Maru Mora Villalpando opened the Dignity Dialogue giving some history behind Latino Advocacy, an organization which she founded. She had been inspired and motivated by the grassroots movements and organizers operating outside of the mainstream narrative fighting for racial, reproductive, gender, climate and immigrant justice. Latino Advocacy began doing volunteer work in 2000 working with different agencies serving the Latinx community and in 2010, Latino Advocacy was established and created to help organizations and grassroot groups that are led by people of color. To learn more about Latino Advocacy, check out their website http://www.latinoadvocacy.org/i-aboutus.html and follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/latinoadvocacy/about/?ref=page_internal
- We looked at sanctuary acts in other places & on a national level. The Illinois Trust Act is a state wide sanctuary bill. Check out the National Immigrant Justice Center for more information in the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois https://www.immigrantjustice.org/press-releases/illinois-trust-act-passes-senate-victory-immigrants-refugees-and-domestic-violence
- 2012 lobbied for bill here in WA state- would only have/allow one contraversial bill at a time- the Family Unity Act still hasn’t been passed.
- 10 years ago in Chicago, a policy was passed in the school district that regardless of documentation status any student can vote.
- One program banned in the Illinois sanctuary bill was 1357(g): this program allows state & local law enforcement to ask for/about papers.
Next we broke off into groups and looked at summary of “Illinois Trust Act” to compare what we were doing in Bellingham and examine it to the ordinance we are demanding (each group picked one section from the summary)
- David (group #1)- noticed Illinois proposal has more specifics/details. Examined the Law Enforcement passage- creates a version of an oversight board.
- Audry (group #2)- examined Law Enforcement passage also. They used the word solely just like in the ordinance passed by the City Council and Mayor. This allows for loopholes. Noted the list of what law enforcement can’t do covers actions both inside and outside of programs like 287(g).
- Liz (group #3)- examined section VI: Compliance Board- Illinois Trust Act (13 members) vs. Keep Bellingham Families Working ordinance (5 members)- taking into consideration population and growth of both areas and demographics could have a impact on the number of members. 7 government & law enforcement vs. 6 Latino and Advocacy Groups with the Illinois Trust Act- still some imbalance of power.
- Maru (group #4)- examined compliance board- need to talk with communities of color and make sure to include those who are being directly affected.
Maru began talking about detention centers and how she doesn’t like to refer to them as such. Instead she calls them Tacoma Immigration Cages.
- Today there was a hearing for DREAMer Jonathan Alcantara, a detainee in Tacoma.
- 7 people were outside but only 2 were allowed to witness the hearing- didn’t allow the rest of the community/family to come in- just one way showcasing how corrupt our justice system is but also that the presence had some effect.
Collaboration & law enforcement- example of law that was passed- shows how we can be pushing here in Bellingham and ask City Council “what are we waiting for?”
Ordinance and Bills aren’t solutions- they are only part of the solution. We need layers and different strategies.
Brenda Bentley, Vigil organizer, gave us the meaning and where the word vigil derives from- the Latin: Vagilia: a period of “purposeful sleeplessness”. The dignity vigils are are symbolic of “purposeful sleeplessness” or “being woke”; in this case the plight of our undocumented community. At the Dignity Vigils we congregate, we observe, we take note, we become the village square. A vigil is a timeless act that should not be underestimated. Council members say they are receiving more pressure (phone calls and mail) from anti-immigration constituents. We must act and change that balance.
Brenda also mentioned that at today’s evening vigil the group had council member, Dan Hammill (3rd Ward), approach them and say it was very important that they were there.
“You Don’t Have My Vote, Unless…”- we then filled out postcards and are sending them to our city council members and mayor. However, most people filled out several and sent them to more than one representative. It is also important to write to the council members that are running unopposed as well to let them know what values and issues that are important to you. We filled out 31 postcards and many people took some home to continue spreading the message!
Maru talked about a friend who came to Belligham and is doing some amazing organizing in Mexico and talked briefly about “The Searchers”- a group of Mexican mothers who are trained to find their loved ones and locate the remains of the dead and people who have disappeared
- “The Searchers” are doing a tour of North America beginning in California, British Columbia in Canada and finally Washington State. They are telling their story and are stopping here in Bellingham and Tacoma! Help us make “The Searchers” feel welcomed by attending this event and inviting friends and family. Food and donations are much appreciated, however this is free admission. This is going to be an amazing opportunity to listen and learn from some amazing speakers, one being Dr. Carlos Figueroa, human rights expert who will give us some information on issues currently happening in Mexico.
- Here is a look at the schedule for “The Searchers” stop in Washington stating times and locations – Wednesday June 14th at 6:30PM – First Congregational Church 2410 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham. Thursday June 15th at 2:30PM – Tacoma Urban League 2550 S Yakima Ave, Tacoma. Thursday June 15th at 7PM – demo outside the Tacoma immigration cages, also known as NWDC, 1623 E J St, Tacoma. *For more specifics check out the Facebook Event page https://www.facebook.com/events/1330010173719140/
Victoria Matey, President of WWU Blue Group, and Olga Araceli, Vice-President of WWU Blue Group, closed the night with some powerful words of encouragement and recognition. Letting us all know the fight still continues, to never give up and thanking their supporters and mentors along the way. Even though this may be Olga’s last Dignity Dialogue and Vigil as she is graduating and moving back to Tacoma this weekend, we know that the hard work and dedication will continue wherever Olga goes. Remembering to stand in solidarity with one another and collaborate in a collective line of communication is important even in longer distance settings, so lets continue to show our love. WWU Blue Group has been much more than a club. Their mission has been to provide undocumented students with a safer space to meet other undocumented students, find resources, services and build community- yet they have exceeded their outreach to make Bellingham a more inclusive and protected space for everyone and not just the campus environment. They created this campaign and have fought for a city ordinance and are working on a county ordinance too for sanctuary. They have educated a wider pool of people by bridging the gap between the allies and the Blue Group so that together we may learn how best to support undocumented students, immigrants and people of color. Please like and follow WWU Blue Group on Facebook to stay updated.