THOMAS GRILLO
Casa Antigua was one of many Lynn retailers to close Thursday for “A Day Without Immigrants.”

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Jose Reyes didn’t go to work yesterday.

A Dominican Republic native, Reyes joined “A Day Without Immigrants,” a national movement by immigrants, who vowed to stay home Thursday and show how critical they are to the nation’s way of life.

“We are a nation of immigrants and we have to show everyone that we are the moving force of this country’s economy,” he said.

The broker for RE-Yes Real Estate is just one of hundreds of North Shore workers who stayed home in reaction to President Donald Trump.

“I understand the president is trying to protect the country, but his approach is wrong,” he said.  “Lots of people are responding to this protest. The rights of all people should be respected.”

The massive protest has sparked walk-outs in Lynn, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Houston, Chicago and New York. It comes in response to Trump, whose administration has pledged to increase the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. Trump campaigned on building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and blamed high unemployment on immigration. As president, he’s called for a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming into the U.S.

Frances Martinez, CEO of the North Shore Latino Business Association, said more than 150 of Latino businesses in Lynn, including barber shops, beauty salons, auto repair and markets, closed as a result of the work stoppage.  

“We are here and if we were not part of the economy it would harm this country,” she said.  

Gilcia Garcia, a manager at American Food Basket, a neighborhood supermarket on North Common Street, stayed home.

“Most of our customers are immigrants, I am an immigrant and we are showing our solidarity,” she said. “Most immigrants come to the U.S. to work very hard because we don’t have opportunities in our home country that we have here.”

William Sanchez, co-owner of Casa Antigua in the downtown, which serves Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Mexican food, closed his restaurant to support the protest.

“Immigrants should not be portrayed badly by politicians,” he said. “We work every day and are here to have a better life for our children.”

Brian Murphy, distribution manager at Publishers Circulation Fulfillment on the Lynnway, said his newspaper delivery service is feeling the impact of the strike. Five carriers failed to report to work to on Thursday.

“They didn’t show and they didn’t call, we’re overwhelmed,” he said. “Five people may not seem like a lot, but it’s significant and spread my staff very thin.”


Associated Press contributed to this report. Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

Revere sets sights on the new year

PHOTO BY BETHANY DOANE
Revere High School students Erin Mahoney, 15, Gabriela Barroso, 15, Savannah Hart, 17, represent RISE (Revere Intersectional Support for Education) at City Hall.

By BETHANY DOANE

REVERE Online services that will make local government more accessible was one of the city’s highlights lauded by Mayor Brian Arrigo in his State of the City Address Monday night at City Hall.

“Online services means you won’t have to wait in line at City Hall,” Arrigo said to a packed room of more than 100 people.

Construction of a new 31-constituent call center is underway, so residents can call, text, tweet, email and Facebook Revere city staff members to resolve community issues, he said. “The call center will open new avenues of conversations for residents, and allow city staff to collect and analyze data to improve management practices.”

A new online database tracking all Inspectional Service reports reduced response times to resident complaints to less than two business days. Additionally, residents can now pay property taxes, excise taxes and water bills online.

“I like the new innovation of technology; we’re seeing the fruition of hard work to update technology from the past few years,” said Tony Zambuto, Dean of City Council.

Seminar explains success for small business

Making services available to everyone through the internet was a much-needed change to the establishment, said Dimple Rana, a Revere resident and City Hall employee. Family members used to speak to City Hall staff through Rana because going there in person was too overwhelming, she said.

Arrigo, who also promised more government transparency, will propose a new ordinance to bring Revere into full compliance with state ethics and conflict of interest laws. “Our first training with the State Ethics Commission will take place in March.”

As far as the city’s 2018 fiscal budget goes, Mayor Arrigo said he’ll ask department heads to hold the lines on costs, while investing in the city’s infrastructure.

The project on Revere Beach Parkway will become a reality this year, bringing a new hotel to Revere for the first time in 20 years, and providing hundreds of jobs. The $3.63 million Infrastructure Program grant Revere received to kick off the Revere Beach Parkway project will also allow the city to improve water delivery, sidewalks and pedestrian access to the Beachmont neighborhood.

A pressing issue to the city’s budget is the disrepair of the water and sewer infrastructure, which resulted in a multi-million dollar EPA consent decree for violations of the Clean Water Act. Arrigo said his administration is seeking to extend the consent decree term to alleviate future rate shock.

He also said the administration will be even more effective in the city’s battle against opioid addiction. He launched a new Substance Use Disorder Initiative office last year and the office reports that overdose calls went down 24 percent in 2016.

To build on the battle against addiction, Revere will secure funding for a school-based program about prescription pill abuse, starting in middle school, he said.

“I’m concerned about opioids, and I’m on board with the mayor’s efforts,” said Kathleen Heiser, president of the Beachmont Improvement Committee. Heiser said she lost her daughter to opioid addiction in November of 2016.

Lastly, the mayor had a special message to the city’s immigrants.

“This is a city that has always thrived on immigrants,” he said, as the room erupted in applause. “For new immigrants to Revere and to your families: we are richer for your presence and proud that you sought to make a better life for yourselves in our community. Remain proud of your heritage, and be proud of your new home here.”

Students representing Revere Intersectional Support for Education (RISE), and Women Encouraging Empowerment (WEE) also had a message for immigrants. “We support inclusion and we’re here to welcome the public with open arms,” said Savannah Hart, 17, a student at Revere High School.

The message of inclusion resonated with other community members.

“As a lifelong resident, hearing the mayor welcome Revere to everyone makes me proud of my city and our mayor,” said Rana.

Thinking locally on immigration

Maybe the best way to sort out the tumult and anger surrounding American immigrant and refugee policies is to begin at the local level and work up.

Marblehead residents are thinking globally by acting locally to aid Syrian refugees and the Lynnway’s newest business is opening up because its owner – an immigrant – says Lynn’s international population translates into a good business opportunity.

Rotary Club of Marblehead members have been interested for almost a year in helping to alleviate the pain and horror that has engulfed war-torn. Club members want to pack a shipping container with 800 boxes of supplies needed by Syrian refugees and ship the goods to a nonprofit group helping Syrians.

Rotary is not the only organization trying to reach around the globe to help people in need. SPUR, a Marblehead organization committed to doing good deeds is also pitching in.

Marblehead Rotary reaching out to refugees

In Lynn, B.D.’s owner Arthur Tuffaha sees a city where people who came from other nations and settled in Lynn need a place where they can buy quality furniture at reasonable prices. What could be more American than one person who emigrated to this country looking to prosper off money spent by other immigrants?

Lost in the outrage and protests over restricting access to the United States is the main reason for limiting access: National security. But tightening up rules on who comes in and who doesn’t is a plan that doesn’t prevent terrorism unless it is coupled with good foreign and domestic intelligence gathering efforts.

Terrorists and murderers of all stripes and nationalities, including Americans born in this country who served in the military, have climbed out of dark holes and killed innocent people. It’s every American’s job to report these threats to the proper authorities. It is also every American’s job to ensure everyone who wants to contribute to the nation’s betterment gets a chance to do so.

Arthur Tuffaha is doing his part in this equation by strengthening an economy that includes dollars spent by fellow immigrants.

Fear and hatred thrive on ignorance. Allowing people to stand up and be counted and to participate by spending their dollars and time in productive pursuits is best way to banish fear and hatred.

Rotary Club members don’t see a threat or a reason to be afraid when they talk about reaching out to people who are suffering. They see an opportunity to give to others, to help people in dire need and to show how real help begins with people in one community helping another if it’s two miles or 2,000 miles away.  

It’s a simple prescription and a truly American approach to resolving a complex problem.