“Historically, people have siloed immigrant rights as an issue of gaining citizenship,” says Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos. “Our communities are fighting for something way bigger than that. Citizenship has never guaranteed freedom.”
A Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee, Juntos is a community-led Latinx organization fighting for human rights for workers, parents, youth, and immigrants. Almiron describes it as a “space for community members to discuss issues and learn campaigning, strategy, and the political context of our lives.”
Juntos builds community power through legal clinics, cultural events, and campaigns on behalf of workers and incarcerated individuals. The group’s “Know Your Rights” workshops on interacting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have already reached over 500 families.
Although Philadelphia has received a lot of attention for being a “sanctuary city” where local law enforcement does not collaborate with ICE, Juntos believes there is more to be done to establish true sanctuary for all.
“We cannot call ourselves a sanctuary when we talk about over-policing of black and brown folks in the city,” says Almiron. “We have to talk about stop-and-frisk, decarceration, and the cash bail system. Organizing with black and brown folks, poor folks, and queer folks will win us back this country.”
Juntos will be working to expand its sanctuary efforts by establishing a “Human Rights Zone” in South Philadelphia—going door-to-door to educate community members on defending their rights and protecting their neighbors by documenting raids, harassment, and abuse by ICE.
Building coalitions across issues is critical to the work of Juntos. “Our communities are fighting for an end to criminalization that includes getting to be your whole self,” says Almiron. “It’s about fighting for the education you deserve. It’s about fighting against worrying you will be removed from your home. It’s about fighting against hate.”