“Out of the folks that were surveyed, about 51.4 percent worry about immigration enforcement in their community,” said Yanine Castedo, community organizer for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and a member of the Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island. “It doesn’t indicate if the fear was for themselves or for their family members. But again, this fear does live in our communities and we can’t report whether it’s heightened or not based off of what has happened since 2016 but we can admit that ICE has been weaponized a little bit in a few communities to instill fear that there is someone that may come and get you.“
Yanine Castedo and David Veliz presented the results of a survey to the Central Falls City Council Monday evening. The survey was conducted by the Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island – Central Falls Ordinance Task Force, specifically Progreso Latino, Fuerza Laboral, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and the ACLU of Rhode Island. The Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island is made up around 34 organizations that work statewide, on immigrant rights.
The survey was done, said Veliz, Policy Associate and Community Organizer at Progreso Latino, “make sure that our campaign was grassroots. We wanted to make sure that we were connecting to the community, getting community input on some of the questions and issues [addressed in] the ordinance [around] immigration rights, safety, and other issues. We wanted to find out from residents in Central Falls, how they thought about security, safety in the community, and what are some of the issues that are impacting them.”
The ordinance in question is the Community Policing and Immigration Ordinance, which was passed by the Central Falls City Council on a second reading later in the meeting. The ordinance codifies policies that protect immigrants from federal immigration agents and prevents local police from collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The legislation was submitted by City Councilmember Jessica Vega (Ward 5). See here for coverage of the first reading of the bill.
“The purpose of this task taskforce and this data is to give the city council and all of us that are working on immigrant rights tools that we can use to pass things like the ordinance, but also looking forward to what else can we do to make sure that we care about immigrant rights here in Central Falls,” said Veliz.
Veliz added that “one of the purposes of this survey and everything we do is this thought that if you’re undocumented, you live in fear and this fear is preventing you from going to the doctor, getting a flu shot, or receiving other kinds of services that you normally would receive.” After 2016 and the election of President Donald Trump, “that fear was multiplied” added Veliz.
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The other question Veliz felt was important was about the Wyatt Detention Facility, which has a contract with ICE. “That was really important for us to include because there have been a lot of campaigns [against the Wyatt], including those several city council members have been a part of, and we wanted to make sure that we were reaching community members directly and asking them what their thoughts were on Wyatt having a contract with ICE,” said Veliz.
Among the survey’s finding was that 98.4 percent of residents had negative comments on the Wyatt Detention Facilty and their contracts with ICE.
There was a struggle to get people to participate in the survey, said Castedo.
“Starting October 12th through November 13th, we did outreach to 2000 or more people in Central Falls,” Castedo told the City Council. “This was phone calls, door knocking and going to businesses and just kind of waiting for folks to come in. And if they wanted to take the survey, it was anonymous. The only thing we really wanted to know it was which Ward they were coming from. I felt like that information was going to be vital for today’s presentation.
“To break it down – over 2000 forms of contact, that is about 10 percent of the Central Falls population,” continued Castedo. “Out of all of those efforts, we were able to get 150 residents surveyed, which is about a 7.5 percent success rate. After we surveyed the 150 folks, we discussed the Community Policing and Immigration Ordinance and provided further details on what it meant and what it would mean for the community.
“Out of the 150 we talked to, 75 folks opted into the petition to support the passage of the Community Policing and Immigration Ordinance,” said Castedo. “I feel like these numbers kind of represent a little bit of a struggle for some folks to even pick up their phone because they don’t know who’s calling them. It means that when folks are coming to the door, they don’t really want to answer because they don’t know who’s coming up to their door. A lot of this fear could be related to the fact that now ICE is coming in and out of the community because of their contract with the Wyatt Detention Facility, which is only a few blocks away from here.
“Out of the folks that were surveyed about 51.4 percent worry about immigration enforcement in their community,” said Castedo. “It doesn’t indicate if the fear was for themselves or for their family members. But again, this fear does live in our communities and we can’t report whether it’s heightened or not based off of what has happened since 2016 but we can admit that ICE has been weaponized a little bit in a few communities to instill fear that there is someone that may come and get you. So that limits your opportunity to actually do something to engage with the community. Out of the 51.4 percent that said that immigration enforcement was their fear, 29.8 percent percent of them said that they cannot receive services because of this fear.
“So this is bad,” concluded Castedo, “and I believe that a step forward into the direction of paving the way for folks to leave their front door is by passing the Community Policing and Immigration Ordinance. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it does help us again move forward in a better direction where we include immigrant policies into the work that we do in our governments.”
City Councilmember Jonathan Acosta (Ward 1) asked what other legislation could be passed to help immigrants in Central Falls.
“As far as pro-immigrant legislation, we, as part of the Immigrant Coalition, have been working statewide to get a lot of things done,” answered Veliz. “I think maybe Central Falls could play a role in supporting some of these statewide resolutions, like getting licenses for undocumented Rhode Islanders, like passing the sanctuary bill where there are sensitive locations that ICE can’t go, and expanding educational opportunities for undocumented Rhode Islanders, like in-state tuition, for example.”
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