During regular meetings with its sanctuary group, NCIR has been able to reinvigorate and organize support for those who have remained in sanctuary for over three years with churches in Greensboro and Raleigh.
Convened by the NC Council of Churches, a Sanctuary Coalition connects North Carolinians who want to stand up for immigrant communities. NCIR has offered a solidarity webinar series with the coalition to increase political education and training, reframing sanctuary work through a racial and criminal justice lens with a focus on policing.
The program has also helped coordinate solidarity committees to lead organizing of allied peers in six NC counties and recruiting and training for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) watches. This rapid response network creates greater safety for immigrant neighbors who need accurate information about potential ICE actions in their area. The movement has been informed and led by immigrant voices and the powerful work of Siembra, building on the relationships formed during Siembra’s time with the AFSC.
Volunteers are also on call for court accompaniments, showing up for immigration, eviction or otherwise trivial court dates to protect rights of individuals and provide translation if necessary. With families facing more stress and unpredictable circumstances during the pandemic, immigrants are at a greater risk of being dehumanized during what should be low-risk proceedings. Court accompaniments provide a level of security at a time when an increasing number of sheriffs in NC counties are signing on to new agreements with ICE as a part of the 287(g) program, with the potential to move immigrants through the system with no due process upon arrest.
With three to six volunteers per county who have participated in virtual trainings to either join ICE watches (about 200 people) or do court accompaniments (about 120 people), NCIR and Siembra have met growing concerns during COVID-19 outbreaks with robust community support.
On the three-year anniversary of the announcement to protect Juana Luz Tobar Ortega in sanctuary at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, NCIR led a #FreeThemAll caravan through Durham and Waite Counties in solidarity with actions across the country. You can view local coverage of the caravan in English and en Español.