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U.S. “Sanctuary City” for Hispanic Immigrants Jeered

August 25, 2006

MASSACHUSETTS, USA – A prominent Hispanic community organization in Cambridge, a suburb of the U.S. city of Boston, has come under fire from antiimmigrant groups after the city council passed a resolution making the town a “sanctuary” for undocumented foreigners.

Groups such as the Washington-based anti-immigrant organization ProjectUSA are collecting money for billboards nationwide that urge Hispanic immigrants to leave the states where they live and make a massive move to Cambridge.

The signs ridicule the resolution and offer to help immigrants on their way.

The billboards read: “Attention: Illegal Aliens, Cambridge, Mass. is a sanctuary city.

For help getting there visit projectusa.org/nj-mass transit.”

Cambridge Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves and city councilors decided this year to maintain the city’s status as a “sanctuary” that protects undocumented immigrants, a term first used in 1985.

According to the resolution, Cambridge, home of the prestigious HarvardUniversity, makes a commitment to respect immigrants’ human rights and not carry out any roundups of undocumented foreigners.

Centro Presente, an organization that defends the rights of Latino immigrants in Massachusetts, several months ago launched a campaign in favor of the resolution.

“Although there are anti-immigrant laws, Cambridge will not put them into practice. The key is respect for people’s humanity regardless of their immigration status,” Patricia Montes, community organizer for Centro Presente, told EFE.

Montes described the derision of groups like ProjectUSA as “regrettable.” “There is a great lack of knowledge about the immigrant community.

Immigrants are human beings that go years without seeing their families and who come to work hard,” the activist said.

ProjectUSA criticizes Centro Presente and several Cambridge councilors on its Web site, which also informs immigrants where to buy bus tickets to Cambridge.

The director of ProjectUSA, Craig Nelsen, did not answer EFE’s phone calls to obtain his comments on the group’s position. Centro Presente is working to promote the same model of a “sanctuary city” in other towns across the country.

Its campaign is an example of how the debate about U.S. immigration reform is moving towns and cities to take the initiative on immigration policy.

Burlington, Vermont; the Los Angeles district of Maywood, California, and San Antonio, Texas, are a few of the municipalities that have designated themselves as sanctuary cities or have approved resolutions welcoming illegal immigrants. Others have gone the other way and toughened local regulations against undocumented aliens.

“The city of Cambridge has announced that it will protect you from the inhumanity, injustice and immorality of the rest of America,” says the Web site of a group of undocumented Hispanics living in the U.S. state of New Jersey.

Jerry Villacres, a Cambridge resident and editor of the Spanish-language daily El Planeta, describes the idea of “sanctuary cities” as something “very sensible and very intelligent” and criticized “xenophobic groups who ridicule the city.”

“Undocumented immigrants are the economic slaves of the 21st century. They are very useful for rich countries,” Villacres told EFE. “But these people are human beings. They must be respected,” he said.

 

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