By Alejandra Alvarez(HC ’16) and Ramelcy Uribe (HC ’16)
“Sin papeles! Sin Miedo!”
This morning, we started our day with a march with Juntos on ending ICE holds. In Philadelphia, when a crime is reported, people can be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because of their immigration status, even if the person was a victim to a crime, and then deported. The march to protest this unjust state of affairs started at the Italian Market on 9th and Washington and ended at City Hall. We were given signs and a sheet of paper with chants. As we marched, people chanted and honked to show their support. The group grew from supporters joining in along the way to City Hall as well as supporters meeting at City Hall. (You can see the march, and catch a glimpse of Alejandra, on NBC10 here: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Immigrant-Advocates-Call-for-Philly-to-End-ICE-Holds–249993911.html)
When we arrived to City Hall, the chanting continued. It took us a while to get into City Hall because the passes that were supposed to be given to Juntos were “misplaced,” but the protestors finally got in. There were so many of us that a fourth floor was opened to let more people into the hearing. At the hearing, people from different organizations spoke about the injustices of ICE being part of the Philadelphia police system. This connection creates fear among many communities so many victims do not report crimes, creating unsafe communities, as well as fostering mistrust towards the police. It was also mentioned how ICE often times works on its own terms and makes up its own rules. These testimonials were personal and very powerful. The mayor is expected to support the separation of ICE and the police except possibly the cases of violent crimes or rape.
After listening to the testimonies at the hearing, we walked to meet Ileana Garcia, a Haverford alumna (’08) and former resident of Haverford House, for lunch. Ileana works for Councilman Oh where she works with the Spanish and Portuguese speaking communities of Philadelphia. Listening to Ileana speak was very helpful, especially, because she can speak from the Haverford experience and shows an example of what can be done after graduation to help communities.
“Give a child a space to express themselves creatively, and they’ll fill the room with colors and energy.” I have seriously trusted and lived by this belief in all spaces where youth are given the chance to use the arts to learn about themselves and their culture. We spent our afternoon in a community-led Mexican art class. It is a space described as a “safe haven” for (mostly) Mexican mothers and their children to learn about cultural histories and traditions, as well as maintain the importance of Mexican culture at an age where children are learning to grapple and juggle the complexity of a dual identity in the United States. During the class, some of us worked on making maracas out of plastic Easter eggs, plastic spoons, tape, and rice & beans to fill the eggs. The other half of our group painted sombreros with festive colors and cool designs. All the projects were made with recycled materials so not only did we get our inner Frida Kahlo on, but we were eco-friendly too! (Ain’t that fancy?)
If the class wasn’t awesome enough, the kids were great. They introduced themselves, told us fun facts, and showed us what great communal art looks like.
Finally, we ended our day at the Garces Foundation, where Mallory Fix-Lopez told us about the awesome work that revolves around empowering immigrant restaurant workers. Their programs revolve around language access so that undocumented folks can use English to communicate and express themselves in the workplace, but we also found their dedication to giving this community confidence and belief in themselves and their skills to be especially impressive and impactful. How many places do you know that value confidence as much as any other skill? (Tip: not many!) Mallory also told us about the courses offered for restaurant workers that include more traditional ESL classes, and also include awesome cooking demonstrations and themed months so that all educational activities are intersections of skills and roles so that everyone walks away with a strong and diverse skill set!
You can easily see the Garces Foundation is doing some great, crucial work for the immigrant community and more specifically to those working in the restaurant industry.
We ended our day with a bus ride home and our last night in West Philly was graced with a delicious dinner and joyous laughs. Good times were had by all.