Immigrant communities across the South are living in fear. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is pursuing aggressive detention and deportation tactics. The future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is uncertain. Elected officials are openly espousing bigoted views and inciting fear of migrants and refugees.
Fortunately, there are organizations and networks deploying a range of strategies to build power in immigrant communities. The Southeast Immigrant Rights Network lifts those voices by uniting grassroots groups, promoting collaboration and shared strategy, and training members to advocate on behalf of their communities.
“Our strategies are to develop grassroots leaders through popular education and to help these leaders develop the organizing skills to be able to organize their communities so that they can fight for their rights and, primarily, their dignity,” said SEIRN Co-Director Mónica Hernández.
“When we unite with other groups and organizations, we can increase our power and capacity, said SEIRN Co-Director Nayely Pérez-Huerta. “It is because of networks like SEIRN that we are able to truly elevate our power and elevate our voices together. We believe the people who are directly affected are the people who should be at the forefront of the work.”
One of the ways SEIRN advances community leadership is by inviting people to join its board of directors. “Who the board members are speaks volumes about who the organization is and what kind of values we embody,” board member Leng Leng Chancey said. “We are very cognizant about who is on our board and what the makeup of the board is, that we try to bring in diversity so we can look at things from an intersectional lens.”
SEIRN also provides spaces for healing and celebrations of the cultures represented in its membership. “We’ve reached a time when our communities are tired,” said Pérez-Huerta. “Centering our dignity is one of the driving forces of our movement.”
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