The Tompkins County Immigrant Rights Coalition launched a rapid response network and hotline for immigrants last week in an effort to “stand in solidarity with undocumented immigrants.”
Volunteers who are part of the network will respond to calls from people in the area if they are being pursued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and are facing arrest, detention or deportation.
When called, a team of volunteers will arrive at the scene or otherwise document the event, including a description of the persons arrested, the identification of law enforcement agencies present at the arrest, the location where the person arrested is being taken and any violations of the arrestee’s rights during the arrest.
“There’s a very strong awareness about the vulnerability about some students and international faculty because of the changing policies, and I know on campus there are efforts to create these networks to support people whose freedom may be threatened,” co-creator of the hotline Prof. Beth Harris, politics, Ithaca College, told The Sun.
One of the goals of the hotline is to make sure those being targeted by ICE agents are aware of their rights, said co-creator Prof. Patricia Rodriguez, politics, Ithaca College.
“There are some legalities behind showing up in some places on campus and we’re trying to make the rights of immigrants be known,” Rodriguez told The Sun.
While the network helps all immigrants, whether they entered the U.S. in violation of the law or not, its main focus is on undocumented immigrants who creators of the program said are especially in need legal protection.
“There is a really strong need to provide a witness and to accompany them so that they aren’t treated abusively,” Harris said.
Matthew Lutwen, the president of the Cornell student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said notes taken at the scene of the arrest can be used in court. But what is most helpful, he said, is identifying information of the person arrested.
“Without this, it is very difficult to find where the individual is located within the detention system, and if you cannot find them, it is obviously difficult to support them despite having notes from the scene,” Lutwen told The Sun.
Harris said the network would respond to any incident on campus or throughout Ithaca and the county.
The installation of the network follows the arrest of an Ithaca resident by ICE officers in May. It also comes after President Donald Trump announced he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
“One of the things that the Trump [administration] is doing is trying to divide our population so that some people are disposable,” Harris said.
The hotline is yet another step toward creating solidarity with immigrants who are being threatened by the Trump Administration’s actions, Harris said
“On campus, one of the things that you’re trying to do is create a community that supports each other, and which consciously includes those who are most vulnerable in the community,” Harris said.
Anyone subject to or witnessing an arrest by ICE can call the hotline at 607-358-5119 to access the rapid response network, according to a statement on the Cornell Latina/o Studies website.