By John Lynds
Throughout its history East Boston has been a neighborhood of immigrants. Beginning in the 19th Century, Irish and Eastern European Jews flocked to the neighborhood followed by Italians at the turn of the 20th century and Latinos in the later part of the century.
So when President Donald Trump took a hard line on immigration last week, Mayor Martin Walsh pushed back on Trump’s rhetoric and received praise in Eastie.
Walsh took the podium at City Hall last Wednesday afternoon and addressed the entire city.
“The White House is advancing the most destructive and un-American threats made during the campaign,” said Walsh. “The latest executive orders and statements by the president about immigrants are a direct attack on Boston’s people, Boston’s strength, and Boston’s values.”
Walsh said Boston and the nation are built on immigrant contributions and the city and U.S. depend on newcomers for vitality and community.
Walsh, pointed to the stats that 28 percent of Boston residents are immigrants and 48 percent of Boston children have at least one foreign-born parent.
“I was one of those kids,” said Walsh. “Boston was here for me and my family. As long as I’m mayor, we will never turn our backs on those seeking a better life. We will continue to foster trusting relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities. And we will not waste vital police resources on misguided federal actions.”
Walsh said neither he nor the city would be intimidated by threats to federal funding.
“We have each other’s backs and we have the Constitution of the United States on our side,” he said. “I want to say directly to anyone who feels threatened or vulnerable today: you are safe in Boston. I will do everything lawful in my power to protect you. If necessary, I will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone targeted unjustly. I say again to all of Boston and to Washington: we will not retreat one inch from being the welcoming, diverse, global community that’s made us one of the most successful cities in the world.”
Walsh then went off script and said his administration would even use City Hall as a safe haven for immigrants. When asked what he meant by the statement, Walsh clarified, saying those being unfairly targeted by the Federal Government were welcome to ‘live in his office’ if they have to.
The next day in Eastie, protesters took to the streets near the Sumner/Callahan Tunnel and praised Walsh’s commitment while condemning Trump’s plans.
At the Alighieri School later that day Walsh was asked by a third grader, “Will my family have to leave the country Mayor Walsh?”
In the hallway a few minutes later, Walsh was heartbroken.
“See, this is what I’m talking about,” said Walsh. “No child should be worrying about such a thing. That little girl is here to learn and make friends. It is unfair that she has to have this burden placed on her shoulders.”