By Miranda S. Spivack—Dec. 10, 2017
In a small back room at Victory in Praise, a predominantly African American church in the Central Valley city of Stockton, Calif., community organizer Arturo Palato assessed his troops. The gathering included a teacher, a social worker, a salesman and a student — about a dozen in all.
Palato’s mission: Convince this disparate crew that they have a crucial role to play when immigration authorities come to round up their neighbors. Take notes. Take photos. And provide key eyewitness accounts if something goes awry.
“We cannot stop ICE from doing what they do,” said Curtis Smith, a local pastor and community organizer, as he warned the volunteers not to interfere with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “But we can offer support so that people know they can count on their community to show up in their time of need.”
The “rapid response” training program was one of a half-dozen being carried out this fall by Faith in the Valley, an interfaith non-profit in California’s Central Valley that is seeking ways legal residents and citizens can respond if massive roundups and deportations begin. The programs have attracted about 150 volunteers who are signing up to manage distress calls, show up where ICE is conducting roundups and help children who are left behind.
Similar volunteer squads are being organized across the country, including in Virginia, Colorado and Massachusetts. But California’s effort promises to be among the largest and most sophisticated, in part because of sheer numbers. It is the state with the most people thought to be living illegally in the United States: more than 2 million. The Central Valley, with more than 300 varieties of crops that need to be harvested to feed the nation and beyond, is one clear magnet for them.
And even in California, where the governor recently signed a law to discourage law enforcement cooperation with ICE, the impact of Trump administration policies will be felt as federal immigrant assistance programs are cut. That’s where grassroots efforts such as the rapid response program come in.
Read more at the Las Cruces Sun-News.