Local work for human dignity and stopping fascism
- Opened with the prayer for farmworkers.
- Edgar, a community organizer at Community to Community, thanked those who participate in the Vigils, Dialogues, and the people who marched and assisted with the Farmworkers’ March.
Maru Mora Villalpando, a community organizer and the founder of Latino Advocacy spoke on her time spent at the North West Detention Center.
- She and others spent almost a month camped in front of the detention center in Tacoma to raise awareness of the hunger strike and to show solidarity with those inside.
- Maru read an email from someone at the detention center (who is a legal immigrant with a green card, but who was still detained) about how people are breaking under detainment of I.C.E.
- She wants us to let those inside know that we have and still are standing with them so they don’t feel so alone. They are the leaders, they know the actions needed and it is the job of the people on the outside to follow their lead.
- She talked about how Dignity Dialogues were born as a response to an immigration reform framework written by Senator Charles Schumer saying that immigrants could get green cards if they admitted that they were criminals. The dialogues started because the community needed a way to discuss these issues where their voices were heard. They were made so that people could learn how to decipher the bills being presented, and open up space for knowledge and ideas to be passed around.
- She showed some news stories from march about I.C.E. targeting Sanctuary Cities with raids as a response. Raids were justified by saying green card holders and immigrants were at risk for deportation under suspicion that they could be potential threats to the country. This was an attempt to stop local work and activism.
- While this was happening, county jails had their rules changed so they didn’t have to provide translations, translated documents, or report suicides. (Many would rather kill themselves in the states than be deported.)
- In November, Jeff Sessions announced that there would be less forgiveness in sentencing for drugs use/possession, citing higher crime rates (even though they were lower).
- Maru talked about the firing of Comey. She pointed out that Trump has multiple impeachable offenses under his belt that have been largely ignored. This corruption high up is why local organization is so important. She brought up the fact that there is a new story or point of discussion every week, that distracts us from doing anything about the current issues at hand. This is the way of fascism.
- She told the group about the Public News Services: a nonprofit news agency. One of the members was recently arrested in a well-covered story because he kept asking about the new healthcare bill. He was charged with “willful disruption of state government process”.
- Who’s the next target? Maru suggests the next conversation we should be having is about what fascism is: “Authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization”. She highlighted the fact that fascism usually targets a group of people, in this case, Mexicans but who will be next?
- The hunger strike stopped on May 5th because they were told by the jail that the menu would change on May 15th, which it was not (currently, to our knowledge).
- NORCOR, a jail in Oregon has a contract with I.C.E for detainment, even though Oregon has rules that institutions can’t use state money to work financially with I.C.E. People were transferred from Tacoma to NORCOR (worse conditions than Tacoma) which is where the hunger strike has spread.
- Hunger Strikes have worked in the past. They have been provided microwaves, radios, programs, and jobs as a response to the strikes (this means that the center lacked all of these initially). Inmates were only provided one hot meal a day which is why microwaves were especially important.
- “Instead of asking how many people are on hunger strike today, people should be asking why they are on hunger strike at all” – Maru
- We need to be paying attention all the time, not only when it’s news. This is the point of Dignity Dialogues. “We are not going to thank you for being here, you are SUPPOSED to be here”.
- It is our job to do this work, even if we’re not paid. Once people see that, then they realize why this work is so important. We’re here to support and to follow, not to tell these communities what to do. This is especially important.
- Maru prompted everyone into groups to talk about how we feel about the vigils, dialogues, and work C2C has done, as well as the problems with the “Sanctuary” ordinance, and then how the work can be related to the topics talked about above. Those who have attended most of the dialogues facilitated these conversations.
At the tables we discussed:
- ACLU had a meeting with the Sheriff about their cooperation with I.C.E., who said they will not and have not been cooperating with I.C.E. Apparently the County has no intention of cooperation with I.C.E. If I.C.E. comes with an inquiry they will comply. One of the community organizers acknowledges this but says that just that is not enough. There is also mixed information on this as the Sheriff’s past does not seem to be to his credit and others have said that he would comply with I.C.E.
- One group talked about environmental justice and local action against harmful actions, and how that should be reflected in similar ways in regards to immigration. Communities across the country (about 200 of them) have been adopting community bills of rights in an attempt to protect themselves and deny corporate civil rights even if doing so violates state or federal law. They are committing municipal civil disobedience. There’s a move now to declare that the Salish Sea ecosystem has the right to exist, thrive and evolve on its own terms. Why couldn’t we provide for the rights of immigrants, workers, the homeless and Mother Earth as a whole to the same?
- Some said the key was making ourselves more visible at City Council and starting a Civilian Oversight Board. Also, asking if people in sanctuary cities are safer or more targeted under this administration.
- Those who are the most affected by these harmful laws are the ones who have the best idea for how to move forward, and we should collectively be ready to support and follow them. Local action is followed by outside resistance.
- Another group announced that if you voted for the ordinance but you aren’t working on the reform then you should be removed from City Council. This was met with applause.
- Brenda talked about her work on the vigils. This coming Monday will be the 10th vigil (yay!). She spoke on how often City Council members tried to avert the blame from themselves. City Council members should grow some cajones and ovaries!
- Audry spoke on her experience doing the evening vigils. She and her group chose the bus station for the evening because the high traffic. While the mid-day vigil shows presence outside of key locations, the evening ones are more for leafletting and talking to the community. People usually either already think Bellingham is a sanctuary city or didn’t know an ordinance was even passed. She has experienced a lot of positive feedback.
- Liz, who goes to the mid-day vigils mentioned that a lot of council members either ignore them or patronize them, asking what they want even though they literally have a printout. The threat of replacement if no action is taken seems to work, pressure to hold themselves accountable and make the change they’ve promised.
- Vigils send a message to institutions and community that we stand up against police and ICE collaboration, racial profiling, and forcing the undocumented community into the shadows. Vigils are important because it includes people who can stand up without fear, and speak on behalf of those who don’t have that privilege.
Upcoming Events and Action Needed!
- Thursday at 1– The Whatcom Three hearing. (People who blocked the highway when Trump came to the area). We need a presence to hopefully get them to move to dismiss the case. It is at the County Courthouse, dress in blue.
- Saturday the 20th at 9:30– Anti-Indian speaker, Elaine Willman, is coming to Sedro Wooley, gather at 9:30 a.m. at Tequila Azteca (221 central Ave.) to let her know that her message isnt welcome in the community. There will be donuts! Wear red.
- This next week is our 10th week of Dignity Dialogues!! We need to have the biggest turnout yet! Please show up at the 11:30 a.m. or 5 p.m. Vigils to show City Council that 10 weeks in, we are still going strong!
**Shout out to Tamia for taking these notes!