Ever since its inception in 2003, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been finely tuning their detention and deportation tactics and testing them out on our immigrant communities. Since then, the machine that drives detention and deportation has only been growing.

We have heard reports of ICE showing up at courts, doctor’s offices, and other public areas to check papers and take away anyone who couldn’t show them. We have heard of sweeping ICE raids that break apart families, leaving children alone in houses and families scrambling to create emergency plans in the case that they don’t make it home from work that day. And we have heard of DREAMers being detained and deported, even though they qualify for deferred action on deportation because they came over as children.

In order to combat this, we at the ACLU of Alabama are ramping up our Know Your Rights efforts by reaching out to local communities, working with other organizations, and providing content on our website and social media in an effort to give people the tools they need to stand up for their rights and for their families. We offer Know Your Rights workshops in both English and Spanish, and we are working to translate our materials into Spanish and Arabic so we can reach more communities in Alabama. We provide trainings at local churches and immigrant-owned businesses so that community leaders can talk with us and stay connected with the ACLU, as we try to help or connect them to the right places whenever possible.

With these presentations, we hope to establish trust and respect in a community that has too often been targeted in this state. When conducting trainings, we offer a collaborative environment where people can ask questions and talk to us frankly about the issues that they care about. By providing this space, we are arming people with information and giving them an avenue where they can come together, talk about the problems in their own communities, and work together to increase the power and strength that is inside of them.

Building these relationships and giving people the tools they need to change their own communities is the best defense we have against ICE and its efforts to separate families. After all: El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido. (The people, united, will never be defeated.)

Originally published in the 2017 Newsletter

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