News & Media Coverage

Brockton Speakers Call for a Path to Citizenship

February 24, 2013  |  The Brockton Enterprise  |  Link to article

By Justin Graeber
Posted Feb 24, 2013 @ 06:10 AM

Luis Mizhirumbay was a top student at Brockton High School. His academic record drew scholarship offers from Bridgewater State and other schools. But because Mizhirumbay, now 21, isn’t a citizen, he couldn’t accept them.

Now, he told a large audience in Brockton Saturday, he is stuck, unable to find work or attend school.

“Anyone who comes here has a dream. My dream is to become a doctor and contribute to this country,” he said. “That’s why I need a pathway to citizenship.”

Luis was one of a chorus of voices calling for a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. More than 500 people – hundreds more than organizers originally anticipated – packed the basement of St. Patrick’s Church on Main Street for the event sponsored by the Brockton Interfaith Community.

The event featured food, voting information in several languages and performances from an Ecuadorian dance troupe, an African drumming company and a Haitian choir from Christ the King Church.

“I came here looking for the freedom I didn’t have in my own country,” said Teresa Aiello, a member of the Interfaith Community. But she said life as an undocumented immigrant was like “being in jail.”

“When I gained citizenship, I experienced freedom, but it also gave me my voice back.”

She described the elation of voting in her first election – and seeing her candidate win.

“I felt like the president won because of me,” she said. “I want that feeling for all aspiring citizens.”

When Pauline Phinney took the podium, she admitted she didn’t have the face most would associate with being an illegal immigrant in the U.S. A native of England, Phinney came to this country to visit some friends and “stayed for 40 years.”

She loved America but, “If I stayed here without papers, I’d be afraid every time I saw a police officer,” she said. Phinney married a man just to obtain a green card. It was originally a marriage of convenience, but the couple fell in love for real and recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, she said.

Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Stephen Lynch attended the rally and pledged to support a path to citizenship for all undocumented workers, citing his support of the DREAM act.

State Rep. Michael Brady, D-Brockton, was in attendance, along with state Sen. Tom Kennedy, Mayor Linda Balzotti and City Councilor Jass Stewart.

At the back of the room, multicolored cards that listed people’s home countries were arranged into the shape of an American flag. The idea came from Olventh Lagunas, 46, who was born in Mexico but is now an American citizen living in Brockton.

“We were born in different countries, but we feel American,” he said.