NNIRR in Detroit

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Breakfast with Gerardo y Rachel at Cafe con Leche, Southwest DetroitBreakfast with Gerardo y Rachel at Cafe con Leche, Southwest DetroitOn February 23 & 24th, NNIRR joined over 100 advocates and organizers at the Northern Borders Conference, convened by the newly formed Northern Borders Coalition to address issues faced by communities at the U.S.-Canadian border. We participated in a plenary session with folks from San Diego and New Mexico to offer challenges faced and best practices in organizing against the impunity and abuses facing communities for decades at the US-Mexico border. We also presented at a workshop on human rights documentation and shared the tools for how to build a HURRICANE in your community, and document abuses to build community power.Canada across the waterCanada across the water

We heard from brothers and sisters from the Muslim, Arab, South Asian communities in Detroit about the insidious harassment and surveillance they are subjected to almost daily by CBP and FBI, as well as from the Latino communities in southwest Detroit whose neighborhoods, schools, churches and workplaces are all heavily patrolled by Border Patrol, ICE and local police. We heard stories of people in Washington State calling 911 for an emergency and getting Border Patrol agents at their doorstep as first responders, or local police in Michigan and upstate New York calling on Border Patrol agents to translate for community members who don’t speak English usually resulting in their deportation. Roving patrols and unmarked vehicles are part of the landscape for the Latino community in Southwest Detroit.

These stories and many others eerily resemble the struggles waged by border communities at the U.S.-Mexico border for at least the past twenty years.

What is heartbreaking on top of the vile abuses and humiliation suffered by our communities is their exclusion from nearly every space where their rights are being negotiated. Challenging to see at the conference was the absence of immigrant community members and leaders participating in shaping what is to become an advocacy agenda for border issues at the U.S.-Canadian border.

Being there was an important reminder that meaningful grassroots participation does not stop at inviting someone to share their story, but to actually create a space where people can have a voice in policy discussions where critical decisions are made about the direction and focus of an advocacy campaign. Overall, an enriching experience, in many part thanks to the compañeras and compañeros of Centro Obrero Detroit for their generous hospitality and for the opportunity to re-connect during our visit.