“We’re ready” - Community organizations in Philadelphia stand together
Nov 15, 2022
News Release -- November 15, 2022
“We’re ready” - Community organizations in Philadelphia stand together to uplift the values of a Welcoming City as first bus from Texas arrives with 31 asylum seekers
Philadelphia, PA - A group of immigrant rights and immigrant service organizations are ready to launch relief efforts in order to receive a bus with approximately 31 asylum-seekers. The bus is scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia on November 16 from Del Rio, Texas. The group began meeting with the City’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Office of Emergency Management this summer to develop a response plan. It is united by a common purpose: to uphold and practice the values of a Welcoming City and to ensure each migrant arriving is met with safety, respect, and care.
Erika Guadalupe Núñez, Executive Director of JUNTOS, stated “Time and time again, immigrants are used as tokens to advance the political agendas of individuals who have no interest in our communities’ wellbeing. Governor Abbott’s busing efforts serve as a ploy to wreak social discord and spread misinformation over the human right to seek asylum and what it means to be a Welcoming City. We will not be fooled by his efforts, and will make sure that each migrant arriving tomorrow is treated with the dignity and abundance that his administration lacks. Our communities stood together to form Philadelphia as the Welcoming City it is today, and we will stand together tomorrow to ensure that, despite Gov. Abbott’s best efforts, that definition is as bold and vibrant as ever.”
Under Governor Abbot and as part of Operation Lone Star, Texas has bused more than 10,000 migrants to so-called Sanctuary Cities along the East Coast. Described as a political stunt by immigrant advocates and organizers alike, many decry the inhumanity and indignity of taking people who have fled innumerable horrors, have been allowed to enter the United States to seek asylum and then abruptly moving them to a bus without consultation about their ultimate destination or meeting any immediate health care needs.
“Contrary to Abbot’s repeated statements, we do not have an open border - far from it. We have a border that people cross constitutionally seeking asylum and safety - and the truth is that thousands are turned away every day because they don’t meet the real and stringent
standards set by our immigration laws. Starvation because of draught and corrupt governments, for example, isn’t part of the definition of who can seek asylum,” says Cathryn Miller-Wilson, Executive Director of HIAS Pennsylvania, “But those that are paroled in, like the migrants Philadelphia will be receiving, have met important definitions that permit their entry.”
Through their work alongside the city, the group has planned a local response which builds upon each organization’s individual strengths and includes preparation for an immediate and dignified welcoming and housing effort, critical health and legal screenings, and the allocation of mutual aid resources, and much more.
Blanca Pacheco, Co-Director of New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia stated, “We have worked to welcome people everyday for the last 15 years. We help our brothers and sisters navigate their needs, concerns, find community and then fight for an immigration system that honors their humanity. This work is not new to us, we are ready to show up and continue this work while we organize and push for the government to pass a path to citizenship for all that is long overdue”
The group is prepared to provide these services at an undisclosed location upon the group’s arrival, and in doing so - urges other communities across the country to follow their example and reject the harmful narrative that allows certain elected leaders and a broken immigration system to cause unnecessary harm and suffering.
“Many migrants, some of them from Venezuela, will be arriving in our city and we stand ready to welcome them and help them in any way possible. This is the birthplace of America and America is a country that was built by immigrants. It stands today as a beacon of hope for millions around the world. Our diversity is our strength,” said Emilio Buitrago, co-founder of Casa de Venezuela Greater Philadelphia.
As of now, the key priority for these groups is to attend to the immediate need of individuals arriving in Philadelphia. As community organizations who support the welcoming of all people, we continue our commitment by boldly redefining and expanding what it means to be welcoming for immigrant communities in a nation post-Trump. We will not allow these individuals to be used as political tokens, and will continue our efforts to demand a true and just immigration system.
Steven Larín, Deputy Director of Nationalities Service Center, declared, “Philadelphia and its diverse communities will continue to demonstrate that we are a Welcoming City. When the community came together to welcome and support Afghan evacuees and Ukrainians fleeing war, we saw veterans, landlords, employers, religious leaders, and so many others unite to provide opportunity and friendship to new Philadelphians. We will continue in this spirit to welcome individuals and families from other nations as they seek refuge from persecution and look to be reunited with family.