Our NEXT MEETING:  Monday, Feb 10, 7:00PM at the Congregational Church.  We will have a guest speaker discussing the new regulations concerning medical insurance needs for immigrants and the public charge issues.  If you have any item you wish to add to the agenda, please email as soon as possible.

Only my Opinion:HuffPost  reports (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/iranians-border-stops-everywhere_n_5e2892f2c5b67d8874abab79?utm) that people of Iranian descent, including American citizens, permanent U.S. residents, and those traveling with valid visas, have long been harassed at U.S. border crossings. Mahsa Khanbabai, Chair of the AILA New England Chapter, said she’s seen an uptick of cases of Iranian Americans having trouble at the border within the last six months and that American citizens of Iranian descent in particular are being asked intrusive questions about their personal background and their opinions on political events. Earlier this year a student from Lebanon was refused entry at Logan Airport, and removed,  again with a valid student visa to attend Harvard Univ.  Only thru the intervention of several university presidents with members of Congress and the Department of Homeland Security, was a new visa issued and the student was timely able to start classes.  I am sure you read that a Northeastern University student from Iran, with a valid student visa, was detained, his visa voided, and then refused entry to return to his studies by Customs and Border Protection at Logan Airport. For more see story citated following.  You may want to consider writing to the relevant immigration related committees in the Congress to ask that these events stop and those engaged in the activity at CBP be reprimanded.  See a list attached below.


Northeastern University seeks answers concerning its student from Iran who was refused entry to return to classes:  see:  https://news.northeastern.edu/2020/01/21/northeastern-officials-seeking-answers-about-iranian-student-who-was-removed-from-the-united-states/

On January 23, an interesting article appeared in FORBES Magazine entitled “Travel Ban Directed against US Citizens, Not Foreign Countries.  It is worth a read.  SEE:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2020/01/23/travel-ban-directed-against-us-citizens-not-foreign-countries/#77ff7f4b4cdc More on the Border Tent Immigration Court. CNN reports on proceedings at a border tent court in Brownsville, TX, where hearings for asylum seekers subject to the Remain in Mexico program take place. In the make-shift courtrooms, migrants plead their cases through an interpreter to a judge who appears via video teleconference from a different location. The ICE trial attorney is in the same location as the judge; however, the migrants are unable to see or understand the ICE attorney. According to AILA Senior Policy Counsel Laura Lynch, “It’s very confusing as to who’s prosecuting the respondent.” Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the Remain in Mexico program. US Supreme Court vacates nationwide preliminary injunction preventing the PUBLIC CHARGE rule from taking effect.  The Court did NOT rule on the merits of the case.  Rather the cases pending in the Appeals Court will proceed to determine if the legal claims adopted unanimously by five District Courts will be upheld, while the Public Charge new policy will be effective.  The Court seemed more concerned with the growing trend of district courts issuing nationwide preliminary injunctions while cases on the merits proceed.

Atty Mike Diener has drafted a letter to members of the Mass Legislature seeking their support of pending legislation concerning drivers licenses for all RESIDENTS of the Commonwealth.  You may wish to also write to the legislature as well.  SEE: MA Driver’s License Legislation below.


CONTINUING WEDNESDAY WITNESS:    WHERE?:  First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, Parlor Room (downstairs, past the double doors, the first room on the left), 23 Dedham Avenue, Needham, MA  02494. Plenty of parking spaces are available, behind the church, in the Great Plain Ave. CVS parking lot.]  WHEN?  Continuing on Wednesdays, continuing April, 29, 2020 (except Feb. 19 & April 22), we gather indoors for postcard writing to federal, state and local government officials and legislators.)

ESL SPRING TUTOR TRAINING:  THE NEEDHAM COMMUNITY COUNCIL is offering ESL training.  Training is free and no experience is necessary.  Tuesday evenings, March 3- 24, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm. To submit a tutor application form or for more information   email esl@needhamcommunitycouncil.org FEBRUARY 8:  Unitarian Universalist Area Church, 11 Washington Street, Sherborn will hold a panel discussion from 9:30am – 2:30pm,  on how climate change effects social justice.  Panelists will include Susan Church, Immigration Lawyer; Sonja Spears, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program; and Craig Altemose, Founding Executive Director, the Better Future Project. A sliding scale for tickets may be found at racialjustice@uuac.org.

MARCH 12:  THE CURRENT STATE OF IMMIGRATION. 7:00PM Boston Public Library,Main Branch, 700 Boylston Street, Boston (Copley Square) The event is free, but Registration is Requested.

The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border captured national attention and sparked protests across the country. Combined with the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold Trump’s travel ban, this development has brought immigration policy back to the forefront of public debate. Mark Hetfield, Executive Director of the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, discusses the current state of immigration policy, and what the government could be doing to reform it, with WBUR reporter Shannon Dooling. Mark Hetfield first joined HIAS in 1989 as a caseworker in Rome, Italy. He has worked for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a large law firm as an immigration attorney, and has held multiple roles at HIAS over the years. Since being named HIAS’ President and CEO in 2013, Mark has led the transformation of HIAS from helping refugees because they were Jewish to helping refugees because we are Jewish.  Shannon Dooling is an immigration reporter at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station. Her work can be heard nationally on NPR and Here & Now. In 2014, she co-reported a series of stories from El Salvador and has been covering immigration ever since for WBUR and the New England News Collaborative. While she’s naturally drawn to telling character-driven stories, her investigative reporting has also shed light on how Boston police share information with ICE. She’s also reported on the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and returned to Central America, bringing back stories that connect communities in Honduras and El Salvador with communities right here in Boston. MARCH 22: The Needham League of Women Voters is again sponsoring a CIVICS BEE on Sunday, March 22d.  If interested in joining a team from there Task Force, please contact me.

CLOSING THOUGHT:I’ll close with a paragraph from an email I received from a colleague who had attended a speech by a noted immigration attorney:
“ … What stuck with me was the idea that to change the law, it required changing minds, from the individual, to the community, to elected officials.  Litigation alone isn’t the answer.  With this in mind, I hope that you will each consider taking on something new, maybe writing a letter to the editor of your local paper talking about the benefits of immigration, meeting with your elected officials about why change in policy is needed, or getting involved…  (in the Task Force committees).

Gerry Rovner Gerry80059@Comcast.net