I have never seen anything like that. I’ve never seen so much love…They’ve been with me all the way even until now.
-Immigrant facing deportation
What is Accompaniment?
Being alongside immigrants and their families as they attend immigration, criminal, traffic, and family court as well as ICE check ins. Accompaniment is a strategy of accountability. Community presence in the court room serves to bear witness to the immigration system and enforce accountability from judges, lawyers and courts. Accompaniment is a strategy of collective liberation. We recognize a responsibility to more deeply understand how institutions deny people humanity and dignity based on race, gender, ability, ethnicity and language in order to demand and make change. Accompaniment is a strategy of activism. By being in court 3-5 times per week, we are able to track how policies and practices manifest on the ground and collaborate with human rights defenders locally and nationally to change immigration policy. Last but not least, Accompaniment is faith in action. It is practicing an unwavering dedication to seeing the life and value intrinsic in every person.
- Keeping Judges, lawyers and courts accountable
- Witnessing first hand how the immigration system operates in order to spread more accurate, nuanced information
- Demonstrating solidarity. With the family this looks like eye contact, a handshake, a nod, and conversation only with initiated by the family.
- Embodying a spirit of love and community. Providing moral support and a reminder that everyone deserves dignity, humility and community
- Being self aware of patterns of whiteness
- Leveraging our own privilege to demand accountability from oppressive systems that judge the worth of people’s lives based on race, class, ethnicity, ability, gender and sexual identity
- Interpretation when appropriate
- Drawing attention to ourselves or promoting one’s own activism
- Intervening with legal processes and trying to “fix” anything
- Bonding with the family
- Sharing people’s confidential stories
- Judging someone or their immigration story
- Conflating compassion with pity. People targeted by the criminalization of immigration do not need pity
- Giving advice of any kind
How it works.
There are more than 250 volunteers who make up the New Sanctuary Movement Accompaniment Team. That Team is directed by Maria Turcios, the Accompaniment Organizer, with the assistance of Grace Cooper, one of NSM’s Promotoras de Justicia, as well as 3 long-term volunteer leaders.
Dozens of immigrants call our office every month. The vast majority of these people learn about the Accompaniment Program through personal recommendations from family, neighbors, acquaintances made in line at the ICE office and fellow community members locked up in detention. Folks share case information with Maria who then emails out the date and time of upcoming court appointments to the volunteer listserv.
As a volunteer, YOU email Maria back if and when you are able to attend an Accompaniment. At the court, you will convene with other volunteers and either one of the volunteer leaders or Maria before entering the courtroom. After an Accompaniment, Maria logs when and where a community member’s next court appearance is scheduled, provides them with necessary legal references and gives their contact information to Iris Rivera. Iris is the Promotora de Justicia in charge of having one-on-ones with each Accompaniment family to learn more about their story and further opportunities for community involvement.
The orientation process.
1. Meet with Grace. You will receive an email from Grace with an invitation to briefly discuss why you are interested in Accompaniment. Please take a moment to respond to her email and arrange a time to get together.
2. Attend an Accompaniment training. The training will go over the basics of attending court, your role at court, the process for volunteering and will go deeper into what it means to act as an ally in this space. This training is a requirement to volunteer in accompaniment and is important to complete in order for all volunteers to be on the same page as we go into the courtroom.