In for the Long Haul: Will Host Communities Find a Permanent Place for Puerto Rican Hurricane Evacuees?
Moving from emergency responses to long-term solutions.
Moving from emergency responses to long-term solutions.
Though they are not licensed to drive, many undocumented immigrants get behind the wheel in order to get to work.
The Latino community of Chelsea, Mass. had twice the reason to celebrate when Judge Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the Supreme Court. They had recently pushed for and gained the appointment of their own “wise Latina” for the local criminal and civil court.
Last month, Gov. Deval Patrick named Bronx-born judge Diana Maldonado First Justice of the Chelsea District Court.
The judge and Justice Sotomayor share a similar history. Maldonado, who is 50, was born to Puerto Rican parents and raised in the Bronx. The youngest of ten siblings, she attended Bronx public schools, and Stony Brook University (a New York State college), before attending Northeastern University law school. After graduating, she worked for Neighborhood Defender Services in Harlem, New York, leaving in 1993 to become the first Latina appointed to the Massachusetts Federal Defenders Office.
Comparison between Maldonado and Sotomayor seem inevitable these days. “I received a congratulations card with the acronym TOWL. I had to ask the sender what it meant, and the person said: The Other Wise Latina,” Maldonado said in a phone interview with Feet in 2 Worlds.
With unexpectedly low turnout, peaceful protests took place across the country today, with rallies in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New Jersey, New York and other cities. Although two factors –rain and the possible spread of swine flu– represented a setback in some cities, advocates feel this is the right moment to push for immigration reform. Police in East Boston, Massachusetts estimated there were 1,000 protesters at a local rally. Across from City Hall in Manchester, N.H., demonstrators numbered only 60, according to organizers.
Fausto da Rocha, a Brazilian activist in Massachusetts was not disappointed with the low attendance. “I’m satisfied to see several religious leaders here today, people who can influence many in their communities,” he said . “Everyone knows the time for legalization is now.”
What the rallies lacked in numbers they compensated for with the participation of entire families.
At least three immigrant families whose members were separated by recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids attended the rally in Manchester. At one point, Aaron Silvestre, 6, an American citizen whose father was detained for a few weeks, told the crowd: “We need to keep families together. The police should not take fathers away like they took my father.”
“If you don’t speak English, you’re missing out at work, at home,” Luciene Campos said in Portuguese. “When you do, you’re more respected.”
She was one of some 600 immigrants, many of them Brazilian, who recently jammed the auditorium of a Framingham, Mass. middle school waiting for a lottery that would assign 185 slots in English as a Second Language classes.
The classes, Feet In 2 Worlds reporter Eduardo A. de Oliveira wrote on EthnicNEWz.org, are “an obligatory stop for immigrants eager to learn the language of their future — but not all of them would get enrolled.”
Monday,PRI’s nationally-syndicated radio show The World ran a radio piece by Eduardo about the ESL lottery. This is from the show’s website:
Brazilian immigrants make up about a third of the population of Framingham, Massaschusetts. Many newspapers, radio stations and businesses cater to the immigrant’s needs. But the Brazilians still want desperately to learn English. Eduardo de Oliveira reports that the town’s English classes are so popular that you need to win a lottery to get in.
You can listen to Eduardo’s report here:[audio:http://188.8.131.52/audio/0216096.mp3]
Here are a couple of extra interviews:
– Christine Tibor is the director of Framingham’s ESL program. Twenty–five years ago, Tibor was the program’s first teacher. In this interview she told Eduardo de Oliveira she knows how it feels to live in a foreign country and not be able to speak the language. During a trip to Venezuela, she survived on a diet of ham-and-cheese, the only two words she knew in Spanish.
– Fernando Castro is the owner of five tax preparation stores in Massachusetts. He was a student in thel ESL program 19 years ago. Now, he’s an occasional sponsor of the program.[audio:http://www.jocelyngonzales.net/FI2W/fi2w_fernando_castro.mp3]
By Eduardo A. de Oliveira, EthnicNewz and FI2W reporter
SUDBURY, Mass. — Despite the economic crisis, the Barbosa family will have a healthy holiday this year.
Three generations of the Brazilian clan are undocumented and uninsured. But Alessandra Barbosa knows that if her mother or her daughter ever need health care they can find it at Congregation Beth El, a Sudbury Jewish temple which becomes a walk-in clinic on Tuesday evenings.
In spite of all the talk about how Massachusetts Health Reform has increased access to care, there are those, mostly undocumented immigrants, who are falling through the cracks.
“Last year, we provided care to 515 patients through 753 visits, nearly all the patients ranging in age from 19 to 64,” said Kim Prendergast, resource developer with MetroWest Free Medical Program. “About two-thirds of them were Brazilian and 15 percent, Hispanic.”
What started four years ago as a “band aid” to care for about twenty low-income people has morphed into a reliable source of treatment for forty patients a week. I strolled through the temple last week as nurses rallied language interpreters to help with the majority-immigrant crowd.
Heloisa Galvão, president of the Brazilian Women’s Group in Massachusetts, is concerned that immigrant voters don’t have all the information they need to vote today.
“Yesterday we received at least nine calls from people who simply didn’t know where they should go to vote,” said Galvão, who headed to a polling place in Jamaica Plain at 7 am.
Today, the Women’s Group, a grassroots non-profit organization that trains Brazilian housecleaners to use products based on natural formulas, will have two staffers by the phone to help voters.
According to Immigration and Naturalization data, 53,045 Brazilians were naturalized in this country between 1991 and 2007. In Massachusetts, at least 3,900 became American citizens between 2004 and last August.
During two informal polls taken by the Vem Viver show at local station WSRO, Portuguese speakers showed high support for Barack Obama. The Democratic candidate led his opponent, John McCain, by big margins both days the surveys were conducted: 14 to 6 yesterday, and 39 to 10 on Friday.
Despite heavy support for the Democrats, many in the community believe that won’t be the case in the future. With at least sixty evangelical churches serving Brazilians in the state, some predict Republican support will spike in coming years.
[Brazilian Women’s Group can be reached at 617-787-0557, extensions 14 or 15.]