The Board of Directors of Juntos and the community of Juntos thank Erika Almirón for her eight years of service to the organization. We, and the movement, are indebted to Erika for her all work fighting for immigrant justice.
When Erika became Executive Director, Juntos was a small organization providing vital direct support to the growing immigrant community in South Philadelphia. Juntos had just concluded a set of important campaigns focused on language access and support for Latinx immigrants in our schools. The extent to which the Obama administration would accelerate the deportation and incarceration of immigrants was just becoming clear. Few were expecting then-mayor Michael Nutter to cooperate so fully with the deportation machine that was being built.
Erika re-centered the work of Juntos by focusing on the intersection of immigrant justice, criminal justice, and structural racism in the city. Under her leadership, Juntos has helped make Philadelphia a sanctuary city, instituting policies such as ending the practice of police holding individuals for ICE; police no longer held immigrants arrested for minor offenses until ICE took them in custody. This policy has become a national model adopted by over 200 municipalities across the United States.
Juntos has fought fiercely against both detentions and deportations. Juntos helped start the Coalition to Shut Down the Berks Family Detention Center in 2015. Juntos supported the hunger strike and worker strike inside Berks that was led by the mothers, and many women were able to share their stories from the inside when Juntos visited them and their children. By elevating their voices and sharing their experiences, together they collaboratively inspired a movement across the state to shutter the doors of the detention center. Moreover, Juntos has supported countless families by reuniting them with their loved ones and helping to release them from detention. Prominently, Juntos supported Javier Flores who spent fifteen months in detention in York County and then eleven months in sanctuary at Arch St United Methodist before winning his immigration appeal and leaving the church to be with his family.
When Trump was elected on a platform of racist attacks against the immigrant community generally, and the Latinx immigrant community directly, Erika joined leaders across the city to fight back. The Philadelphia ICE office quickly became one of the most aggressive in the nation, but Juntos was well-positioned to lead the resistance against the Trump administration’s racist policies. In 2018, Juntos again helped expand the concept of sanctuary in the city by building a coalition that led the city to remove ICE’s access to the PARS arrest database that was being used as a dragnet for deportations in our city.
Under Erika’s leadership, Juntos also launched a first of its kind Community Resistance Zone (CRZ) to teach immigrants and their allies how to organize against unlawful abuse at the hands of ICE and the police. Community members and volunteers went door to door in South Philly to educate immigrants and their neighbors about their rights during interactions with law enforcement or ICE raids. Thousands of Philadelphians were trained on their rights, and the CRZ model has been replicated by other organizations and cities using the curriculum Juntos developed to empower communities to protect immigrants.
During this time, Erika also built a solid financial situation for Juntos. Her successful grant-writing expanded both local and national funding. Juntos also grew our base of donors who contribute regularly to advancing the mission of Juntos. Erika, we thank you for all your leadership and service to the organization through a period of tremendous challenges and wish you the best on your next chapter.
All of these accomplishments over the past 8 years were also made possible by the dedicated work of Juntos staff and community members, as well as coalition partners, donors, and allies. We want to extend our thanks and gratitude to everyone who contributed in large and small ways to the vital work of Juntos over the last years. We are grateful for this chapter of the organization’s history and are excited for the next chapter of Juntos’s justice work.
Yours in justice,
The Juntos Board