By Madeline Cano
Community Organizer at Iowa CCI
When it comes to fighting racism, it’s all hands on deck. For years, our communities have been under attack. But now it’s being taken to a whole new level and we need to talk about how we will come together to fight back.
Our enemies are using new strategies to target us. That means we cannot continue to rely on the same old tactics to fight them. We have to be bold and try new things. This doesn’t mean we abandon old strategies, it just means we must have multiple plans in place if we want to win.
The reality is that no matter what we do, there is a target on our backs.
I’m not here to tell you what is the right decision for you or your family, only you can decide how you want to deal with the current state of affairs. But I do want to help you be as prepared as possible and inform you about several actions our communities are taking in order to fight back.
Individuals & Families
Have a family meeting.
It’s important to discuss the realities with your family and have a plan of action in place in case you are faced with a difficult situation. These are not easy conversations to have but it’s important that each family member is aware and prepared if ICE comes to your door, school, workplace, or community.
Attend a ‘Know Your Rights’ training or have an individual consultation with supporting community organizations.
Everyone has rights in this country regardless of documentation status. It’s important that you and your family understand your rights and how to use them to defend yourselves should you encounter ICE. Knowledge is power.
There are several organizations offering ‘Know Your Rights’ trainings as well as individual consultations to help review your rights, practice different scenarios you may face, and provide a guide for you to create a family action plan.
Iowa Citizens Community Improvement (CCI)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Center for Worker Justice (CWJ)
Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON)
Immigrant Allies of Marshalltown
Cedar Valley Advocates for Immigrant/Refugee Rights (CVAIRR)
We know ICE is targeting and profiling specific industries such as restaurants, hotels, factories, and construction sites. There are precautions you and your coworkers can take in order to protect your workplace from federal immigration authorities.
Your workplaces are private entities which mean the business owners have the power to block ICE from searching their property without a judicial warrant for a specific individual.
If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, manager, or business owner, set up a meeting with them and your coworkers to discuss an action plan should ICE attempt to enter your workplace. It’s imperative that trust is built between coworkers and management in order to create and implement a successful plan of action.
Community Support Teams
Communities across Iowa are coming together to form rapid response teams in order to aid individuals and families who have already been targeted by ICE. These teams are made up of community leaders, organizations, and faith congregations. It is our hope that having stable community support teams with ample volunteers will provide some relief should ICE come to our communities.
These rapid response teams are still developing. We’re in need of more folks who actively would like to participate. If you would like to join a rapid response team or learn more about starting a team in your area contact one of the organizations listed above.
Our faith community has also been taking serious action to implement a sanctuary movement across Iowa.
Sanctuary is a sacred term. We’ve reserved the use of that word specifically for the faith community. Congregations across Iowa are pledging their commitment to the sanctuary movement in many ways:
Becoming a sanctuary space – many faith communities are using their spaces of worship as places of refuge for individuals or families wishing to seek sanctuary after being targeted by ICE.
Supporting sanctuary spaces – other faith communities do not have the proper space to host individuals or families for extended periods of time. Instead, they are raising money, collecting supplies like food, water, and hygiene products to give to official sanctuary congregations.
If you are active in your faith community, reach out to your local leader and ask them if they have joined the sanctuary movement. More congregations are joining every day. For more information visit www.iowasanctuary.org.
Iowa schools have also taken action to put plans in place to protect students. Schools should be a safe, secure place where our kids can grow and prosper without fear of persecution.
Several school districts across the state have passed safe school or sanctuary policies that lay out guidelines to protect students as well as prohibit federal immigration agencies from operating on school property.
Families should consider meeting with a trusted teacher or school administrator to discuss these policies and encourage a meeting for parents and staff to discuss them. If your school does not have a policy in place, consider reaching out to your school to propose it.
At the core of all of these issues are our laws. I understand that many people are not involved or informed about politics, but politics and laws shape everything around us. It’s important that we work hard to have a seat at the table. If our voices are missing, then public officials will make decisions for us. We need to ensure that these laws benefit our communities. That means we need to work to change laws at the local level in order to eventually improve laws at the federal level.
Federal laws take time to change. It’s long-term goals that will help us win. In order to win, we need to focus on achievable steps in our cities and states that will help our communities instead of hurting them.
Communities across the country are working to pass what we’re calling ‘Welcoming City’ resolutions. ‘Welcoming City’ resolutions are more than sanctuary policies. They demand that cities stand with our communities and support them but they also ask cities to take action by creating and implementing new programs, policies, and commissions that are inclusive of all communities. ‘Welcoming City’ resolutions give our communities a seat at the table, ensuring that public officials work side by side with community members.
‘Welcoming City’ resolutions slow down ICE operations. These resolutions protect law enforcement from doing the work of ICE agents and publicly declare that ICE is not welcome in our communities. By showing unity, we can block ICE operations instead of trying to fight ICE on an individual case by case basis.
We’re also fighting back at the state level. The Iowa Legislature is trying to pass policies that target and discriminate against our communities. Last year, many of us went to the Capitol to talk with legislators, share our stories, and push back against anti-immigrant policies. Community leaders organized ‘A Day without Immigrants’ where thousands of us marched down to the Capitol to show our unity and strength. We must continue to carry this energy into next year’s legislative session.
Stay tuned for upcoming community events in the Fall to discuss how you can learn more about our political system, understand how laws are made, learn how to lobby your legislators, and more!
One single tactic will not help our communities against ICE. It’s going to take all of us – strategically working together – to fight back against racism and hate. The above tactics are only a few actions that communities are taking right now. There are plenty of opportunities to support individuals, families, and communities in the upcoming months.
A thousand small actions can lead to one big win. This will not be easy. But I’m asking you not to lose hope. It’s important that we unite and support one another – whether it’s offering a meal, donating time or money, volunteering for a team, or speaking with public officials. All of these positive actions are crucial if we want to stop the hatred and stand up together to protect our communities, ourselves and achieve long term justice.