JP gets immigrants’ rights hotline

February 22, 2008
By

DAVID TABER

JP will early next month become the first neighborhood in the city to host a rapid-response telephone hotline to respond to immigration raids.

The hotline is being organized by the Jamaica Plain Rapid Response Network (JP-RRN) with support from the Boston May Day Coalition, an organization that advocates for immigrants’ rights.

It will be used to “make people aware that a raid just happened,” said JP-RRN member Dorotea Manuelia.

Bilingual volunteers will be on hand, she said, “to provide immediate referrals to legal services” and other services, including health care and shelter providers, she said.

Motivation to organize the network came out of conversations with subjects of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid on a factory in New Bedford on March 6 of last year.

“The victims identified it at the time as something that would have helped them if it had been there,” Manuelia said.

Over 350 immigrant workers were arrested in the New Bedford raid. Despite he state Department of Social Service’s repeated requests for access to those detained in the raids, a number of dependent children were left abandoned. It eventually took a court order to get ICE to stop shipping detainees to Texas and allow DSS officials full access. Families were split up in some cases, with one parent being deported and the other left behind. According to some reports, those left behind were, in some cases, locked out of their apartments by landlords upon learning family members were caught up in the raid.

JP was chosen by the May Day coalition as a pilot site for the hotline because of its diversity and the community’s commitment to activism, Manuelia said.

She also said that some locations around JP have been identified as potential targets for raids, but declined to specify where those are.

While it is focused on JP, the hotline will respond to any calls throughout the Greater Boston area. Calls to the hotline will be routed to volunteers’ cell phones or home phones and will either be answered or responded to within 15 minutes, she said.

Immigrants’ issues are increasingly being used as a “political football,” Manuelia said. “As time goes on this is just going to get worse. We can’t just let it lay.”

The hotline will be unveiled, and the telephone number announced, at a first anniversary commemoration of the New Bedford raid and International Women’s Day celebration on Sat. March 8, 2:30 p.m. at the Nate Smith House, 155 Lamartine St. [See JP Agenda.]