Hundreds Pledge To Fight Deportations

Lucy Gellman PhotoAfter a day of false alarms, over 100 people packed a downtown gathering spot to sign up to serve as legal observers, accompany defendants to court, get arrested at protests, and put a rapid-response hotline on speed dial in preparation of anticipated federal raids on undocumented immigrants.

That event took place Wednesday evening at the New Haven People’s Center on Howe Street.

Starting at 7 p.m., over 100 New Haveners and people from surrounding communities — with dozens left waiting outside — packed the venue’s main room for “Resisting Deportation: A Workshop for Allies.” The two-hour event—part info session, part call-to-arms—was hosted by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) New Haven, with several members from Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) and Junta for Progressive Action.

The workshop was scheduled after President Donald Trump’s sweeping anti-immigrant executive order signed last month and the commencement of stepped-up immigration raids in cities across the country.

“We’re here to figure out how we can play a supportive role,” said organizer Megan Fountain. “There are a lot of people in here who want to support immigrant rights here tonight. And we want to get everyone plugged in”

Wading through 10 years of back story — alleged police misconduct and a rash of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Fair Haven in 2006 and 2007, New Haven’s Elm City ID Card, Barack Obama’s two-millionth deportation in spring 2014, and the concern of actions promised against “sanctuary cities” like New Haven by President Trump — Fountain motioned to sheets that attendees had been given at the door. She asked people to read along as Anna Robinson-Sweet took the mic. 
The documents offered concrete steps for audience members to take to support immigrant families facing possible deportation.

Robinson-Sweet and Fountain went through each option methodically, looking on as attendees filled out a request for their names, cell numbers, email addresses, information about access to a car, and political actions.

First, Robinson-Sweet said, there was outreach—knocking on doors with ULA members, passing out “Know Your Rights” literature, and becoming a “Know Your Rights”  trainer with the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA).

Or, said Fountain, attendees could practice direct action. Singling out attendee Melinda Tuhus for her role in protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline Tuesday afternoon, Fountain (who has also been arrested while protesting) pointed to civil disobedience as a way to compel local legislators to take action. ULA Founder John Lugo also advocated mobilizing as part of ULA’s rapid response team and marshaling at marches.

From the audience, first-year Yale law student Ellen Monkemeier advocated becoming a legal observer, for which one does not specifically have to be a lawyer or a lawyer in training. The program trains those interested in the law and its discontents to watch as protesters interact with the police, supposedly making the police more aware of their actions. 

As the two continued to list off options, Fair Haven School teacher Dave Weinreb filled in his sheet. He decided he could drive immigrants to court dates and wanted to become a “Know Your Rights” trainer, on call for rapid response. He was up for civil disobedience training. And he asked if SURJ could involve some of his sixth graders, many of whom came into the school without English skills.

At the front of the room, Fountain continued with the list. No matter their political background, she suggested, attendees could become local and statewide advocates, partnering with groups like ULA, CIRA, SURJ and Junta to speak with Mayor Toni Harp, the New Haven Board of Alders, state senators and representatives and other elected officials about protecting Sanctuary City policies and updates tp and firm support for the 2013 Connecticut Trust Act

Advocacy too public? Then fundraise, suggested Robinson-Sweet and Fountain. Brad Davidson of the

Connecticut Bail Fund explained why: bail bonds for immigrants picked up by ICE are often set as cash only—and too expensive for families to afford alone.

Stepping forward, ULA Founder John Lugo gave another suggestion: manning an immigration raid hotline, for which attendees might also have a phone tree on hand. While Spanish is required to man it, he added, there was no reason not to commit it to your phone, just to have it in case raids began popping up overnight.

“This is now,” he said, referencing an early-afternoon scare with Homeland Security officers at Union Station (which turned out not to involve immigration).   

Attendees can also accompany immigrants to their court dates, added Fountain. Close to the middle of the room, New Havener Molly Wheeler’s hand shot up.

“My Spanish is really rusty, but I still have a car,” she said. “Can I help drive people?”

Fountain and Lugo nodded. You never know who might be in need of a ride, a helping hand, or free childcare the day of, said Fountain. Facilitator Natalie Alexander popped her head in with another reminder: Many undocumented immigrants also speak English.

New Havener Roberto Irizarry, a professor of Latin-American literature at the University of New Haven, had come with pressing questions about his eligibility to help as a fellow Latino who also might be profiled. He said he left with a new sense of urgency and vigilance, he said.

“I’m here tonight because of my desire to help people who are being subjected to unfair treatment,” he said, noting that he too had experienced stereotyping when he arrived in New Haven from Puerto Rico several years ago. “Even the question ‘are you American?’ feel complicated to me. So I’m definitely going to take part in action, and stay involved.”

Varun Khatzar, a bilingual tutor and Connecticut Students for a Dream volunteer living in South Windsor, said that he too felt invigorated, and better informed, after the event.

“A lot of my close friends and students are undocumented, and I’m watching what they’re going through,” he said, noting an almost palpable anxiety that had begun to fall over his tutoring sessions. “I need to get more people involved. This seemed like a good place to be.”

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posted by: LookOut on February 16, 2017  9:02am

great - a group pledging solidarity in breaking federal law.  Please let us know when the group that pledges not to pay their taxes has a meeting.

posted by: the1king on February 16, 2017  10:37am

put them in jail.  Again the people getting deported are criminals.  People that don’t respect American law.  These protestors should get fined and pay court fees for clogging up the courts.  I can’t wait till ICE comes through New Haven and takes out some of these criminals and gang members.  Sorry protestors I guess you’ll have to find your drugs somewhere else.  For all you dumb people who don’t understand, they are not breaking apart a nice family.  It’s people that have broken the law.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on February 16, 2017  11:33am

LookOut is still pissed that Rosa Parks wouldn’t go to the back of the bus. It was law, after all.

Just cause something is law doesn’t make it moral. Civil disobedience is patriotic only insofar as I agree with you.

posted by: Henry J. Fernandez on February 16, 2017  11:45am

This is beautiful.  So many New Haveners of all backgrounds willing to help protect their neighbors. 

Dr. King could have been speaking of this decent caring community of people when he said: “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

posted by: JohnTulin on February 16, 2017  12:53pm

“Fight Fascism”, what a cute tee shirt.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on February 16, 2017  1:41pm

Please forgive me if my inference is invalid, but if not, it would be extremely inappropriate for Mr. advocate for his sixth grade class to participate in civil disobedience. That would be a parental decision from inception to completion. Even then, while possible, these scenarios are likely to be dangerous for those who even choose to observe.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 16, 2017  8:05pm

Hey Tim,

Though we have sparred in the past, and are certainly on the different side of some issues, I fully agree with your notion of ‘inappropriateness’.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on February 17, 2017  12:12am

I wish I too had the time and privilege of playing at revolutionary. Obviously our education system has not been successful in teaching some what fascism actually is.  If one were alive in, or studied 1930’s and 1940’s history one would know what fascism really is.  Guess that’s just not relevant these days. Ah, well…

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on February 17, 2017  4:54am

Mr. Saunders,

I thank you for reaching out.

posted by: Molly W on February 17, 2017  10:13am

Fascism: an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
*Recognizing it as now, on the march for a while, and resisting and fighting it, is not contradicting the fact of its shape or existence in the 1930/40s.

posted by: Molly W on February 17, 2017  11:30am

The article does not state that Mr. Weinrab wishes to have his students participate in civil disobedience. It states that he would like participate in civil disobedience training has an individual and as a teacher, he would like see about ways that his sixth grade students could work with SURJ, an organization that does many things. Please read the article thoroughly before commenting at people.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on February 17, 2017  12:13pm

Hi Molly W.,

The paragraph in question has been rewritten without explanation from the author or the publisher.

posted by: new haven can do better on February 17, 2017  5:47pm

It cost about $17,000 per year to educate one child in New Haven. I’m sure we have at least 1,000 undocumented children in New Haven. That’s $17 million a year. I’d like to see these volunteers begin to volunteer their money to pay for the cost of educating these children.

posted by: 1644 on February 18, 2017  7:10pm

Precisely what action does Fountain feel the local legislators, i.e., the Alders, need to take that civili disobedience is required to press them to perform?  The city government is emphatically pro-immigrant, legal and otherwise.  Meanwhile, those civilly disobeying risk arrest and a criminal conviction.  It would extremely unwise for any illegal immigrant to participate in illegal demonstrations, as the current administration has said any criminal arrest will make that immigrant a priority for deportation.  Green card holders cannot be deported for a single misdemeanor resulting in less than six months of jail time.  However, it is easy to foresee circumstances that might put even a permanent resident at risk of deportation, such as a charge of assault on a police officer.