Historic milestone in Norristown for Immigrant Community

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It was a historic day in Norristown, PA this past Sunday (Jan. 5th). The Norristown Juntos committee held a town hall hosting Police Chief Talbot to listen to the experiences of the Latino immigrant community in regards to their history and experience with local police.

One of the main issues discussed at the event were immigration holds. A civil immigration detainer, also known as an immigration hold, is a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to local law enforcement officials. It asks local officials to detain an individual in their custody for 48 hours longer than they otherwise would, to facilitate transfer to ICE. Juntos leaders have analyzed and identified this practice as a key factor in the growing sense of fear and mistrust towards local police on behalf of immigrant communities.

Certain cities, counties and states have taken steps to rebuild trust between local police and the community by passing policy addressing immigration holds. They include Santa Clara County, California, Cook County, Illinois, Miami Dade, Florida as well as Newark, NJ which refuses to honor any detention holds regardless. It appears Norristown might be added to the growing list of municipalities doing this as well.

After a presentation from Juntos Norristown leaders on the significance of ICE holds, Chief Talbot commented and said to the crowd, “I will make myself available any day this week to sit down with representatives of your organization to draft a policy that ends the immigration holds… the Norristown police department is not going to fight against you any more we will fight with you.”

Juntos leaders of Norristown were thrilled to hear the warm response. “We’re going in the right direction to work with the authorities and for them to treat us with dignity,” said Juntos leader Gelacio Vasquez.

VICTORY: ICE Shut down in Philadelphia

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Yesterday, on the Eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, many brave and courageous leaders of Juntos, along with many of our supporters, used their bodies to block ICE deportation vehicles at the downtown Philadelphia ICE headquarters, just as they prepared to transfer immigrant detainees. Our heroes were prepared to risk arrest because they are tired of President Obama’s dragent programs, like “Secure Communities,” or “S-COMM,” as well as the negative impacts Immigration (ICE) Holds, one of the ways police & ICE collaborate under S-COMM, have on our community.

Despite efforts to intimidate Juntos leaders with federal arrests, we stayed strong, held our ground and ICE, the Department of Homeland Security and local Police in the end had to disperse. Yesterday we learned that an organized community is a strong community. Now is the time for President Obama to stop the deportations that tear apart our community and our families and if he won’t stop the deportations, we will.

This is just the beginning. Juntos and others from across the nation will continue to fight back against unjust deportations until Obama listens. And here in Philadelphia we will also work to ensure that local leaders respond to our communities demands of ending local collaboration between police and ICE. We look forward to participating in the upcoming City Council hearings to address this and also look forward to developing solutions, like ending ALL ICE Holds in the city of Philadelphia.

We at Juntos would like to also thank every person who braved the cold yesterday for hours to stand with us as we demanded better for our community. Thank you to everyone who supported us; supporters, allies, artists, students, and most importantly, thank you to the brave individuals who stood up to ICE. We believe your message was heard across the nation; NOT ONE MORE DEPORTATION!

To read more about the event yesterday, see below for press coverage.

Univisión 65: Manifestación
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Protesters gather outside Phila. immigration office
The Daily News: Immigrant-rights advocates block ICE vehicle exits
Al Dia Newspaper: Piden a la Virgen detener deportaciones
NBC 10: Protestors Block Transfer of Immigrant Detainees
NBC 10: Family’s Deportation Experience
CBS3: Protesters Disrupt Traffic Outside ICE Building In Center City
6ABC: Protestors block ICE building in Spring Garden

Our Right to be Here: Deportations and Identifications

License Checkpoint this Spring in Norristown

License Checkpoint this Spring in Norristown

Every year Juntos supports over 300 families through moments of crisis, including deportations.  Not having a valid local identification or a driver’s license, when encountering local police at a traffic stop or in the community, is where many of our deportation cases begin.  In the almost twelve years since the founding of Juntos our community has fought back against thousands of deportations in the state of Pennsylvania that have broken apart our families and have left many young people without one or both parents to support them. That is why Juntos community leaders have identified deportations as the number one issue to address and ultimately build power to ensure the end of policies and practices that separate our families.

Just this past year, through the dedicated involvement of Juntos leaders, we were able to secure a huge victory in Norristown, PA to end the practice of local police working with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at traffic checkpoints for driver’s licenses.  It was here that the intersections of deportations and identification were made glaringly apparent when we heard story after story of families torn apart because a family member was pulled over and, because of not having a driver’s license, then entered into deportation proceedings.  We have also had similar instances in Philadelphia of individuals who entered into deportation proceedings because on traffic stops or accidents.  Many times we have been witness to deportations starting because of interaction with local police and lack of identification.  There have been numerous cases of individuals who have been booked into custody for either having no ID or for showing their country of origin’s ID, which leads to questions pertaining to immigration status, even though the city of Philadelphia has a directive for police to not ask these questions.

That is why in Juntos we see the issue of addressing lack of local identification and driver’s licenses directly connected to the work we do to stop deportations just as much as we see the need for immigration reform policies that prioritizes ending the deportation machine and the ending of policies like Secure Communities and the voluntary practice of ICE holds that decimate our communities’ right to due process.

Several years ago, when thousands of immigrant Pennsylvanians were illegally stripped of their legally obtained driver’s licenses by Penndot, Juntos was there with the leaders who fought back.  Six of these brave individuals made it to the PA Supreme Court and fought back in a landmark case to keep their licenses; and won. Just this year state legislation was introduced, due to the diligent work of hundreds of leaders from across the state of Pennsylvania (from Philadelphia, Norristown, Easton, and Allentown to name a few) to pass an unmarked driver’s license in Pennsylvania.  Many other states have already passed similar legislation targeted at building trust between immigrant communities and different municipalities.  At the same time, a Municipal ID Bill was introduced in the city of Philadelphia that, if passed, will help thousands of Philadelphians, including young people, the elderly and immigrants, to access necessary & vital resources.

For all of these reasons, we stand in solidarity with all of the leaders who see the need to fight for our human right to remain with our families and our right to be here, in the place we call home. Juntos will continue to fight, just as we encourage all of our community to do so, on issues that our community deems as vital and important and to ending deportations by addressing the root causes of our struggle so we may live the lives we are all meant to live; dignified ones.

Join the #Free2Dream Campaign

Get your DreamPhoto taken this Wednesday and join the #Free2Dream Campaign

When: Wednesday, August 21st 5-9pm.
Where: Juntos’office, 2029 S. 8th St. Philadelphia, PA
Join us for the launch of the #Free2Dream campaign in support of the Pennsylvania Dream Act. Currently the PA Dream Act, which would allow all students access to in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities in PA regardless of immigration status, is in the State Education Committee. We need to let our elected officials know they MUST support college access for our youth by bringing up the PA Dream Act (SB 713) to a vote in the Education Committee NOW.The #Free2Dream campaign aims to demonstrate how much support the PA Dream Act has across the state and the need to act now to support our youth.Once again please join us in person this Wednesday, August 21st between 5-9pm at 2029 S8th st Philadelphia  to get your official Dream Photo taken!