Amid fears of more arrests and detentions of undocumented immigrants, immigrant rights activists vowed to band together to fight to keep deportations at bay.
They delivered that vow Saturday evening at Bregamos Community Theater, where close to 200 activists, nonprofit leaders and union representatives packed the space to support the Immigrant Bail Fund at its first-ever fundraiser.
Coming on the heels of immigrant Luis Barrios’s 30-day deportation stay, the event raised over $20,000 for the nascent nonprofit. In part, that was thanks to sponsoring partners including the Central Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), UNITE HERE, and New Haven Legal Assistance Association.
While the Connecticut Bail Fund has bonded out 24 people, the Immigrant Bail Fund has bonded out one person.
Founded after the presidential election, the Immigrant Bail Fund is a collaboration among Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), Junta for Progressive Action, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance (CIRA), and the Connecticut Bail Fund. It seeks to fight the country’s default system of “pre-trial detention” for thousands who can’t pay bail, said CT Bil Fund founder and director Brett Davidson (he is one of the Immigrant Bail Fund’s lead organizers). It is also the first bail fund in the country to work directly with people detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
It exists, in part, “in order to say to ICE that … you can’t hold people hostage,” said Davidson from the stage. “That’s why it’s important that we have this solidarity.”
Winding their way around food-laden tables, chairs, and the occasional loose child, attendees cheered on speakers with loud whoops and thunderous, joy-filled chants of “sí se puede!” as they called for coalition building. At the back of the room, Yale grad student and DSA member Micah Khater cut up 20-some DSA-baked cakes, offering slices to attendees. Not far from her, Black Lives Matter New Haven director Lia Miller-Granger watched as Make the Road Connecticut’s Luis Luna told the story of a Bridgeport man and father named Ehab, detained three weeks ago by ICE for overstaying his visa. Make the Road CT is currently raising funds for his bail.
Representatives from UNITE HERE and SEIU struck up a conversation in a corner of the theater, beneath an aerosol rendering of Bregamos’s Rafael Ramos. At a long table near the theater’s entrance, attendees donated in cash or online through their phones.
One row removed from the front of the stage, immigrant Mark Reid prepared to tell his own story about ICE and detention. Onstage, ULA’s Jesús Morales-Sanchez stressed the value of coming together.
“With this administration, we know that there are more obstacles to come,” said Morales-Sanchez. “We’re living in a time in which we need to show solidarity with one another.”
He pointed to the arrest of 19 pro-Barrios protesters last week in Hartford, and delivery of a 2,500-signature petition against Barrios’s deportation to the regional director of ICE, as heartening signs.
As for the challenges to deportation that lie ahead, “it is through unity that we can overcome them,” he said.
Featured speaker José La Luz, director of the United Public Employees of Puerto Rico and a former member of Connecticut’s Puerto Rican Socialist Party, declared that politicians should “raise wages, not walls,” and called for a united front against Trump’s anti-immigration measures and continued promise to build a border wall with Mexico.
He argued that “people motivated by fear and the politics of resentment” were more likely to listen as they realized that the populism for which they had voted wasn’t coming into being.
“We may have the opportunity to expand and broaden our coalition,” he said. “When we fight together, we win together! ¿Se puede o no se puede?
“Sí se puede!” the crowd bellowed back.
In addition, the fundraiser served as a sort of kickoff to Showing Up for Racial Justice Deportation Defense’s (SURJ DepDef) “30 Actions in 30 Days,” a month-long course of events intended “to keep the public eye on Luis Barrios’s case and ICE in Connecticut.”
In an email sent on behalf of the group, SURJ’s Anna Robinson Sweet wrote that the group “will be escalating pressure through daily direct action throughout the month. We demand that ICE allow Luis to stay with his family and stop deportations in our state.”
She added that actions will include calling U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro to ask for their support, as well as “mass accompaniment to Luis’ weekly ICE check in.”