When Two Fellows Come Together, A National Campaign Emerges

JOIN Fellows Bar and Carly share how they collaborated together on a deportation defense that became a national campaign.

Bar: I met Carly during match day for JOIN when we sat at the same table waiting anxiously to interview with different organizations. The first group I interviewed with was Episcopal City Mission, an organization that builds power for racial and economic justice by bridging faith communities and grassroots movements. The last group of the day was St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, an organization that promotes equity in Boston through long-term relationships with young people and their families. Carly ended up at ECM and me at SSYP.

We took walks and talked together about the different kinds of work we were doing and making connections between it. It was during the mid-year retreat for our JOIN fellowship that we had an opportunity to work together, facilitating an afternoon activity for Shabbat exploring different modes of resonance and storytelling. It was a breakthrough in our cohort. What made it so powerful was the trust the two of us built both through the walks we took and the work we did to plan the session. I trusted Carly to hold her role, and she trusted me.

A week after the mid-year retreat, the Pioneer Valley Workers Center put out a call for a national day of action to #FreeEduardo. Eduardo Samaniego is a national immigrant rights organizer and a student leader in western Massachusetts who was arrested in Georgia after forgetting his wallet and being unable to pay a taxi fare. He was transferred to ICE detention and spent three weeks in solitary confinement due to his identity as an activist.

Eduardo is also a friend from Hampshire College who I met during my first semester of school when we were in the same tutorial (a class where the professor serves as an advisor to all the students and where our advisor ordered us the good pizza). He is an incredible leader who has organized and spoken at rallies, marches and all sorts of events— first for the Dreamers movement and later for the permanent protection of all immigrants living in the United States.  

Carly: Bar called me on Monday morning as soon as she saw the national call to action. She asked me for ECM’s support in organizing the Boston solidarity actions for Eduardo. We had to organize a petition delivery and a vigil for Wednesday.

Bar and I sprung into action, connecting with the national organizers at Pioneer Valley Workers Center and local Episcopal leaders through ECM’s network to host an interfaith vigil at St. Paul’s Cathedral on the Boston Common, as Eduardo awaited a decision on whether he would be offered bond or ordered deported. The vigil at St. Paul’s was one of over twenty solidarity actions across the country, from Los Angeles to Atlanta to Washington, DC. (Media coverage: Boston Globe)

Pioneer Valley Workers Center led the national campaign to #FreeEduardo with incredible love. I am grateful for the opportunity to work for them and watch them model community care — defending Eduardo as well as two community members in Sanctuary — alongside structure-based worker organizing. In our JOIN trainings, we studied the concept of “Movement Ecology” that comes out of the Ayni Institute in East Boston; this is the idea that there are multiple theories of change that need to operate together for the health of a movement. Bar modeled this approach, and I feel transformed by the experience of generating urgent response to a friend and movement leader’s deportation while holding a larger commitment to abolishing ICE and prisons.

On February 1, Eduardo was deported to Mexico after being forced to agree to a “voluntary departure” order by Immigration Judge William A. Cassidy on January 25. In a letter written prior to his release, Eduardo wrote:

“My dreams and hopes – that took years to form fighting in the streets for universal healthcare, access to education, and amnesty for all immigrants – are still inside and they burn with a passion.”

May we continue to tell Eduardo’s story and amplify the voices of undocumented leaders as we work to end mass incarceration and the targeting of immigrants, especially immigrants of color, by all levels of our government.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

To support Eduardo and his family, please continue to share his story and donate to his emergency fund at https://www.gofundme.com/emergency-fund-for-eduardo. If you would like to be involved in immigrant justice accompaniment or advocacy in the Boston area, contact Carly@episcopalcitymission.org.

Speak up about the human rights violations at Irwin County Detention Center, where Eduardo was detained, and other private prisons. (Media coverage: Rolling Stone)

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