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As Deportation Fears Rise, a Community in New Mexico Trains for Resistance

The room was packed during a training session hosted by New Mexico CAFé in early March. (NM CAFé / Twitter)

As fear spreads among immigrant communities over Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, one New Mexico organization is teaching residents how to resist. After about 20 people were detained in ICE raids outside Las Cruces, N.M., recently, local interfaith immigrant advocacy group New Mexico CAFé organized a training session on nonviolent civil disobedience.

The movement began after an ICE raid in February, PRI reports:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined PRI’s requests to comment on the operation or to confirm the total number of residents who were arrested. After the raid, 100 people gathered to rally at the foot of the Las Cruces federal courthouse and to find out what had happened.

The action, and the lack of official information about it, prompted fear in the neighborhood. The Las Cruces Public Schools district says that 2,366 of their 24,870 students were recorded absent the day after the operation.

Las Cruces is a majority Hispanic city of about 100,000 people, 45 miles north of the US-Mexico border. The city — and New Mexico — voted solidly for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Las Cruces is not calling itself a “sanctuary city,” but law enforcement agencies have a policy of not sharing the immigration status with federal immigration agents of people who aren’t convicted of a crime.

But that does not mean that immigration officers cannot affect this town. So, many immigrants and advocates are trying to answer this question: Is there any way to keep mixed-status immigrant families together?

Sarah Silva, executive director of New Mexico CAFé (Comunidades en Acción y de Fe, or Communities in Action and Faith), tackled the question by helping to organize a “rapid response training” session several weeks after the arrests. Key to the group’s resistance strategy is participants’ willingness to get arrested for protesting raids.

READ: Bill Clinton Laid the Groundwork for Trump’s Ugly Immigration Policies

PRI continues:

Most of those who show up are retirees and students. Jaime Escalante is among a few people at the training who himself has a mixed immigration status family. He is in his 40s and lives in Vado, the largely Hispanic, rural community outside the Las Cruces city limits that was also subject to ICE action in mid February. …

At the church, CAFé organizer Johana Bencomo, who has been organizing in New Mexico immigrant communities for half a decade, reminds the 136 volunteers of the gravity and unpredictability of what they are signing up for and getting into.

“This is a long-term commitment. This is not going to be pretty,” Bencomo says. “This is probably going to be messy for a little while.”

“We are not going to stop at these tactics,” Bencomo says. “For us in our organizing, it is eventually getting to a place where we actually have fair and just immigration reform that doesn’t criminalize people, that doesn’t militarize the border. That is still is the north star for us.”

Read the entire piece here.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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