Muslim to head city’s immigrant advancement office
Vali previously worked at Islamic Society of Boston
BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH appointed Yusufi Vali, the executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, as the head of the city’s Office for Immigrant Advancement.
Vali, who immigrated with his parents to Kansas City from India when he was nine, will report to Marty Martinez, the chief of the city’s Health and Human Services office.
“You have a white mayor, a Latino chief, and a Muslim director working on immigration together,” Vali said. “I think the mayor is sending a clear message to Boston and the nation that we’re not letting the fearful rhetoric coming from up top bully us. We’re going to work across ethnic, faith, gender, racial lines.”
Vali replaces Alejandra St. Guillen, who left in December to run for a city council-at-large seat. During her tenure, the office grew from five to eight people, including some grant funded positions. The office provides funding for English as a Second Language programming, legal clinics, citizenship application assistance, youth mentoring, and civic engagement classes.
The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center consists of a mosque and community center that services over 1,500 congregants of 64 ethnicities, most of whom are immigrants. “He has a strong record of fighting for immigrant and vulnerable communities, and I am looking forward to seeing him succeed in this role,” Walsh said.
Prior to joining the cultural center in 2012, Vali was a community organizer for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization where he advocated for education and health care access for low-income families. The 36-year-old has been a Fulbright Scholar, a Marshall Scholar, and a Barr fellow. He holds two master’s degrees, including one from the London School of Economics, and a bachelor’s from Princeton. He currently lives in Roslindale with his wife.
After the Boston Marathon bombing by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Vali offered to assist authorities. “This city post-Marathon could have turned on its Muslims, but instead it turned to its Muslim community,” he said.One idea he wants to pursue is starting a program for immigrant taxi drivers who have advanced degrees from their home countries. “There are taxi drivers who have PhDs and doctorates. Let’s create a certification program to get them to becoming doctors again sooner or later,” he said.
Vali said he wants to continue work on the “Trust Act,” an ordinance supported by Mayor Marty Walsh and city councilors that would attempt to clarify the role of the Boston Police Department in relation to federal immigration law.