The past two weeks have been hectic and stressful, but I am buoyed by the strength and faith of the people we are serving and the outpouring of support from community members and donors from around the world. Since my last post I have traveled back and forth from Biloxi to Central Mississippi several times to conduct legal intake clinics and meet with other coalition members. On Sunday, our new volunteer, Tere Truett, and I attended Mass at St. Martin de Porres in Morton. After Mass, the church was quickly transformed into a legal intake clinic where Tere and I and other lawyers, interpreters, and volunteers met with the people. Coalition organizers held a community information meeting, answering questions about the legal process and workers’ rights. The most common question: “I have lost my job because of the raid, so what happens now? How will my family survive?” It was heartbreaking, but still the people have faith and hope.
So far, the Mississippi Immigration Coalition (composed of El Pueblo, MS Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA), MS Center for Justice, The McArthur Justice Center, ACLU-MS, SEIRN, and many, many other regional and national organizations) has conducted almost 500 legal intakes. The legal team is prioritizing them and matching up workers with volunteer attorneys. There are also volunteer attorneys at the immigration detention facilities in Louisiana trying to locate any workers arrested in the raids for whom we have not received an intake. We now have regular weekly legal intake clinics at Canton, Carthage, Forest, and Morton. Organizers are teaching the community about their rights and helping them to find their own power. Material donations of food, water, diapers, formula, and other necessities are being distributed at sites throughout the area. The coalition is beginning to help with rent and utilities as those come due, as well as medical needs that arise.
Many, many thanks to all who have donated in any way! Your financial and material donations are the visible signs of your love for your neighbors. Donations have come in from all over the country and even from around the world and are helping to provide the legal representation so essential in complex immigration cases. Even so, the need for financial aid will grow as bills come due in households where the breadwinner has been arrested or fired.
My friends, the world really is watching how we respond to this crisis. Let us continue to support our neighbors who have been so traumatically impacted by these raids. Let us all work together now and in the future to make our country live up to its promise of “liberty and justice for all!”
With much gratitude,
El Pueblo Legal Immigration Services Director