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Rage globally, act locally on Trump and immigration 

Guest commentator Doug Noble is a writer, educator, and activist with local immigrant, social justice and antiwar groups. Mary Anna Towler's Urban Journal returns next week.

This is a moment of nationwide outrage over Donald Trump's immigration policies on our southern border, which are tearing children from their parents. We in Rochester voice our outrage from afar by sending funds and attending rallies. But the same immigration policies are in play along our own border, tearing local immigrant families apart through lengthy detentions and summary deportations. So even as we "rage globally" about the US immigration horror, we can also "act locally" in support of besieged immigrants right here.

Many undocumented immigrants in this area are farmworkers who labor under the ever-present threat of detention and deportation. The rural Upstate region falls within 100 miles of the international border, where Border Patrol agents set up immigration checkpoints, pull over and search vehicles for “reasonable suspicion” of immigration violations, and board Greyhound buses without a warrant, demanding immigration documents.

The Buffalo Federal Detention Facility at Batavia is full to overflowing with increasing numbers of detained immigrant women separated from their families and facing deportation.

The Worker Justice Center recently published "Milked: Immigrant Dairy Farmworkers in New York State," a study based on face-to-face surveys with immigrant farmworkers on 53 different dairy farms across New York State. It found that 37 percent had experienced the deportation of a family member, and 41 percent had been detained at least once on suspicion of illegal immigration status. Many such incidents occur when these people are, of necessity, driving without a license.

In New York State, undocumented immigrants are unable to obtain drivers licenses. So to avoid risk they must depend on others for rides, often at great expense, to run errands, get groceries, attend church, take kids to school, or get medical care. Three-fourths of the study's respondents said they rarely venture out, due to fear that they will be arrested during a routine traffic stop and will be targeted for deportation and family separation.

This is why local immigrant rights groups are especially focused on legalizing drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. Twelve states now provide drivers licenses regardless of immigration status, and federal law gives state governors the power to authorize drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants simply by executive memorandum.

The Green Light New York campaign, waged by a coalition of immigrant communities and rights groups, is underway to make this happen in New York State.

What you can do:
  • Support the Green Light New York campaign by contacting any of the groups below. Attend one of the monthly Rochester Green Light Allies meetings, which take place on the first Friday of each month at First Unitarian Church, 220 South Winton Road, Rochester.
  • Contact Alianza Agricola (contacto.alianzaagricola@gmail.com) to offer rides, support individuals' court appearances, or obtain information.
  • Contact the Workers' Center of Central New York, (rfuentes@workerscentercny.org) for more information on how to help local immigrants.
  • Contact Rochester Rapid Response Network (RocRapidResponse@gmail.com) to report incidents of immigrant harassment or emergencies: 585-420-6471.
  • Donate to any of the above immigrant-rights groups.
  • Come to the Immigration Education-Action Forum at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 22, at the First Universalist Church in downtown Rochester. Learn first-hand from all these local immigrant-rights groups what you can do to help.
We in Upstate New York need not sit idly by in the face of draconian immigration policies. There is in fact much we can do right here right now.

This article contains a correction regarding the Immigration Education-Action Forum.

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