News & Media Coverage

Illegal immigrant families emerge from dark in Brockton area

December 2, 2014  |  The Enterprise  |  Link to article

By Cody Shepard

BROCKTON – For almost 10 years, Maria Castro has lived in the shadows with her husband and now three children.

The windows in her home are covered by blankets and she is scared every time she drives that she will get pulled over and be deported.

But Castro is relieved by President Barack Obama’s plan to alleviate 5 million undocumented immigrants from fear of being deported.

And she qualifies.

“I’m so excited, first with God,” she said Saturday at her home with help from an interpreter. “People can now go back and see their family members and be out of the shadows.”

Castro’s husband, Manuel Pinguil, immigrated first from the province of Cañar in Ecuador to the United States. Castro joined him in May of 2005, leaving behind three children as she was in sheer poverty. She had two children, Mirian, 8, and Manuel, 7, Pinguil in the U.S., and another son who was left in Ecuador has now joined the family in Brockton.

“Before it was fear for anything to happen and be deported, but now I feel safe,” she said. “We are in the light; we are not in the darkness anymore.”

Castro, alongside her husband, works daily doing roofing construction in parts of Brockton and as far as Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Castro is certainly not the only immigrant in Brockton. The city has a lot of people who are Cape Verdean and Haitian, in addition to Latinos.

City Councilor Moises Rodrigues, who is also the executive director of the city’s Cape Verdean Association, said it was “about time” for the president to announce plans to fix a “broken” immigration system.

“Contrary to what a lot of people believe, Brockton doesn’t have a great deal of illegal immigrants,” he said. “We do have some individuals who have been here for quite some time who live as Americans, that should be given an opportunity to come out of the shadows.”

Juliana Langille, executive director of Community Connections of Brockton, and a board member of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said it’s too early to tell what the president’s executive order will mean locally.

“Some families have been waiting for over 20 years, so some might not take advantage of this opportunity because of the uncertainty,” she said. “It’s not going to address the bigger issue; it’s important for Congress to do something about it.”

Teresa Aiello, a co-president on the executive board at Brockton Interfaith Community, said she’s happy in the moment.

“For me, it’s a victory. It’s an answer to many prayers,” she said. “This is the door that we have seen for the life of justice. It’s a liberation, but it’s not enough.”

Brockton Interfaith has worked relentlessly to push for immigration reform, as part of its mission “to take care of those in our midst, to not exploit them,” spokeswoman Julie Aronowitz said.

But Republicans across the country have denounced Obama’s plan, some vowing to file legislation requiring people to have more than a work permit to get a driver’s license and tax-payer-funded benefits.

State Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, R-Taunton, is among them.

“There are five million people waiting in line to gain their citizenship through the appropriate channels,” O’Connell said Friday. “Granting amnesty and special privileges to people who have broken the law sends a message that if you jump our borders, you will be rewarded.”

O’Connell further argues illegal immigration “has been costly to the state ... burdening the taxpayers with a cost of $2 billion each year in healthcare, fire and safety, education, and public assistance.”

One local Democrat official echoed Obama’s assessment of the nation’s immigration system.

“As the president said... we all can agree our immigration system is broken,” state Sen. Marc R. Pacheco said Friday. “There are many ideas at the federal level about how to fix the system and whether or not the president’s temporary solution is the best idea remains to be seen.”

Taunton Gazette editor Rory Schuler contributed to this report.

Cody Shepard may be reached at cshepard@enterprisenews.com.