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Lady Liberty with immigrant papers burning in her torch.

BC Professor Explores Intersectionality Between Worker and Immigrant Rights

Reena Parikh addressed the Boston College community virtually on Tuesday regarding her work as the Director of the Boston College Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic. The Civil Rights Clinic works with low-wage and immigrant communities in the Boston area to advocate for workers' rights, both in the form of jurisdiction as well as community based outreach.  

Parikh graduated cum laude from Boston College as a Gabelli Presidential Scholar and went on to earn her Juris Doctor summa cum laude from American University Washington College of Law. After working in the government and clerking for esteemed judges, Parikh then taught at Yale Law School before she made her way back to the Heights where she is a reputable professor in the Boston College School of Law.

Parikh  began her talk by sharing alarming statistics with the audience which included the fact that 17 percent of Massachusetts residents are immigrants and that same population makes up 20 percent of the labor force, 65 percent of all domestic workers, 40 percent of hospitality workers, 50 percent of maintenance staff, and 30 percent of farm workers who produce nearly $500 million in agricultural goods each year. 

“Hotel and motel workers, restaurant workers are disproportionately composed of Immigrants, women, and workers of color,” shared Parikh as she explained the many ways that these low-wage jobs directly affect those individuals who are immigrants and people of color.

Parikh  explored the immense intersectionality between workers' rights and immigrants rights by explaining the policies in Massachusetts and across America that make utilizing basic workers rights so difficult.

In Massachusetts, workers are responsible for filing complaints and setting their rights into action. That being said, Parikh explained the immense risk of being fired that comes along with filing these complaints and standing up for the money one has rightfully earned.

“It doesn’t take long to see that the lack of protections for certain industries, particularly those occupied by Black Americans, stems directly from the United State’s history of slavery and systemic racism,” Parikh said.

These are the issues which Parikh’s clinic here at Boston College attempts to combat. Eight students have the privilege of working alongside Parikh in the clinic each year, doing both legislative work and dealing with actual cases, as well as participating in community outreach and connecting  with immigrant groups. 

Parikh explained that the clinic often connects with agencies across Massachusetts in an effort to find individuals in need of legal assistance. According to Parikh, using these agencies means the clinic can surpass language barriers and find workers with promising cases. 

The students work with individuals who have been denied wages and other basic workers rights, fighting in court as well as in communities to receive fair wages and actually get paid for the labor they perform.

In the final portion of the panel, a viewer asked Parikh how her time at Boston College during her undergraduate studies propelled her legal career and led her to where she is today.

Parikh responded through discussing the many student organizations rooted in social justice and racial equality that have allowed her to stem beyond Chestnut Hill and begin to look at the world on a larger scale with a broader perspective.

“Boston College was a microcosm to understand how organizing works - how do you organize your fellow students?" said Parikh. "How do you convince the administration to adopt certain policies?”

Parikh took advantage of every moment she spent at Boston College and has now found her way back to allow other students to do the same by exploring different forms of law and the many ways in which their education can allow them to connect with various communities and make a difference in the lives of families worldwide. 

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