Western Massachusetts advocacy groups know that there are many in immigrant communities living in fear of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and arrests, and over the course of this year have been working to do something about it — particularly in light of President Donald Trump’s stances on immigration.
Groups including the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and Jobs with Justice have begun training people to be part of a network to respond to ICE raids by quickly assembling public rallies. The program is called Sanctuary in the Streets.
Tony Hall, an organizer with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, said the goal for his organization’s Sanctuary in the Streets trainings include standing in solidarity with families targeted by ICE raids, putting public pressure on ICE, and attempting to de-escalate raids through group prayer or songs.
“Just by being present in mass, groups of people can influence the way that these raids … can turn out, better for keeping families unified,” Hall said.
The idea of singing songs may seem a little naive in the face of arrests and deportations, but the network the two groups are building represent an organized community built around the common cause of protecting vulnerable citizens from often pointless and damaging deportation.
There is power in assembling those willing to respond through peaceful protest.
The Workers Center is also developing a 24-hour hotline number to receive reports of deportations and labor abuse issues.
Most of the battles against ICE arrests of undocumented people are being waged in the courts. For instance, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit, Michigan, ruled on July 11 that the federal U.S. District Court has jurisdiction in the case of 199 Iraqi immigrants detained by ICE last month. Goldsmith also extended a stay of deportation for the group of Iraqis, issued on June 27, according to Detroit Free Press.
The Workers Center was one of the organizers behind a July 11 Northampton rally calling for a release of longtime Florence resident Niberd Abdalla, who fled Iraq as a 15-year-old refugee in 1976. He’s remained in the United States for more than 40 years and has regularly attended his bi-annual ICE check-ins for the past seven years, but was detained by ICE on the morning of June 8.
What the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and Western Mass Jobs with Justice hope to achieve is admirable. It’s not the end-all, be -all action against ICE, but it’s a fine start. The ability to organize in a moment’s notice and raise awareness about ICE arrests has the power to harness energy from those looking to get involved. With enough support, it could potentially turn public opinion against the ICE raids and that shouldn’t be underestimated.
For more information, or to get involved in Sanctuary in the Streets, go to pvworkerscenter.org/sanctuary-in-the-streets, or call PV Workers Center at (413) 570-3060.
Chris Goudreau can be reached at email@example.com.