MVP Seeks to Dispel Immigration Myths on Open Mike Show

From left, Fermin de la Cruz, fill-in Open Mike Show host Tim Coco and Alice Mann. (Cindy Driver photograph for WHAV News.)

Merrimack Valley Project local co-chairs Alice Mann and Fermin de la Cruz appeared on 97.9 WHAV’s Open Mike Show this past Monday, addressing the organization’s goals.

de la Cruz, who emigrated to the U.S. from Dominican Republic, is a permanent resident. Moving here originally for medical treatment, he lives in Haverhill with his two sons who are citizens. He is a lawyer and accountant and holds a master’s in political science. He joined Merrimack Valley Project through St. James Church while Mann joined the organization through Trinity Episcopal Church.

Mann said she became involved following last year’s presidential election. She said she was “surprised by the level of venom being expressed…grappling with what in the world you do with that.”

She said she had to come up to speed on immigration law herself and discovered, contrary to widely held views, that immigration violations are “administrative” and not “criminal.” Further, she noted, every person, regardless of immigration status, has a right under the U.S. Constitution to consult with a lawyer if arrested.

Responding to a question posed by a WHAV listener about whether the project seeks to make Haverhill a “Sanctuary” city, Mann sought to dispel a myth. She said the proposed “Safe Communities Act,” now in the state legislature, aims to ensure people will not fear reporting crimes or working with police. However, the measure, supported by Merrimack Valley Project, allows local police to work with federal immigration officials where there are criminal charges.

“They also don’t want to be the victims of crime,” Mann said of immigrants, whether they live here legally or illegally. She explained, though, even police worry people will be afraid to report crimes if they “expect to be interrogated about their immigration status.”

Locally, the bill has been endorsed by only Andover Sen. Barbara A. L’Italien. The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Mann also sought to dispel a misperception that “immigrant” means someone residing in the country illegally. She said most are, in fact, citizens, legal permanent residents or people awaiting action on immigration petitions, such as asylum requests.

de la Cruz, again responding to a listener question, said it is not true most immigrant students in public schools are children of people here without permission. Most are members of families where one parent is a citizen and the other is not.

Founded in 1989, the MVP brings together 30 member groups from across the Merrimack Valley to promote peace and understanding among congregations, labor unions and community-based organizations.

One thought on “MVP Seeks to Dispel Immigration Myths on Open Mike Show

  1. Kudos to these folks who are fighting on behalf of our immigrant communities. We are all descend from immigrants and nobody should ever feel unsafe in this country simply because of their race, ethnicity, or religion. Haverhill was built on the backs of immigrants and they continue to be an integral part of our community today.