Justice for Migrant Families of WNY is working to bridge the gap between the undocumented community and the larger Buffalo and immigrant community, in order to defend the human and civil rights for all immigrants in Buffalo.
We are committed to organizing with and advocating for undocumented families. We do direct support, advocate, and organize to protect the human and civil rights of undocumented families who have been affected by ICE and Customs and Border Authorities.
Protecting their rights protects the rights of all immigrants and has implications in the areas of racial profiling and police reform as a whole.
In August 2016, Orchard Park residents (a suburb of Buffalo) saw a group of Latino men playing basketball and speaking Spanish. They called the police, who arrived and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Rather than close the inquiry as a case of racial profiling, they called CBP/ Border Patrol, who arrested all of the young men, many of whom were teenagers.
Then, on October 18th, 2016, ICE raided four Mexican restaurants in Buffalo, NY, supposedly because the owners were not paying taxes. They went in with guns and dogs, made the workers get down on the floor, and tore apart their workplaces as well as their homes. They took college money belonging to one of the worker’s children, who is a full citizen, and put other young children into foster care.
The 25 workers affected by the raids became known as the Buffalo 25. It was the largest workplace raid in years, like a tornado tearing apart affecting families, ruining livelihoods, college plans and traumatizing those involved. We are still, as a community, dealing with the far-reaching consequences.
Justice for Migrant Families formed in the wake of the storm, to work cooperatively to find ways to support first the Buffalo 25 and then the larger undocumented community.
The Local Context
Buffalo faces unique problems as a border city, and there is a complex array of city and county law enforcement, Border Patrol (CBP), and ICE.
On the legal front, immigration is determined not only by enforcement practices, but by priorities as put forth by both the U.S. Attorney’s office and also the office of Homeland Security Investigation. There are only 26 HSI offices nationwide, and only two in New York State- Buffalo, and NYC. This adds up to a truly complicated and not necessarily logical picture of how immigration law enforcement actually plays out, to the detriment of the large immigrant community here. Additionally, the head of the local HSI office authored policy under the Bush administration that led to massive and egregious workplace raids.
There has been limited attempt to understand issues on the Northern Border as part of a more comprehensive picture, and building the local infrastructure would allow us to connect with and plug in to regional work across the border. It is our hope that as we build out this network we begin to untangle this complicated picture and determine where and how we can best protect immigrants’ human and civil rights.