Immigrant leaders react to new round of deportation raids targeting Central American refugee families

On May 12th, the Obama Administration revealed plans to do another set of deportation raids targeting Central American mothers and children. This comes after a wave of raids deported at least 121 refugees in January. The announcement also comes one week after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson came to Philadelphia to convince Mayor Kenney and the immigrant rights community to rescind Philadelphia’s “Sanctuary City” policy. Philadelphia stood strong and remains a Sanctuary City.

We will not back down to President Obama, Donald Trump, or Secretary Johnson as they attempt to destroy the lives of families across the country. Now more than ever, we need your unity and solidarity as we continue to fight the raids and send a clear message that all deportations are unacceptable and all refugees are welcome.

Here’s what some New Sanctuary Movement immigrant leaders have to say about the raid announcement:

“I fought to have my sons from Honduras here with me, and one of them won asylum. My sons came here because of violence they suffered in Honduras. They can’t return there. I feel very worried and afraid for all the families.”
-Maria Xiomara, a mother from Honduras with two sons who recently came to Philadelphia to escape gang violence

Our fear is for our children. If something happens to me, what’s going to happen to my children. What are we going to do with everything we have built here?”
-Mariana, mother from Mexico

“This is so bad and unjust because in every country there is poverty because of the influence of the United States. If we can’t live here, where are we going to go? The moon?”
-Teresa, a leader from Mexico

We’ve worked hard to keep families safer from raids. Here’s some of the ways: 

1. 275 Pennsylvania clergy signed an open letter condemning the raids and we held a vigil to hand-deliver the packet to ICE. Read the letter here.

2. We worked with City Councilmembers Maria Quinones Sanchez and Helen Gym to pass a City Council resolution 16-1 condemning the raids. Read the resolution here.

3. We’ve held Know Your Rights workshops in our immigrant congregations to give people the critical information they need to protect themselves against ICE abuses.

We will continue to fight these raids and work for a more welcoming and just city and country.

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Immigrant led Community Organizing

Our staff manages our campaigns and programs while our members join our working committees to inform our programming, choose our campaigns, and plan our strategies to win. Through conversation and listening, our members and the community on the ground are the ones directing the organization. When people reach out to NSM, they connect with someone who speaks their language, looks like them, and is committed to empowering immigrant communities because they understand their journey and struggle. At NSM, our communities see their peers guiding our mission, creating trust, and allowing members to recognize NSM as an immigrant-led organization.
NSM works to lift the skills of the affected community and dismantle systems of oppression while promoting systems of mutual support, collective liberation, and respect for all people, which is why we provide interpretation services, respect childcare needs, schedule our sessions during times that work best for members who work multiple jobs or cannot meet in person, and allow members to inform us about their individual needs before meetings.
The community leads our work at every level to eliminate unnecessary barriers and meet the varied needs of our members.

Leadership Development

Our Leadership Development Program is a step in recruiting and training new leaders and training. The program blends the skills and experiences members bring from their home countries with NSM’s signature faith-rooted and anti-racist organizing model.

We have curricula for each level of membership, which includes workshops on the history of detention, community organizing, nonviolent protest, campaign strategy, and ongoing anti-racism training. Our programming encourages immigrant leaders to find their voice, understand the power of collective resistance, and join a community of immigrant leaders fighting for transformational systemic changes rooted in social and economic justice.

Leading this initiative is Bertha Murcia, one of NSM's Community Organizers. She is an alumna of NSM’s Promotoras de Justicia immigrant leadership program and oversees member engagement.

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NSM’s organizing efforts emphasize community building, inviting people to new roles, deepening Black and Brown solidarity, long-term leadership development, and impactful campaigns.

We build a base of people from our 33 congregations and Accompaniment Team and direct that people-power to fight specific campaigns. Staff members work with immigrant members to choose our campaigns, guide our strategies, lead events, and ensure our work is focused on meeting the needs of Philadelphia’s various immigrant communities.

Having a hands-on role in changing policy allows our members to gain a sense of empowerment, confidence, and self-respect. Empowering immigrants of color to organize collectively is part of NSM’s long haul work to create a people-powered movement for immigrant justice.