Representatives of immigrant advocacy groups on Monday stressed the importance of unity and collective action to advance policies in the face of negative stereotypes and a political power structure they said can leave them without a voice, according to the State House News Service. “We have not been able to build the kind of political power necessary to be heard and respected by our political officials,” Natalicia Tracy of the Brazilian Workers Center said at a panel discussion marking International Migrants Day.

“It’s the fact that the community’s divided, we are pushed into corners where we need to be afraid of even exercising our very basic rights. I also want to bring into this another topic that is very difficult and gets left out the whole time, and it’s the fact of race. A lot of the issues that we’re dealing with today here, we would not have to deal with them if most of the people who are undocumented who are coming into this country, if they were white.” Tracy spoke as part of a panel, hosted by Reps. Mike Connolly and Adrian Madaro, on the impact of President Donald Trump’s policies in Latin America and Massachusetts.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice said there has long been a distinction in policy between “good immigrants” perceived to deserve protections and “bad immigrants” who do not. He said that line is now disappearing as the Trump administration pursues policies like ending temporary protected status for nationals of countries like Haiti and Nicaragua who fled their homes after natural disaster. “Now, all immigrants are bad immigrants,” he said. “Immigrant has become synonymous with criminal.”