Update: ECM Organizing in Bristol County

BY DAX CROCKER, LEAD ORGANIZER, EPISCOPAL CITY MISSION

We are inspired by the organizing that ECM gets to be a part of in Bristol County. Please read on for an update and ways to get involved in local and statewide campaigns!

Transportation:

Since we began working on this issue, Brian Pastori (CEDC), Brittany Jenney (St Peter’s Episcopal), Carly Margolis, and I (ECM) met to lay the foundation. Brian created online forms to recruit drivers and for people to request a ride. Laura Gardner and Kelly Ochoa (UU Fairhaven) volunteered to receive the online requests, lead volunteer drivers, and create a website. Alicia Lopez (Cosecha) is now connecting riders and drivers using her bilingual skills. The work all of them do is what we now call the Immigration Support Network. As of today, we have 32 volunteer drivers with 8 more drivers recruited by Kelly this week (total 40). At the end of April, the Network had provided over 150 rides at no cost to the riders. The riders using this service are our immigrant neighbors in New Bedford and Fall River. So far, drivers have driven over 15,000 miles and served over 175 families! Our next drivers’ meeting is tomorrow Friday, May 3 at 6 pm at UU Fairhaven. Movimiento Cosecha and our Transportation Network are also working on passing a bill at the state legislature to grant our immigrant neighbors the privilege of having a driver’s license. Check out the campaign website here and a fact sheet on why the public supports driver’s licenses for all here.

ESL/Citizenship Classes

In New Bedford there are at least two organizations providing these services (even before we had a conversation about it). If you’d like to volunteer or need these services, please contact CEDC or IAC. They will be happy to help you. In Fall River, BIC is looking into providing these services. If you’d like to volunteer or help get it started please contact Sony Fernandes: sony@cnpintegrations.com or at sony20013@icloud.com.

Media Campaign

This is an initiative that has not gained much traction. I met with a small group in Fall River back in February. Those who showed up that day are interested in doing something about it. They want to reshape the public perception of immigrants and highlight their contributions to Bristol County. But we haven’t found a volunteer to lead the group. Chris Nielsen from BIC offered his media services for production and distribution. But since we work at a grassroots level, his offered will be on standby until a group of volunteers is willing and able to take on this initiative and get it going (similar to the Transportation Network above). If you are interested in this work, please let me know.

U Visas

This is an initiative that we understood needed attention more in Fall River than in New Bedford (New Bedford authorities are signing these documents. In Fall River we are told, they are not). U Visa is a path to legal status for undocumented neighbors victims or witnesses of crimes. Andrea Sheppard-Lomba and Sandra Carreiro (UIA) were looking into it. If you are interested in this issue or are affected by it and would like to know more please contact them: Sandra Carreiro scarreiro.uia@mcan-pico.org; Andrea Shepphard Lomba andrea.uia@mcan-pico.org.

Safe Communities Act (SCA)

This is a statewide initiative led by [miracoalition.org]MIRA, the [aclu.org/affiliate/massachusetts]ACLU, [progressivemass.com]Progressive Mass, and others. Its purpose is to limit the cooperation between state and local authorities and the federal government in detaining, incarcerating, and deporting our immigrant neighbors. In Bristol, our closest partners leading the charge are Maria Fortes and Marlene Pollock ([coalitionforsocialjustice.org]CSJ). Many Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking neighbors in Bristol have been targeted by the deportation and “crimmigration” machine and this coalition is doing something about it. ECM is in full support and working with these organizations to make sure this [malegislature.gov/bills/191/H3573]bill is passed. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Maria Fortes: beebeefortes@yahoo.com.

Bristol County Sheriff

The issues regarding the treatment of our incarcerated neighbors at the Bristol County Jail have been the subject of research and investigations by our partners at BCCJ. The goal is to ensure the humane and just treatment of inmates and to end the cooperation of the Sheriff with the federal government in deporting our immigrant neighbors. If you’d like to get involved please contact BCCJ at this link.