Locking Up Our Families is NOT the Solution!

Locking Up Our Families is NOT the Solution!

Pence, Trump, and Sessions have spent the last year and a half using their power to further engrain white supremacy into the trenches of our nation. They use the rhetoric of “Law and Order” to tear families apart and criminalize migrants, asylum seekers, and Black and Brown people. By eroding protections for our people like DACA & TPS, allowing ICE agents to enact dangerous raids with impunity as well as criminalizing migration and asylum seekers, we are experiencing the oppression and devastation of our community at an unprecedented level not seen in decades.

Detaining families together is not a valid solution to family separation. People seeking refuge do not deserve to be met with chain link fences and trauma. Children should not be growing up in jail cells. We need to expand the scope of our outrage to include the inhumanity of the detention of thousands of immigrants all over the country. The emotional and physical violence inflicted on our families by the U.S. is irreparable, and to then further rob them of their freedom is revolting at best.

We have seen the effects of this in the streets of Philadelphia, where almost 50 people were disappeared in one week last month as a result of dangerous ICE raids, leaving many Philadelphia children separated from their families. Families are ripped apart right here and in the wake of so much injustice, it is more important than ever that we enact local change. It is time for us to shut down the Berks Family Detention Center and free our families that have been detained indefinitely right outside of Philadelphia. It is time for us to expand the meaning of sanctuary and make sure we are a true Sanctuary City by ending the dangerous P.A.R.S. contract with ICE as well as ending data sharing with them.

We must take action now to create tangible change for our people and create a precedent for this country to combat the brutality it has inflicted. If we continue to simply demand that families belong together, we will easily see the ballooning of more family detention centers like Berks Family Detention Center and mass incarceration. We can do better, at the border and in Philadelphia, to put an end to this nightmare.

Philly Wins Sanctuary City Lawsuit…What Comes Next?

Philadelphia Has Won Its Lawsuit Against Jeff Sessions.
What Comes Next For Us?

It has been an amazing week to be a Philadelphian! On the heels of our very own Philadelphia Eagles not going to the White House, we also beat Jeff Sessions in court over our Sanctuary City policy.

On June 6th a federal court said what we in Juntos have been saying from the start, it was unconstitutional for the government to force our city to hold our people and hand them over to ICE. As we celebrate this we must also remember that our community isn’t fully safe. As the recent raids in Philly show, ICE is still very much terrorizing our community. We must use this victory as momentum to move forward and ask ourselves,

How Can We Expand Our Definition of “Sanctuary”?

A clear next step is for Philadelphia to end its dangerous practice of information sharing with ICE, specifically, we must end their access to our local legal system database, P.A.R.S (Preliminary Arraignment System.) This database gives ICE access to many families addresses and information like country of origin, making them immediate targets to raids and their access is the driving force to raids in Philadelphia.

We fought together and won an end to the collaboration between local police and ICE and we can win to also end this toxic relationship between our city’s database and ICE. We have until August 31st to end the P.A.R.S contract and expand our current definition of what being a sanctuary city means. Will you join us in asking for an end to ICE’s access to PARS?

Please forward this information to a friend, call your local city council person and tell them you want this practice to end and keep a lookout for future ways you can get involved in this campaign. We need all of you to truly make our city a Sanctuary City.

Our Power Will No Longer Be Ignored Because of Our Age

Photo by Kristen Graham

“Our Power Will No Longer Be Ignored Because of Our Age”

On the morning of March 14th, Juntos along with the Philadelphia Student Union organized the “Student Vision for School Safety March.” Thousands of young people across the city of Philadelphia walked out of their schools and put forward their vision for true school safety means. Juntos youth member, City Perez-Nieto, a Junior at Science Leadership Academy adressed the crowd with the following words.

Speech cowritten by Cindy Perez-Nieto & Odalys Peralta of Juntos

“Good morning everyone my name is Cindy Perez-Nieto. I am a junior at Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber and a youth leader at Juntos.

I want to start off by saying that we stand in solidarity with the young people in Florida, who have been protesting and spreading the word about the importance of school safety after the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High.

Now, this issue has been going on for too long. It has come to point where this issue has been normalized, we aren’t surprised anymore when we hear about another mass shooting. We now have gun rights activists trying to arm our teachers but we know more guns is not the solution. I honestly don’t know what I’m more afraid of, if there could occur another school shooting or knowing that my teachers might be armed in school. As a student, I believe that arming our teachers is not the right solution.

With so many regulations our schools already feel like prisons. Schools are supposed to be a place of learning and we need to feel safe in order to learn. Having more police officers in schools is not helping with our learning so a first step it to stop investing in cops and start investing in infrastructure such as counselors to help better our education.

Our priority should be on improving our academic level. We need to face the fact that gun violence isn’t the only issue in our schools but the criminalization of schools are also important. The underfunded schools in our city are largely populated by students of color, these schools have metal detector, cops, but don’t have counselors, nurses, or teachers

What we’re seeing out in the streets today is a clear example of what real power looks. School safety has been an issue for many years and for many years politicians have stood by and done nothing. Today, we the young people of this country are saying “enough is enough!” It’s time for action and it’s time for change.

Now we all know that the School District had told many of us that we could only participate in a 17-minute walk-out in honor the victims of tragic Florida shooting. However, we, the students of Philadelphia, know that the issues of school safety extend past Florida.

For many of us, our schools have not felt safe for as long as we can remember. For us to have safe schools we must think broader than only gun regulations.

Safe schools mean schools with more counselors than cops.

Safe schools mean schools with equal funding.

Safe schools mean schools where we don’t fear the presence of ICE.

This is why those 17 minutes were not enough for us if we wanted to bring attention to these issues and make an impact in our community and schools.  This is why I am here today, to make my voice be heard so that the voice of many youth out there is also heard. Our power will no longer be ignored because of our age.

We are going to make a change in our community and this change starts with us, the youth. Thank you.

Student Vision for School Safety March Demands

Student Vision for School Safety March Demands

On February 14th, the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School forever changed the Parkland, Florida community, after a gunman claimed the lives of 14 students, and 3 school faculty members.

This unfortunate and pervasive symptom of national neglect for school safety reform has galvanized the nation, igniting students across the country to step into activism that challenges calls for armed police and teachers, and promote solutions that actually improve the environment in schools.

Students at Stoneman Douglas, and other youth groups who had previously committed themselves to organizing for safer schools have called for gun control and implementing programs like restorative justice and other mental and emotional health programs. Yet lawmakers across the country are still choosing to disregard student voices and pass reactive legislation to strengthen police presence and curb opportunities to end gun violence.

At Philadelphia Student Union and Juntos, our members have recognized that this is yet another example of why young people and their allies need to shift the conversation around school safety.

Our youth leaders seek to share in solidarity with the Parkland student mobilization by bringing the conversation home to Philadelphia, taking leadership from our youth to set a vision for making sure our schools, communities, and hearts are centered in restorative relationships. On March 14th, at 11:30am, we will be leading the March for School Safety and inviting all students and allies participating in walkouts to march collectively with us to lift up the following demands:

  • Divestment from School Police Officers:- An improvement in mental health resources throughout Philadelphia cannot happen without an intentional and accountable effort to divest funding and shift budgeting from School Police officers to other necessary programs that actually promote a nurturing school environment. The expansion of police presence and security personnel/equipment in schools must end, as it only promotes a culture of fear rather than reinforcing the creativity and voice of students.

  • Comprehensive mental and emotional health services: We want all schools in Philadelphia to provide a comprehensive program for mental health services so students can be proactively and consistently supported when dealing with emotional, mental, and social concerns.

  • More guidance counselors and social workers: In order to address the violence affecting our schools, there needs to be a prioritization around hiring more guidance counselors and social workers, who have the training background specifically to support the emotional and mental state of students and to encourage the development of youth.

  • Expansion of restorative justice practices: Restorative justice is key in building relationships between students, parents, teachers, school staff and community. It is an alternative to the presence of police and armed teachers that promotes emotional intelligence and communication which are essential skills to be honed for use after graduation. Our schools require an intentional, and systematic effort for restorative justice programs for peer-to-peer and peer-to-teacher/administrator mediation.

  • Protection for students and families from ICE arrests around schools: Over-policing in our schools only serves to further criminalize young people of color at the expense of learning. Immigration raids across the city have occurred in and around our schools and in homes which instills a constant feeling of fear that impacts young people’s ability to participate in their education. That is why we know ICE and police are two sides of the same coin for our families.Both are detrimental to our dignity and our survival, and we need to end their reach into our lives now.

  • Gun Control that does not result in targeted policing of black and brown bodies: Enact legislation that restricts the access of assault rifles, or weaponry used in mass killings without thorough screenings and processes for mental and/or emotional, criminal, or social concerns.