Free Legal Services Severely Stretched to Accommodate Arriving Children, Parents

Free Legal Services Severely Stretched to Accommodate Arriving Children, Parents

Ten-month-old Belen has a court date.

The smiling baby at some point will have to go before a judge and plead his case as to why he should not be deported from Chelsea after having left El Salvador and crossed the southern U.S. border recently with his mother.

Were it not for Suffolk University Legal Services, the little tyke – who cannot yet speak – would be expected to stand alone before a federal Immigration Court judge and explain why he qualifies for political asylum in the U.S.

It would be more than a mouthful for the baby boy.

“The picture you have of situations like this is profound,” said Steve Callahan, a law professor at Boston University who has worked with Suffolk Law for years. “Picture this baby or a 5-year-old boy standing in front of a judge with no one by his side having to argue his case intelligently before a judge. The law is just and humane, but this makes no sense. You see babies who have court dates and have to be in other states to plead their cases. This is what we see.”

For example, just last month Suffolk Law Program Director Ana Vaquerano welcomed a mother and her 5-year-old boy into the Chelsea office.

The boy was to be in Atlanta in three days for a deportation hearing, and the mother had no possessions, not even any reliable shoes, and certainly no way to get the boy to Atlanta.

She was crying.

Vaquerano was crying.

The mother was willing to put the child on a plane alone if need be, somehow or some way.

Essentially, what had happened was the two came across the border illegally and were detained. Having family in Atlanta, they were sent there and told there would be a court date in Atlanta at some point. However, the family members in Atlanta were not able to keep them for very long, and sent the mother and child packing.

They ended up in Chelsea; they found out about the hearing only days prior.

Without pause, Vaquerano went to work.

“I told her not to worry,” she said. “I told here that we would find a way to get her and her son to Atlanta. We were going to find a way because we always do. We connected with a few people, friends at Logan Airport who had friends in the airlines. We used our network, and I was even willing to go to my church and try to get the money there. However, one day I came in and opened my e-mail and found an itinerary for a first-class flight to Atlanta on American Airlines for her and her 5-year-old. We had to do anything we could to keep this child from being deported and we were able to help. They made it to the court date and there is likely a legal remedy for them. Had she gone anywhere else, though, it wouldn’t have worked out. There just wasn’t any time.”

THE RECENT SURGE

Such situations aren’t entirely new for Suffolk Legal, which has been doing yeoman’s work on Broadway Chelsea for some 30 years. However, the frequency and desperation of the situations has had a barnstorming effect on the organization – with two young lawyers being recruited in to offer free services once a week to accommodate the surging need for help in navigating an immigration system that has been turned upside down by the processing of huge numbers of illegal immigrants who have come over the U.S. Border from Central America in the last 10 months.

“These children started coming six months ago and they just keep coming and coming and coming to the office,” said Vaquerano. “I had only one lawyer working one day a week. It wasn’t enough and I didn’t know what to do. I had so many appointments you wouldn’t believe it. We were getting 20 appointments in two days and it was going all day long. One day we stayed until 7 p.m.”

The reinforcements that showed up at the Broadway office were attorneys Jason Corral and Amarilys Marrero, who agreed to come work for free to help – having formerly worked with Suffolk Legal through Catholic Charities.

Marrero said the story of the 5-year-old boy was one that worked out, and for every story that works out, many more do not.

“We see stories like that all the time, but that story is really the best case scenario,” she said. “Most don’t end that way. We talk to the court and the person at the court is only concerned about the law and maybe they should be, but we can’t convey to them how the person in the office is feeling and what they’re going through. We see what they’re going through, see them crying and do everything we can. Sometimes all we can do is cry with them.”

One of the major situations for the immigration court system is that despite entering the country illegally, the situation isn’t considered a criminal offense. That means that those facing Immigration Court hearings don’t qualify for public defenders to offer legal help. They either must find the money to pay for a private lawyer, or as in most cases, seek out free legal services in the form of places like Suffolk Legal.

That is one reason that the Immigration Courts have become so clogged due to the recent influx and a reason that court dates can be months or years in the future. Free legal services take more time, and the cases are inherently complex. Judges all over the country are prone to grant continuances and find legal remedies if at all possible – which takes time.

Corral said money has been funneled to enforcement on the border rather than to legal pathways and remedies for people caught at the border.

“The backlog right now in the courts is complicated and the cases take a lot of time to prepare,” he said. “We’re probably responsible for the backlog because we’ll go in and ask for more time to prepare. On the other hand, the judge doesn’t want to deport a child without finding out if they have a legal remedy. They’ll give two or three continuances to make sure. It comes down to the fact that nobody is paying for people like us and there are all these cases that nobody is paying for. There just aren’t enough resources to provide the legal pathway because everything has been dedicated to enforcement.”

INFLUX WASN’T UNEXPECTED

Corral said there have been people coming from Central America for several years.

Some came many years ago during the time of Civil War there and received Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from the government. Over the last decade, people from those countries have also been coming and most made it over illegally without getting caught.

He said he believes the difference now is that the border is more secure and people are willing to get caught and take their chances.

“I think the thing is that the media right now is reporting it as a crisis, but we’ve been dealing with this for years,” he said. “I remember writing a paper on this problem in 2008, which was six years ago. The difference now is that it escalated – it was building and building and now it’s escalated, but we recognized the situation six or seven years ago.”

DEPORTING OUR PROBLEMS; THOSE LEFT BEHIND

Part of the problem, all said, is that many of the countries where the influx is coming from are El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and those countries are facing brutal crime from violent youth gangs.

In many cases, Corral said, those gangs are comprised of young people who committed crimes in America and were deported to a country that couldn’t handle policing these newfound criminals.

“These are kids who lost hope,” he said. “They’ve been left behind by family or they’ve been deported from the U.S. and now they’re on the streets in a country they never knew. Essentially, we’re deporting back our youth problems to Central America where they cannot handle it. These kids get powerful and manipulate others and create a shadow government. They demand a ‘war tax’ or protection money. It’s almost what you’d be paying to a government if there was a real publicly funded government that could protect the people.”

The other kids that seem to be ruling the streets are those left behind many years ago by adults who have earned TPS status, have earned some other status or have existed here illegally for decades.

“A lot of times the people with TPS left a little one behind with the intention of being reunited,” he said. “They now have a teen-ager at home in their country that they never brought here. They have had a grandparent or another family member taking care of that teen-ager and they won’t do it any longer.”

Some of those young people flee to America; others stay on the streets.

THREE TYPICAL SITUATIONS

For many of those illegal immigrants who end up in Chelsea and seek out Suffolk Legal to help them navigate their cases, there are few remedies other than to seek political asylum.

For the children such as 5-year-olds or babies, there is often a legal remedy, but for those who have solid footing, it is often difficult.

“When they’re unaccompanied at the border and when their family situation is more secure, that is the hardest one to remedy because the only option is filing for asylum,” said Corral. “Asylum requires very specific conditions to be met…When the fear is from gang violence, we make our best case for political opinion or membership in a particular social group that is an anti-gang group. Unfortunately, the odds are against us in those cases.”

In other cases, there is a parent who can remedy the situation – a parent that the child has left their country to be reunited with. Most times that parent has legal status and, after a series of court sessions, can make make the situation into a good one. However, it isn’t that easy. Many times the parent has moved on over the years to another family; has remarried and started anew only to have a virtually unknown teen-ager show up from thousands of miles away.

“A lot of family members or parents end up not wanting them there and that can become abusive,” said Marrero. “Domestic violence is a big part of their story here. Many times they come to reunite with a parent who has remarried and started a new family. Many times the best stepfather in the world becomes the worst stepfather in the world. A lot of times these things happen because of economics and frustrations with immigration status. That happens a lot.”

Another all too common situation – as is potentially faced by Belen and his mother – is that the child has a legal remedy to stay, but the mother has no chance.

“All too often there’s a legal remedy for that kid, but no remedy for that mom in an asylum case,” said Corral. “It’s very possible there is asylum for the kid, but the mom will be made to stay and wait for her day in court – which could be years – and with all liklihood that she’ll be deported when that day in court comes. She’ll have to leave that child behind here in the U.S. That’s the chance they’re willing to take.”

DETERMINATION IS A TREND

When young people are taken into custody at the border, many times the first thing they do is pull out a cell phone and make a call to someone in America – perhaps someone in Chelsea.

It’s something that Corral said belies the entire situation – the globalization of everything, including people.

“There are a lot of questions about why there are so many more now, but in a lot of aspects we’re more global in many ways,” he said. “We see the free flow of trade and now we also see the free flow of people and workers. The law is always the last thing to catch up to how the world is working. These kids have cell phones and are in constant communication. It’s a smaller world and people can traverse expanses of land we thought was impossible just 10 or 15 years ago. They want something better for themselves. In many ways, they’re taking a gamble to leave a situation and try to make a change to better their lives. We can all relate to doing such things in our teens and 20s. That’s who we’re seeing come here. The ones we don’t see are those who accepted their lot in life and stayed behind.”

For those who did take off on that adventure, Marrero said determination is an absolute. She’s convinced that any young person here illegally, if given a chance, will succeed.

“I was working with a 17-year-old girl who had nothing and knew nobody, but you could tell she was going to be somebody,” said Marrero. “There’s a determination in here and in all of them, and then at the same time she contains these layers of sadness because of all the things she’s fought against. Despite that deep sadness, you look in their eyes and realize that given the chance, they will fight through any adversity to success.”

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Primary Showdown

Primary Showdown

On Tuesday, Sept. 9 incumbent State Representative Dan Ryan, of Charlestown will square off against challenger Roy Avellaneda, of Chelsea, for the Second Suffolk House District, which covers Charlestown and Chelsea.

This week the Independent Newspaper Group submitted a questionaire to both candidates on some of the major issues facing the neighborhood.

Here are their responses:

Chelsea Record (CR): Immigration issues are pretty much front and center in Chelsea and have been for a long time. However, the recent surge of immigrants over the last year from Central American countries – via the southern U.S. border – has posed quite a challenge to Chelsea schools and resources. As state representative, what do you believe you can do to assist with this new situation on the streets and in the schools, and should Chelsea have to bear this entire burden?Rep. Dan Ryan

Rep. Dan Ryan (DR): Our national politics have failed us on the immigration issue. Until they get their act together down in Washington the task of taking care of these children falls on us. The state must find the resources to reimburse our cities and towns for these added expenses. We also have to find a way to get the Feds to pay for it. I didn’t fully understand the extent of how many children were coming into the U.S. and making their way to our neighborhoods until the processing piece brought it to a head.

My federal experience gave me a better understanding, at least from a policy level, of the request by the President to possibly process unaccompanied children in Massachusetts. I knew it would be a polarizing issue. I addressed it with my heart as much as my intellect. When I got the notice that the Governor was holding a press conference I made sure to be there. Looking back, I believe I may have been one of the only legislators in the room. I’ve learned from one of the best to take tough issues head on. I went to my desk and posted to Facebook my support for the Governor’s decision and the info sheets should anyone have questions. You can still read the responses. I know I probably lost some votes that day but if I turned one heart it was worth it.

My experience puts me in a great position to bring federal stakeholders into the conversation. They seemed to be an uninvited missing piece to the community meetings I went to since being elected.

CR: For more than a decade, there has been a push to give illegal immigrants in the state legal driver’s licenses. There are legitimate arguments on both sides of the issue. Now, it appears that the issue will surface again in the near future. What is your stance on allowing driver’s licenses for people who don’t are not legally documented in the U.S.?

DR: On one occasion during the first campaign I was asked by a reporter about this issue in Charlestown. He was told that I wouldn’t answer that question the same way in Charlestown as I would in Chelsea. I found that odd. Anyway, my response was, “Yes, I do believe they should be eligible for driver’s licenses. I also don’t believe it is an immigration issue. I believe it is a transportation issue and a road safety issue”. I was surprised as a legislator to find out that the bill in question was in the transportation committee. It makes sense when you think about it. I knew the issue well but not the legislative details. My instincts served me well.

My candid response also prompted the reporter to blog that, “Ryan is not afraid to address any issue. He is articulate and as knowledgeable on the issues as any candidate I have seen in the four Suffolk Specials”. I used his line in my literature.

One of the first meetings I had at the State House was with the Police Chiefs from around the state, with Chief Keyes being one of them. I was able to hear some of law enforcements concerns with the bill. I believe there are pieces that can be worked out. My feeling was that many in law enforcement are at least open to discussion going into the next legislative session.

CR: The streets in Chelsea, particularly Broadway and other thoroughfares, are in rough shape. Some areas even have cobblestone showing from generations ago. Money is tight, and the City has gotten to projects when it can. However, there isn’t enough to go around to take care of all the needs in a City where more and more cars travel the streets every year. What can you, as state rep., do to help City’s like Chelsea solve their street repair woes?

DR: The Feds aren’t paying for much these days. When I worked in Washington the one thing both parties could agree to spend money on was roads and bridges. Transportation appropriations were never a bone of contention. Whether you are a big businessman, a small farmer or a soccer mom just about everyone used to agree that you can’t build a bridge or pave a road without the government’s help. This lack of highway and transit money trickles down to municipalities bearing the brunt. We have increased local aid which may help a little.

One thing I caution about is Question 1 on the state ballot this November. The bill pertains to repealing the state gas tax indexed to inflation. In repealed it could cost the State billions in much needed road repair money spent in our cities and towns. My biggest fear is that an uninformed public will go to the voting both in November and feel good about voting against taxes. But, this is a tax that business, labor and every rational thinking person that knows the issue agrees upon. Vote “NO” on Question 1 if you want more money to fix your local streets and bridges.

CR: Chelsea is in dire need of a new middle school, and the Clark Avenue School is currently on the drawing board with state funding approval. However, once the fine print was read, things got a lot more expensive and state funding didn’t cover everything. Now Chelsea is in a predicament with surging costs on the new school. Do you have any ideas about how to ease the pain of this situation from the state level?

DR: I have met with Superintendent Burke and members of the school committee and am well aware of this issue with the funding formula. Senator DiDomedico, Rep Vincent and I can work with the incoming State Treasurer and Governor to help address this funding shortfall or get a legislative fix if need be.

CR: Casinos are on the horizon in Chelsea. No matter who gets the license, Chelsea is going to be a surrounding community. Also looming on the horizon is a November vote to repeal casino gaming altogether. Do you support the repeal, and if so, why? If not, what project do you prefer and why?

DR: As a State Representative, I find that it my responsibility to make sure my district is protected regardless of where a casino is located. I will work with whatever company is awarded a gaming license. According to the gaming law, municipalities negotiate the surrounding community agreements not the legislature. This entire process has got people’s logic warped. I’m not allowed to advocate a for a state contract to go to one software company over another or one paving company over another because they offered money to my constituency. Why is this different? It is a lot easier for a candidate to make noise. I am now an elected official and will continue to act like one on all state contracts. I spent the Kentucky Derby in Charlestown with a room full of constituents not as a guest of a casino applicant, like my opponent.

I will also add that my position is one of consistency. I was not against gaming before a site was proposed a mile from the house where I am raising my three children. So, I am not against gaming now. I didn’t wait until the day after a host community vote to declare my position. My position has been the same from the beginning. That position is: “if done correctly, I believe the Boston area can benefit from a luxury gaming resort”. In fact, other than those people who were against all gaming in Massachusetts from the beginning, a position I respect, I truly believe my position has been and will continue to be the most consistent in the State. I have not wavered or switched my opinion. I want the roads and bridges in Charlestown and Chelsea fixed regardless if there is a casino or not or where it is located.

CR: Chelsea has miles of waterfront, but during most of its recent history – and still today – that waterfront has been locked away from residents. Many young people don’t even know they live in a waterfront community. Certain projects like the PORT Park have changed that, but there is still a lot of area – some state-owned properties – that make the water inaccessible. What can you, as a state rep., do to help make the City’s waterfront more accessible?

DR: Repurposing old industrial waterfront property is an issue being looked at throughout the coast of the Bay State. I believe we need to find a way to make mixed use residential and commercial spaces compatible with Marine Industry, which is still a vital piece of our state’s economy. Parks such as Port Park and Piers Park in East Boston serve as nice buffers and allow access for recreation. Artists’ communities also seem to work as buffers from heavy marine industry. Right now the restrictions on re-zoning are far too cumbersome and do not allow for adequate master-planning. For us to fully utilize our coastline we have to look to streamline state and federal zoning so that we are not revitalizing one parcel at a time. I have also proposed a Mystic River Water Shuttle in some of my discussions. We need to connect workers and shoppers to the jobs and goods at Assembly Row and the office buildings in Charlestown. This is a natural commute.

Chelsea Record (CR): Immigration issues are pretty much front and center in Chelsea and have been for a long time. However, the recent surge of immigrants over the last year from Central American countries – via the southern U.S. border – has posed quite a challenge to Chelsea schools and resources. As state representative, what do you believe you can do to assist with this new situation on the streets and in the schools, and should Chelsea have to bear this entire burden?

Roy Avellaneda(RA): As a result of the recent surge of migrant children, Chelsea is experiencing a strain in its municipal budget. The strain would have been greater had it not been for the great collaboration of community resources. However, Chelsea deserves and should receive more state and federal aid in response to a situation far outside its control. As State Representative I would advocate for that state aid and reach out to federal officials for the same.

CR: For more than a decade, there has been a push to give illegal immigrants in the state legal driver’s licenses. There are legitimate arguments on both sides of the issue. Now, it appears that the issue will surface again in the near future. What is your stance on allowing driver’s licenses for people who don’t are not legally documented in the U.S.?

RA: We have not seen Immigration Reform at the Federal Level since Ronald Reagan was in office. In the meanwhile, states have had to find ways to deal with immigration issues for themselves. I support the licensing of undocumented residents. I believe it to be a public safety issue. I prefer to have the public and law authorities know of all who are living here and driving on our roads and that all drivers are trained and insured.

CR: The streets in Chelsea, particularly Broadway and other thoroughfares, are in rough shape. Some areas even have cobblestone showing from generations ago. Money is tight, and the City has gotten to projects when it can. However, there isn’t enough to go around to take care of all the needs in a City where more and more cars travel the streets every year. What can you, as state rep., do to help cities like Chelsea solve their street repair woes?

RA: As State Representative, I can advocate for increased authorization of Chapter 90 funding for Chelsea to maintain, repair and improve its roads. Ch. 90 is a 100% reimbursable and essential source of funding so that main thoroughfares such as Broadway can be repaired in a more timely fashion.

CR: Chelsea is in dire need of a new middle school, and the Clark Avenue School is currently on the drawing board with state funding approval. However, once the fine print was read, things got a lot more expensive and state funding didn’t cover everything. Now Chelsea is in a predicament with surging costs on the new school. Do you have any ideas about how to ease the pain of this situation from the state level?

RA: The Legislative intent of the School Building Reinbursement Fund was for municipalities to receive 80% funding. As State representative I would review the situation and application for reimbursement first with city officials and later with members from the Mass School Building Authority. It is these in discussions that I would try to mitigate the differences and attempt to include costs that were not originally covered in the application. Additionally, I would seek clarification so that this does not occur to any other applicant in the future.

CR: Casinos are on the horizon in Chelsea. No matter who gets the license, Chelsea is going to be a surrounding community. Also looming on the horizon is a November vote to repeal casino gaming altogether. Do you support the repeal, and if so, why? If not, what project do you prefer and why?

RA: I have said that the repeal is a half hearted effort to limit gambling. We would still have the lottery, scratch tickets, horse racing and bingo with a two full resort casinos an hour away. I therefore do not support half hearted measures and will vote no on the Casino Repeal question.

Without a doubt the upcoming decision of the Mass Gaming Commission on which of the two casino proposals, Wynn Casino in Everett or Mohegan Sun in Revere, is the most pressing issue facing Charlestown and Chelsea right now. I support the Chelsea City Council and have advocated to the Mass Gaming Commission that the Mohegan Sun proposal be approved. The Mohegan Sun proposal offers greater dollar mitigation packages to Chelsea and other surrounding communities. It also has less impact overall to traffic due to its two onsite Blue line stations, ample onsite parking and higher dollar amount spent on traffic redesign along Rt 1A and Rt 16.

CR: Chelsea has miles of waterfront, but during most of its recent history – and still today – that waterfront has been locked away from residents. Many young people don’t even know they live in a waterfront community. Certain projects like the PORT Park have changed that, but there is still a lot of area – some state-owned properties – that make the water inaccessible. What can you, as a state rep., do to help make the City’s waterfront more accessible?

RA: I have seen legislation passed that allowed other areas of the Boston Harbor be de-designated as Port zoning. This legislation allowed waterfront areas to be used for non-industrial water dependent uses. As State Representative, I would sponsor and advocate for similar language in waterfront areas of Chelsea if it was supported by a City Council Home Rule Petition or a Master Plan.

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School Supplies, Other Needs Lost in the Shuffle of Market Basket Turmoil

School Supplies, Other Needs Lost in the Shuffle of Market Basket Turmoil

Anyone who – over the years – has shopped or who knows workers at the Chelsea Market Basket knows that many families and young people who work there depend on their paycheck to buy the necessities of life.

Until recently, Market Basket jobs have been dependable, well-paid and dignified.

Now, though, paychecks have been slashed and the necessities of life have chugged on.

One of those necessities that is coming full speed at the workers – many of whom are now only part-time or who have had their hours cut completely – is the need for school supplies and back to school gear.

As the Market Basket company continues to be roiled in turmoil and inaction, the lives of the employees and their families haven’t stopped, and through the efforts of two Chelsea sisters, the unmet need for school supplies may have been met – and then some.

The heavy media coverage of the Market Basket situation has focused on Board member allegiances, business strategies and the unwavering support for former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

It has honed in on rallies and hordes of employees calling for a return to the old arrangement.

However, not many TV cameras have followed those same faces home where their paychecks no longer arrive in their bank accounts and their families have not stopped needing things like school supplies.

Janatha Gonzalez and her sister, Tracy DeJesus, have been front and center at most of the rallies -and even though they don’t work at Market Basket – they have supported their friends and neighbors from Chelsea at the huge rallies.

Earlier this month, though, they saw the trouble on those faces. It was a trouble that spoke of full-time work reduced to part-time work or even no work. It was a trouble that, at the same time, showed the coming of the school year and no means to prepare their children.

“I think everybody is so focused on getting Market Basket back together, but they people don’t see so much that these are families with one child or three children,” said Janatha. “Anyone not knowing what they’re job is going to be one week after another is going to face some difficulties. These families depended on their Market Basket jobs to pay for things like school supplies. Now they only have part-time work or they’re being given no hours at all. Even the students that work part-time to save money for college or to pay for their school supplies – this has ended their part time jobs. These are people here in Chelsea who depend on jobs that are not so dependable right now.”

With that in mind, the two sisters jumped on an idea promoted by a Facebook page calling for help with school supplies for Market Basket workers.

Both reached out to the Market Basket, asking if they could put a homemade box asking for school supply donations. While the store managers were a little hesitant at first, they did consent to the idea.

Other donation boxes were placed at the Chelsea Collaborative and at Tito’s Bakery on Broadway.

The end result has been a cornucopia of pencils, notebooks, protractors and compasses.

“The turnout has been amazing,” said Janatha. “I’ve been able to fill up 75 backpacks. We’ve been stuffing backpacks every day with so many supplies while we sit in our kitchen. It’s been encouraging to see the local businesses in Chelsea and Charlestown donate, as well as the individuals who have flocked to support the workers. It seems like as soon as we empty the donation box, we get another call from the managers at the store telling us the bin is full again.”

In addition to the backpacks, they have also assembled binders with more dedicated supplies like calculators and compasses. Those supplies will go to the high school students who depend on their Market Basket jobs to pay for their supplies.

“So many of these high school kids pay for back to school by working at the store, and now those jobs aren’t there,” said Janatha.

Donations will be taken through the end this Friday, and the backpacks and binders will be handed out to the part-time Market Basket workers at the Chelsea store from noon to 2 p.m. this Sunday, Aug. 24.

“We are really excited and are really looking forward to getting these much-needed supplies in the hands of the workers this Sunday,” said Janatha.

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Back to School Equals Back to Downtown Chelsea

Back to School Equals Back to Downtown Chelsea

Several downtown Chelsea businesses and the Chamber of Commerce are preparing for a major retail promotion this coming Friday, Saturday and Monday that looks to capitalize on back-to-school shopping.

Chamber Director Rich Cuthie said there are some 20 businesses participating in the promotion this year, and it looks to be bigger and better than ever before.

“These business are Chamber members and non-Chamber members and we have 20 or so,” he said. “There really is a nucleus of stores downtown and they will have balloons in front of them to let people know they are part of it. It’s a good mixture of stores.”

While back-to-school is the major retail push in the promotion, one doesn’t have to be after pencils and sweatpants to take advantage of the effort. Stores include clothing stores, phone stores, bakeries, pizza shops, nail shops and even a barber shop in the Parkway Plaza.

“You don’t need to be a student and back to school could mean you are a college student and are getting a new cell phone,” he said. “You don’t need to be a Chelsea Public School student or parent to participate and enter the drawing.”

Aside from the sales, the Chamber will be holding a drawing for three Mastercard gift cards – $100, $50 and $25. To enter the drawing, one needs to make a purchase at a participating store this weekend, and take the receipt to the Chamber of Commerce office at 308 Broadway.

“We’ll stamp it and have people fill out a card to enter the drawing,” said Cuthie. “On Monday, after it’s all over, we’ll hold the drawing and notify the winners.”

Cuthie said the push is very simple – to capture the foot traffic on Broadway and get them to think about buying locally.

“Basically, the Chamber is trying to capitalize on the foot traffic the downtown has,” he said. “There are tons of people walking the streets of Broadway at every hour of the day. We’re trying to get them to pop into the stores and spend some money locally for back-to-school.”

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Unravelling the Trauma of the Journey: North Suffolk Forms Support Group

Unravelling the Trauma of the Journey: North Suffolk Forms Support Group

It was only the second meeting of the new support group for young girls who have come to Chelsea illegally from Central American countries as part of the recent influx, but even with just two meetings, there was finally a moment of relief for the girls.

As Clinicians Ada Aroneanu and Nidia Samayoa went around the room and asked each girl to describe in one word how they felt after the meeting, one after the other said, “relief.”

After seeing countless teen-age girls in the schools or as referrals from MGH-Chelsea with a need for talking out their experiences, North Suffolk Mental Health Association responded recently to the call and decided to form a weekly therapy group for these – and any other – such girls.

It’s just one of several efforts that have popped up in Chelsea recently as city government and local organizations have marshaled resourced to deal with what has quickly become a humanitarian crisis in Chelsea’s streets, schools and halls of justice.

There is no way of counting the numbers of unaccompanied minors or young adults who have come to Chelsea in the recent influx from Central America, but the schools have estimated that a few hundred have enrolled in the middle and high schools. One thing is for certain, more and more young people and young adults are arriving every day in Chelsea very confused and, often, very mistreated.

“I would say adjusting to a new life and a new place and frankly – new family members – is just a huge transition for a lot of adolescents,” Aroneanu said. “Also, dealing with the realities of the distinct traumas of what they experienced in their home countries and then on their journey’s over. That often goes unaddressed.

“A lot of young clients describe their experience as being confusing and one of not knowing how to feel or who to rely upon,” she continued. “It’s hard them to make sense of the experience. We felt we had to form some sort of group where we could address it.”

Aroneanu and Samayoa had been working in the Chelsea schools last year when they discovered that there was just a tremendous need for these young people to unravel what had happened to them, but most important for the teen-age girls – who often times had been sexually assaulted or mistreated in their home countries and on their journeys.

“I made the decision that the first effort should be female only,” said Aroneanu. “It’s not to lower the needs of the young men, but I think a lot of the trauma experienced can be gender specific. What we wanted to do was provide a safe environment for the female population…One reason we felt that providing these services was really important is that this is a highly vulnerable population – especially the girls. They are at a high risk of getting in with risky behaviors as a way of coping with the stress – whether that be substance abuse, risky sexual behavior or even becoming gang involved.”

Supervisors at North Suffolk said they fully supported the two clinicians from the very start, saying it fit squarely in the middle of the organization’s mission.

“Being a non-profit agency that has served the community for so many years, it’s sort of the support system that we provide and have provided to serve the community – no matter where people come from,” said Kasey Crist, director of child and family services. “We believe we should help if we can…Working with this group right now, we might be changing the whole trajectory of their lives for the future.”

Aroneanu said there are numerous issues from the journey that have come up, and some girls are able to speak about those issues within the group and others are not at a point where they can talk about it. That said, all of them have felt relief from just being in a safe environment where such issues are being discussed and dealt with.

Many of their stories of trauma and abuse, Aroneanu said, start in their hometowns well before they even left to come to the U.S.

Now that they are here, though, there are also other issues to detangle.

Many times, she said, the teens arrive to find their parent or parents have new families or have changed. Some, in fact, have never seen their parents, who left them behind to enter the U.S. when they were only babies.

“We see children who have been left behind and then come here and don’t know their parents or find new family situations,” she said. “They deal with not knowing their parents their whole life and now they are expected to recognize them as parents and be obedient. It’s particularly challenging when a teen arrives here and lives with their family and their family members are practically strangers to them.”

Overall, though, it’s not the traumatic stories or the sadness of the entire ordeal that has caught the attention of clinicians in the short time they have had the group. In fact, it’s the resilience.

“A lot of the girls I have worked with are extremely resilient,” said Aroneanu. “They very education-oriented and very optimistic despite it all. They are hopeful and that may not be true for the entire population, but it’s been extremely impressive to me how positive these girls are after having been through so much.”

The North Suffolk Mental Health Association group for teen girls who have come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors takes place at 301 Broadway, Chelsea, every Thursday from 4-5:30 p.m.

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Tornado Formed over Chelsea in an Instant

Tornado Formed over Chelsea in an Instant

Weather is a funny science, but as radar and computer imagery has improved the prediction of the weather, most people are used to being well prepared for the slightest drop of rain.

Television stations inundate us with updates and cell phones beep out warnings frequently.

But when an F2 tornado formed over the Chelsea Creek and hit Revere Monday morning, there were few warnings – and no tornado warnings. Most people simply thought it was a bad storm, or heavy rain, and went about their business.

Glenn Field of the National Weather Service (NWS) Taunton office said the service had been following the storm all morning. It had formed in the Dover area in Norfolk County and had high-level rotation, but nothing had seemed to be ripe for spinning at ground level in order to make the essential top-to-bottom connection required to form a tornado.

Then, Field said, in an instant – faster than radar imagery could record – the tornado formed by the Chelsea Street Bridge and came together inconceivably and unbelievably.

It ripped its way up Broadway Revere and was over in three minutes.

Traditional radar captures images every four minutes.

Field said one image at 9:29 a.m. showed nothing.

The image at 9:34 a.m. showed the tornado already formed and carrying debris.

A 9:39 a.m. image was again harmless.

“It wasn’t until the image at 9:29 a.m. that it showed it was beginning to come together, but not totally,” he said. “At 9:34 a.m. the image showed just tremendous signals – all of a sudden. It was 100 mph – 50 knots in one direction and 50 knots in the other – and situated on top of Revere. There was also a debris cloud on the image that showed us…clearly things being lofted in the air. That was 9:34 a.m. and the tornado had already begun and it’s the first time we had evidence of it coming together. By 9:39 a.m., the clouds are separated again and not together at all. It came together as fast as it came apart. It lasted around three minutes and we say it happened officially at 9:32 a.m.”

Field said the tornado likely hit some warm surface air that escalated the formation around the Chelsea Street Bridge in Chelsea. The storm needed warm air on the surface to form a top-to-bottom spinning cloud – and southeast winds coming from Boston provided just what it needed.

“Unlike the Midwest tornadoes we see that form and come downward, this one had rotation aloft, but needed a trigger at the surface,” he said. “That warm front that was around Revere provided enough surface spin to combine with the aloft spin and it formed. Without that warm front, it probably never forms. It’s actually something that probably triggered a tornado warning downstream in Essex County, but that wasn’t much help to Revere. It happened so fast that all we were able to have is a severe thunderstorm warning, which expired at 9:30 a.m. Nothing came together at 9:30, so that warning expired.”

Field said there was a 40 minute severe thunderstorm warning that began at 8:50 a.m. on Monday, but unfortunately those warnings don’t often get heavily reported on television and they don’t appear on cell phone weather warnings.

“Nobody’s cell phones go off for severe thunderstorm warnings, but they will go off for tornado warnings,” he said. “That’s unfortunate for Revere. We could have issued the tornado warning when it was over Dover, but that would have alerted Boston and Dedham and there wouldn’t have been a tornado there. It’s a fine line that we have to walk on. We were following the storm closely. It just suddenly spun up within one scan of the radar imagery. It lasted three minutes and was over.”

He said it is regrettable that there was no official warning, though he did say it’s probably a lesson for many to pay closer attention to thunderstorm warnings.

“There were 40 minutes of a severe thunderstorm warning prior to the tornado,” he said. “Going outside during that is something people could have prevented. If you were aware of the warning, you could have been inside…There hasn’t been a tornado in Suffolk County since 1950 so it’s definitely a rare event. We certainly wish we could have had a warning for an EF2 tornado, but the nature of New England tornadoes is that they’re very quick and very shallow. They are quite different than the Midwestern supercells that form and are easier to track because they’re on the ground for a long time.”

The tornado, he said, broke up just after Brown Circle in Revere – meaning that it beat its way the entire length of Broadway in three minutes.

According to the NWS official weather statement, the tornado had maximum winds of 120 mph and had a rating of F2, breaking down to F1 at many points. Its maximum path width was 3/8 of a mile and the total path was two miles long.

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A Tornado Strikes and a City Recovers

A Tornado Strikes and a City Recovers

When area residents awoke Monday morning, there was no sign or warning of what Mother Nature had in store for the city of Revere.

But in the course of approximately four terrifying minutes, a tornado – in all its fury and unpredictability – swept down Broadway and adjacent streets and caused tremendous damage to businesses, buildings, and homes.

The National Weather Service affirmed a few hours later that it was in fact a tornado that had wreaked such incredible destruction on the city of Revere.

The fact that there were no fatalities or serious injuries is amazing and one for which we are so thankful.

The outpouring of assistance from Revere’s neighboring communities and their public safety personnel in the aftermath of the tornado was heartwarming.

Mayor Dan Rizzo truly demonstrated outstanding leadership throughout the day and was clearly the executive in charge of the city and its recovery efforts from the outset. The Mayor is to be commended for his superior coordination of all the city departments in what was a unified and well-organized approach to a testing experience for the city.

The Mayor credited Governor Deval Patrick’s office for immediately reaching out to the city and pledging that the state would employ whatever resources necessary to help Revere recover from the devastating effects of the tornado. Our governor, our state representatives, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo and Rep. Roselee Vincent, our state senator, Anthony Petruccelli, our congresswoman, Katherine Clark, and our U.S. Senators, Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and our city councilors all were front and center providing assistance, support and resources during the day whether it was in person, through their direction, or in their presence of their aides.

Revere’s public safety departments – its firefighters and police officers – were on the scene within minutes of the tornado’s strike and doing everything they could to restore calm and order and to assist residents – almost all of whom had never witnessed a tornado in their lifetimes.

The Department of Public Works deserves a lot of credit for working around the clock to clean the debris that resulted from the tornado and restoring a sense of normalcy to neighborhoods that were strewn with wires, trees, branches, and metal objects.

The Tornado of 2014 is now a part of the city’s history. It will stand alone as an incredible weather happening, the type of which we hope we will never witness again. But the city can be proud of all the individuals who helped the city and its residents in a time of need.

Revere has learned how potent a tornado can be and it’s important for our future safety that all warnings about hurricanes, tornados, major snowstorms, and blizzards be respected and heeded by our community.

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Influx Has Everything to Do with Remittance Culture

Influx Has Everything to Do with Remittance Culture

The idea that the streets in America are paved with gold has always been a nearly undefeatable idea in the Third World.

The hope that if one can just get to the promised land – the American land of opportunity – that earning money will be easy and relative riches will literally be handed over. I’m sure it’s a belief that brings about the necessary hope that is required to make it through a difficult life of poverty; in fact, I’m certain that’s the case because I have personally heard those laments over the telephone and in e-mails or Facebook postings.

However, the reality is that once one arrives in an American place like Chelsea, the streets are not paved with gold.

The harsh reality for so many that came here illegally (and some legally) from Central America over the last 10 years is that things aren’t easy. Many came here with the belief that they would live comfortably – changing the prospects of a family overnight. In large part, millions of those that came were men, husbands, breadwinners, responsible people looking to nab a few golden streets to send back home via Western Union or Ria or whatever new multi-service center is popular/cheap.

But a hard journey northward led to even more difficult times once here as these men struggled to make very little money and could ill afford to live. Some became estranged from the very families they had come here precisely to support, and inflation back home made their dollars less valuable.

Some of these men eventually re-married once here for awhile; or they fell into a life in the fast lane; or they just become lost in a far away place.

And they didn’t send as much money as they had hoped.

But make no mistake, they did and still do send money.

The Record reported last year that in 2012, nearly $250 million cash left the communities of Chelsea, Revere, East Boston and Everett in the form of remittances (money sent back to one’s home country). Some $2 billion left the state of Massachusetts alone in 2012. That’s a fortune, and most of it went to Central America – specifically El Salvador and Guatemala. The paper is still waiting to get those same numbers for 2013 from the state, but early reports are that even more was remitted.

Consulates from those countries told the Record in that very same report last year that their countries are deeply dependent upon money sent to family members from American relatives. It has become an important part of life in their countries.

And so what about those countries?

If you talk to assimilated natives of those particular countries – and really any country with a large remittance culture – they will tell you (maybe only secretly) that sending so much money home has ruined the society. People who keep residences in their home countries will tell you that they cannot find anyone to hire in order to maintain those properties. So many formerly hard-working people prefer to just wait for the weekly remittance from America. Why work when money just pours in from Western Union regularly?

This isn’t only in Central America, again. It’s the status quo wherever large sums of remittance money make up a significant portion of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Then there’s the problem with what happens to a poor economy when so much money starts rolling in without anything being produced or anybody earning said money. Prices skyrocket for food and housing. Land prices go through the roof. Heavy taxes are imposed. Everything all the sudden costs way more than it did, and the money that rolls in suddenly isn’t enough. The more money that is sent, the shorter it stretches.

Then the frantic phone calls begin to come – the money you sent isn’t enough. We need more.

What once cost $1 is now $10.

Now, there are hundreds of first-person reports of dangerous, blood-thirsty gangs that have emerged and are terrorizing the population – especially the women and young girls, so we’re told.

Is it no wonder?

All the men, husbands and responsible folks left years ago in order to make money in America and send it home. They are not there to protect their wives or ex-wives, their mothers and daughters. As is commonly said on the farm: when no one is guarding the hen house, the fox has a field day.

Those left are criminals who have run afoul of American laws and have been deported home, or young men whose father’s have not raised them and for whom the remittance wagon has lulled them into a stupor. Worse yet, organized drug cartels take over entire cities – operating their illicit organizations and stealing remittance money.

To get away from it all, right now we have hundreds of thousands of young adults and older teens pouring over the border to get to America by whatever means necessary. They are certainly fleeing violence, but there is also an aspect of them fleeing in order to get a job and send more money home.

That was expressly said by two women who spoke last week at the Collaborative – one of which who said she needed to send money home to her mother as soon as possible. Naturally, $1 doesn’t go as far as it used to and people need to eat.

The remittance culture needs to be addressed within this debate, but no one wants to talk about it. Just like Broadway Chelsea seems to be ground zero for the unaccompanied minor debate, it is also ground zero for cash leaving the country. Millions upon millions of dollars leave the community via Broadway Chelsea every year. Just a million of that money would transform the outlook of business on Broadway. That’s why this system cripples the community – puts local business out of business because any and all disposable income is being sent instead of spent.

A few months ago, I asked Gov. Deval Patrick about this very issue when he came to Chelsea. In a one-on-one conversation with him, I told him this is threatening all the Gateway Cities in the state and also the countries where the money is going.

He had no answers, and didn’t seem to like the subject, but he did turn the conversation around on me in order to ask what I would do.

Here’s what should be done. Tax every remittance transaction with a $5 surcharge that goes directly back to a community fund that would pay for the increased services demanded by the arrival of unaccompanied minors and other malleable populations. People keep asking how are we going to pay for this influx; here’s the answer. Where there are lots of remittances, there will be lots of unaccompanied minors. Additionally, the remittance system is by and large used by the folks who need this help. Those paying property taxes to the City that support schools/services are not the folks that typically are going to need these expanded and expensive services. Is it really fair to lay it all on them?

Mr. Governor, that’s one thing I would do – and now.

If we do not address this culture, it will only become more of a vicious circle and even more people will suffer and die. The remittance culture is a phantom; a lie that really only enriches the companies that ship the money and the governments/criminals where it ends up. It might help the people for a time, but not ever as much as they had hoped. Central America is now feeling this pain of what happens when an economy imports billions of dollars a year without producing anything; what happens when families are broken up by thousands of miles via an immigration system that is complicated; and most importantly, what happens when the streets don’t turn out to be paved with gold.

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Collaborative to Meet July 10 On Children Crossing Border

Collaborative to Meet July 10 On Children Crossing Border

The Chelsea Collaborative and the MIRA Coaltion – both pro-immigration reform groups – will hold a roundtable meeting on July 10 to address the hot-button issue of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border illegally.

The meeting will take place from 3-5 p.m. at the Collaborative on Broadway and will focus on strategies to support local families and children caught up in this situation.

The Collaborative said that government statistics show that unaccompanied children crossing the southwestern border have increased 92 percent over the last year. The children range in age from 4 to 17 and are coming from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Many have families in the U.S., including some in the Boston area.

Those sitting at the table formulating solutions will be legal service providers, community-based organizations, refugee resettlement agencies, immigrant advocacy agencies, Central American consulates and others.

Following that, at 5:30 p.m., the Collaborative will sponsor a ‘Know Your Rights Immigration Summit’ at Chelsea High School. The focus of the summit will be discussing unaccompanied children who have crossed the border and there will also be an update on deferred action – which was announced two years ago this summer.

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Whew, What a Weekend!

Whew, What a Weekend!

To the Editor:

Thanks go to so many gardeners, friends and local merchants for all the good will and hard work that went into our 4th Annual Art Walk “Scarecrows in the Garden” and “Quilt Raffle” fundraiser at the Chelsea Community Garden. A few special shout outs must go to:

Groundskeepers Joe Reese and Enesa for their hard work the weeks prior to get the garden looking so lovely.

Maureen for her gorgeous entranceway.

Angela for donating her beautiful quilt.

Ida for volunteering to MC the raffle pulling on Sunday.

Melissa Shook for taking photos (www.facebook.com/chelseacommunitygardens”Check out Facebook) and donating her marvelous blobs for our fundraiser.

Alison and Daniel for donating house plants to the fundraiser.

Enesa and her daughter Mirela, Evelyn and Manny’s daughter, niece and friends for potting up marigolds and strawberries for the fundraiser.

Evelyn for her handcrafted jewelry raffle prizes.

Judy Komarow and her high school senior year artists for exhibiting the bird houses and donating them to our fundraiser.

Marianne Ramos for exhibiting her flying fish and donating them to our fundaraiser.

Marianne, Melissa and the Senior Center artists- Enesa and Joe Reese for the beautiful Girl Scout Pumpkin-head patch.

Joe Fuchs, master salesman for his arms length selling technique, unbelievable!

Our treasurer Eliza, for managing the coffee cans – we set a record. $831.31. Yes, indeed, we managed it! Let’s go build a shade shelter! Thank you everyone.

Bob Kowalik, our Master Urban Gardener for volunteering as “the Doctor is In.”

Hilary Parasmo from DCR for her info table on the city’s Tree Initiative.

And all our guest scarecrow artists: Helen and her pirate (Helen’s 95!), Jennifer K and her friend and their dandelions, Margaret Lewis and her pumpkin spice, Marianne’s flying fish, Chelsea High student’s bird houses, and Chelsea Senior Center paper mache heads.

Of course, all our gardeners who took the time to build a scarecrow for the exhibit.

Sal Mancini for making our wooden fruit medallions.

Of course, all our gardeners who came to the garden for our “painting party” and created 15 fun medallions to show off our fruit areas.

Arnie Casavant for donating his time to teach the “Year of the Fruit” drawing workshop.

Eliza and Shawn – point people for the drawing workshop.

Maren Olsen, Chelsea High for donating materials for the workshop

Bea Cravatta and Melanie Torres – Chelsea Community Schools

Rob and Linda for making the day of tributes a meaningful remembrance for all.

Manny for his baking his wonderful cookies, year in and year out!

Liberty Mutual service volunteers who came down in May to begin the garden spruce up.

ROCA youth for their fun paper cup arrow signs directing the way along the alley.

All the gardeners who stepped up to set up and clean up both days, sell raffle tickets and act as ambassadors to our Art Walk guests. A big effort, and done well. Many, many thanks.

Joe Greene and Charcoll for organizing the Art Walk and the opportunity for this garden magic

And our local merchants for their generosity. Please patronize them and thank them!

•Compare Supermarkets, Chelsea

•Shaw’s Supermarkets, East Boston

•Trader Joe’s Supermarkets, Saugus

•Demoulas Market Basket

•Stop and Shop Supermarkets, Everett

•Kayem Foods, Chelsea

•Dunkin’ Donuts, Everett Avenue, Chelsea

•Northeast Nursery

•Ricky’s Flower Market, Somerville

•Mahoney’s Garden Center, Winchester

•Kirshon Paints, Chelsea

•Coprico Printing, Chelsea

•Broadway Jewelers, Chelsea

•Utrecht Art Supply

•D’Arrigo Brothers, Chelsea

•Yell-O-Glow Bananas, Everett

•Home Depot, Chelsea

•Barrett Tree East, Cambridge

•Naked Juice

•Au Bon Pain, Cambridge

•Cumar Marble and Granite, Everett

Margaret Carsley

Chelsea Community Garden

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