Immigration Accompaniment Network Takes Off in Bristol County

Over a year ago, the members of the Unitarian Universalist church in Fairhaven began to meet and discuss the policies of the current administration on immigration. They were looking for ways to do something to assist immigrants because one of the core beliefs of Unitarian Universalism is the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. At the urging of their minister, Rev. Jordinn Nelson Long, the group participated in a webinar offered by the American Friends Service Committee on accompaniment. Reverend Jordinn had been approached by BIJAN (Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Justice Network) about speaking to a local immigrant in custody in Bristol County.

In September, Episcopal City Mission (ECM) reached out to our church and several other local churches to become more involved in immigration justice. ECM staff invited members of the churches and various community organizations working on immigration issues in the Greater New Bedford area.

A few weeks later, members of the UU Fairhaven, Kelly Ochoa and Laura Gardner met with Brian Pastori of the Community Economic and Development Center (CEDC) in New Bedford and Dax Crocker of ECM. The goal of the meeting was to explore ways in which the members could develop a way to aid the CEDC in supporting the increasing number of immigrants in New Bedford. Laura and Kelly were able to set up a network of drivers who were willing to drive immigrants to appointments in Boston, Burlington and Worcester. Previously, the CEDC had a few drivers who had taken immigrants to appointments. BIJAN has an extensive network of people who accompany immigrants to court in the Boston area. The numbers in New Bedford are not as large but the need still exists. To date, 29 rides have been provided by various members of the network created by Kelly and Laura. Rides have been given to Worcester, Burlington and Boston.

On Sunday, March 3rd, drivers and riders gathered at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in New Bedford for a celebration of the growing network. Community members who have received rides expressed gratitude by preparing a meal for those who have offered rides.

--Kelly Ochoa, UU Society of Fairhaven, and Brittany Jenney, St. Peter’s Episcopal