Suppose you missed your bus to work and feared you’d lose your job, even though it was only minimum wage.  (You were working 60 hours a week, supporting a family of 3 young children.)  So you borrowed a friend’s car, only to be stopped by the police for a burned-out license-plate light.  They asked to see your license, but you did not have one, since federal law forbids undocumented immigrants from getting drivers’ licenses.  Your parents had brought you here as a child, but there was no way for you to become a legal citizen in this “land of the free and home of the brave.”  Suppose the local police complied with the federal “Secure Communities” law, and turned you over to US  Immigration and Customs police, who locked you up in prison indefinitely, then deported you, leaving you standing on the border with no money and no contacts.

This is the kind of story told by several members of Iglesia Quechua Bautista, the Hispanic church that meets every week in the chapel of First Churches.  They said that knowing this might happen, fills them and their children with constant  anxiety.  So they have been working with Bliss Requa-Tratz who heads “Just Communities,” (a local group that helps immigrants organize), Pastor Todd Weir in connection with  First Church Peace & Justice, and the mayor’s office.   They decided to hold a community meeting  August 21.  inviting  Mayor David Narkewicz, Northampton Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz, and members of the City Council to attend.

Chief Sienkiewicz said that since the last deportation incident in  2011, the Northampton police have not complied with the federal law.

He was eloquent in his statement that Northampton should be a safe place for everyone.  He worried that undocumented people are likely to become victims of serious crime because they’re afraid to report it to the police.  Thus he introduced to the audience  Jessie Aquino, a bilingual advocate who works for Northampton, Amherst, and UMass, counseling victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Mayor Narkewicz said, Si!”  He promised to make Northampton’s immigrant–rights position more official within the week by signing an executive order, prohibiting the local police from turning over undocumented immigrants to US Immigration & Customs for non-criminal incidents.  Also the mayor will work with the City Council to pass such a resolution, “codifying” the present  non-deportation practice.

Reprinted from the Daily Hampshire Gazette

The Children’s Choir, Reprinted from the Daily Hampshire Gazette

The audience clapped.  The Iglesia women, dressed in embroidered white blouses, long black skirts, and sparkling jewelry, danced to Equador panpipe music.  Their children sang a enthusiastic Sunday–school song.  A lavish supper was served.