– January 31, 2017
Good evening and thank you all for coming and standing up for our immigrant families, friends, and neighbors.
I want to start tonight by thanking all of the Worcester Police Department officers who are here tonight keeping us all safe.
We are standing on the very spot where the Declaration of Independence was first read in New England. Less than a block away from here farmers from Worcester marched to Lexington and Concord to confront the British. We are the state that invented America and standing up to bigotry and oppression is what we do in our city.
Worcester has long been the gateway to the American dream. For generations our City has welcomed refugees, and immigrants from all parts of the world fleeing persecution, and who have become the backbone of our city and economy.
The City of Worcester is home to almost forty-thousand immigrants. Thirty-seven percent of our businesses are owned by foreign born residents.
Every year we welcome immigrants who are fleeing persecution, post-graduate students doing bio-medical research at our Nobel Prize winning medical school, or people like my grandparents who came from Ireland simply looking for a better life for their children.
Worcester is a welcoming city and it always will be.
How many here understand that the President and his allies here in our city will try to use words to divide us.
They will try to pit the elderly fuel assistance recipient against the elderly refugee.
They will try to pit the child receiving a free breakfast against the child fleeing mass murder.
And they will try to pit the disabled person receiving section 8 housing, against the immigrant seeking a safe place to live.
So let us be clear: we will not let this happen.
We do not now, nor will we EVER, use our police officers to build walls around our neighbors. We will not use our police department to tear families apart.
Yes we will keep our community safe. ANYONE who commits a crime will be treated the same as a U.S. citizen. You will have due process and if convicted, you will be punished. And we will take these criminals off the street.
But Worcester is the safest mid-sized city in New England because we do not build walls around twenty percent of our residents.
We are the safest city because our police officers know the value of building bridges and connections and relationships with all of our residents.
It is our policy to work with every resident and every community, regardless of status, and that policy will not change.
The reckless executive orders signed by the President have already had effects in our city.
The ban on refugees is keeping apart families who are waiting to be reunited. Their dream was to come to America, some coming to Worcester. And now those people, who would be our neighbors, our students, and our friends, are languishing in refugee camps.
This ban also impacts our local economy. It will prevent talented researchers, scholars and scientists from coming to work in our universities, hospitals and companies. And this effort by Councilor Gaffney will send a chilling message that our city does not welcome them.
And as for our undocumented residents, let us be clear: they are our neighbors and part of the fabric of our community. These are hardworking people who share the same dream of living in freedom and trying to build a better life for their families.
We will not allow these dangerous federal policies to fall on the backs of our local police department. We will not allow every broken tail-light to become an opportunity for deportation or confrontation. We will not allow our families to be torn apart by this needless, and hateful order.
Here is what we will do:
Tonight WE WILL DEFEAT COUNCILOR GAFFNEY’S ORDER.
We will continue to be a welcoming city. We will continue to care for all of our city’s residents and treat them fairly.
And we will fight.
We will fight every attempt to build walls between us.
We will fight these divisions whether they come from the President or from our own city council.
We will fight for our values. And we will win.
-Joseph M. Petty