Grassroots groups hold the line on hard-won victories

Photo: Hanbit Kwon
Demonstrators support the Global Women’s Strike in Philadelphia in March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Obama administration announced in late 2015 that it would be targeting undocumented immigrants from Central America in a new wave of raids, Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee New Sanctuary Movement (NSM) took action immediately to create a rapid response team. NSM has developed a network of allies who are trained to support people who are at risk and to document raids. Anyone can call NSM’s hotline to mobilize the network when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents show up.

“We support the family and show ICE that we will not stand quietly,” says Blanca Pacheco, NSM’s assistant director.

After last November’s general election, NSM put out a call for more people to join the rapid response team. They received an overwhelming amount of interest, with more than 1,200 people responding in less than two weeks.

In the face of increased attacks, grantees are deepening connections across issues and movements and mobilizing people quickly as needs arise.

“We have always loosely talked about working with different communities,” says Erika Almiron, executive director of Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee Juntos. “This is the time to actually do it. If we are going to win everything back, it has to be done together.”

Since Pres. Trump took office, many of his campaign threats—including eliminating environmental protection regulations, increasing deportations of undocumented people, establishing a ban on Muslim people entering the country, and dismantling the Affordable Care Act—have become terrifying realities.

“For allies, it was kind of like the end of the world, because there was no way to deny it now. For us as immigrants, it wasn’t new,” Pacheco says.

Grassroots groups are gaining activists newly awakened to these realities. Shortly after the presidential election, Angela York Crane discovered Tuesdays with Toomey, a group that holds weekly rallies at Sen. Toomey’s office.

“I’m a 55-year-old white lady. I’m probably going to make it through this,” Crane says. “There are marginalized groups that are really going to be hurt who were already living on the edge. I needed to do the work to be with them. There’s a little bit of shame of what took me so long, but I’m not going to let that keep me back now.”

Tuesdays with Toomey educates rally participants by bringing in speakers with long histories of organizing in Philadelphia, including Bread & Roses grantees such as POWER, Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, and Earth Quaker Action Team.

Movements for change are holding the line and, rather than scrambling, finding opportunity in the midst of crisis. Organizers are figuring out how to take advantage of the current energy, according to Pacheco.

“Our undocumented members are afraid, but they want to fight back,” she says. “Building that fear into strength to fight back and bringing people together has been really moving.”