Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mutual AID at New Alternatives and New Sanctuary Movement

My community org students who brought coats. 

Shortly after the election, I started thinking of what we could all do in the face of this crazy turn of events.  Perhaps the most important things we have are our connections.  Remember the power of our social ties, of our capacity to look out for each other, our capacities to treat our neighbors as ourselves. We've been through this before. We will survive if we all love each other. On Sunday, I explored a few of the organizations I adore that help provide the pieces of support needed right now. At my church at Judson Memorial, one of the groups we could all support and expand is the New Sanctuary Movement, as part of their Immigrant rights project. 
New York is a city full of migrants, many find their way here to heal or get away from abuse.  Some of these are kids from all over the country, others immigrants from other countries.
Sunday after Judson, a few of us met at New Alternatives for LGBT Youth, making meals and serving food to runaway, homeless youth and their families. The kids from Sonic Youth at Judson were there, as were some of the students from my community organizing class who were bringing coats from a coat drive they organized.  My daughter and I made an evening of hanging out there, serving food, celebrating with Kate, the director, and the rest of the crew of volunteers there.

Everyone was still reeling from the election news, bubbling up into conversation after conversation, story after story, meeting after meeting.  People from all over the city were dropping by. Located near Times Square, the kids who find their way there create communities right in the streets, around up and around the various floors of the port authority. Everyone was trying to think of ways to support the work we are all doing to live.  Action equals life.  So everyone was getting active, from New Alternatives to Judson Memorial and their immigration rights mutual aid project.

Judson has long had an interest in immigrant rights – from the time the Church was founded at the edge of the predominantly Italian immigrant community of the South Village, through the mid-1980s when we housed an immigrant-run organization serving refugees from El Salvador and Nicaragua, to today’s concern with the 10 million immigrants who have lived in the US without legal staus for years but are now threatened with deportation.

Currently, Judson has an Immigration Task Force that recruits volunteers for immigrant rights events and activities, and educates the Judson community on immigration issues. Contact the church, “attention chair Jane Treuhold” to volunteer for this Task Force.

Immigrant rights groups that Judson regularly works with include: The NYC New Sanctuary Coalition (see below), the New York Immigration Coalition (the umbrella group for all immigrant advocacy groups in NYC); Make the Road New York, Families for Freedom, and the immigration law clinics of several local law schools.

A Current Project:
One of the NYC New Sanctuary Coalition’s current major programs – the Accompaniment Project – was pioneered in 2011 at Judson Church This program assigns citizen volunteers to accompany immigrants who are in the deportation process, when the immigrants go to their court hearings and their required periodic ‘check ins” with ICE. At any one of these check-ins, the immigrant could be detained for immediate deportation, making the experience extremely stressful. The presence, concern, and moral support of the citizens is both a pastoral ministry to the immigrant and a practical help if the immigrant is detained; the accompaniment team can tell the family what happened and help them stay in touch with their loved one. Also, the presence of watchful citizens is a witness to the immigration agents, showing that the community is supporting this person and encouraging humane treatment. Finally, by sharing the immigrants’ experiences, the citizens volunteers are educated about the issues in the current immigration system and are motivated to work to change unjust and inhumane laws and practices.
The NYC New Sanctuary Coalition
http://classic.judson.org/images/userfiles/images/linklogos/NSM_Logo.pngMission Statement
The New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC is an interfaith network of congregations, organizations, and individuals, standing publicly in solidarity with families and communities resisting detention and deportation in order to stay together. We recognize that unjust global and systemic economic relationships and racism form the basis of the injustices that affect immigrants. We seek reform of United States immigration laws to promote fairness, social and economic justice.

See website for more information.
Major Achievements:
After the defeat of the national Comprehensive Immigration Reform law in 2008, New Sanctuary Coalition shifted its legislative reform efforts to state and local campaigns, principally efforts to get local law enforcement agencies out of the business of trying to enforce immigration law, which is a national responsibility.

Starting in 2009, the Coalition sparked a major ongoing campaign to change the decades-old NYC practice of allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to interview and detain non-citizens at City jails even when their cases were dismissed or convictions were only for minor offenses not otherwise a cause for deportation. After three years of steady pressure, joined by several of the City’s major immigration advocacy groups, his campaign succeeded,. Late in 2011, Mayor Bloomberg signed the City Council bill that had been inspired and promoted by the New Sanctuary campaign, reversing the major flaws in this practice. Hundreds of immigrants who would otherwise have been deported will now remain with their families in NYC because of this change.

Early in 2010, the NYC New Sanctuary Coalition gained national attention for its successful efforts to prevent the immediate deportation of Haitian immigrant Jean Montrevil, the father of one of its “Sanctuary Families,” and a member of Judson Church. Read more about supported families or recent news.

Brief History of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC
Founding in 2007: Early in 2007, the Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City, learned of discussions around creating a new Movement along the lines of the 1980s “Sanctuary Movement.” That Movement had enlisted churches to transport, house, and hide refugees fleeing to the US from the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala.

In 2007, religious leaders in Chicago and California, plus Juan Carlos Ruiz, then a Catholic priest working with a Mexican immigrant organization in NYC, envisioned a “New Sanctuary Movement,” to engage faith-based groups specifically in support of the 12 million immigrants living in the US without legal status to stay.

This New Sanctuary Movement proposed to give “sanctuary” to these deportable immigrants, many of whom had US citizen children. Instead of hiding them, however, the New Sanctuary Movement proposed to publicize their stories, to put a human face on the issues, raise public awareness of their plight, and encourage legislative reform. In NYC, Rev. Schaper and Fr. Ruiz, together with Angad Bhalla (then a Community Minister at Judson Church), convened NYC religious leaders to form a local New Sanctuary Movement chapter.

Both the national New Sanctuary Movement and the NYC Coalition were formally launched in May, 2007. The NYC chapter began with nine members and two “Sanctuary Families” with parents at risk of deportation. Founding members included clergy and congregations from the Christian (Roman Catholic and both mainline and evangelical Protestants), Jewish, and Muslim traditions. Rev. Schaper served as the NYC Coalitions’ first president and continues as a member of its current Advisory Council. 

Some of my amazing students and friends at New Alternatives. 

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