They were all there as the first cohort in Southwest Washington to receive training on how best to respond to an immigration raid.
The event was led by Pedro Sosa, the immigrant rights program director at American Friends Service Committee. He has led several similar sessions this year in Portland, Seattle and other cities in Oregon and Washington, but it was the first for the community in Clark County.
“This is a training to organize the community to support the immigrant community,” Sosa said. “Everybody has a responsibility to do something in case of a crisis.”
The training comes as federal immigration activities have escalated tensions in Northwest communities.
Sosa said the goal is to mobilize a rapid response team that would help document an increase in raids and detentions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He’s hoping this will be the first step to expanding a greater network throughout southwest Washington.
“Right now, we’re in 10 counties in Oregon, three in the state of Washington,” said Sosa. “We want to get to a point where everybody is connected.”
The training included role playing a possible raid, identifying allies in the community, sharing local deportation numbers, and mobilizing legal observers. Future workshops will focus on a person’s legal rights and planning for families who have had someone deported.
“I think it’s really important to have this here,” stressed Vancouver immigration attorney Eulalia Soto. “There are a lot of services in Portland and Seattle. But in Vancouver, we can get left out.”
The training sessions were hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Diana Perez, Washington’s director of LULAC and founder of the southwest Washington chapter, said communities need to take the next step in advocating for immigrant families in Clark County.
“Marches and protests are wonderful, but now it’s time to take it up a notch,” said Perez. “This is taking that support into action in an organized fashion.”
Along with LULAC, several local organizations showed up for the workshop, including representatives from Washington State University’s Vancouver campus, YWCA Clark County and Vancouver OneAmerica.
“I’ve seen the fear level go up,” said Vancouver NAACP President Bridgette Fahnbulleh.
She showed up to learn how to be more effective when someone is detained, and to support the creation of a regional response team.
“The more unity we have, the more powerful we will be,” said Fahbulleh. “And I believe Clark County is working toward that.”