An Interview With Ingrid Latorre About The Sanctuary Movement

| Resist!

Above Photo: Ingrid with Jenn Piper and Jeannett Vizgerra

I spoke with Ingrid Latorre soon after she was granted a temporary stay of deportation after being taken in Sanctuary by the Mountain View Friends Meeting in Denver. Jenn Piper, AFSC’s Interfaith Immigrant Organizer joined us to translate and added her perspective as well. – Lucy

Take Action: Tell ICE to keep Ingrid home.

Lucy Duncan: Ingrid, thank you very much, it’s wonderful to meet you. It’s been very inspiring to watch your journey and your courage in the face of your struggles and in the last few weeks.

I know that you have told this story a number of times, but just for the purpose of this interview and considering the situation now, Ingrid, could you please tell the story briefly of what led you to enter Sanctuary at Mountain View Friends Meeting?

Ingrid Latorre: Really I took Sanctuary because all of the other options were being denied to me by Immigration. I took Sanctuary in order to continue fighting for justice in my case. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had what they call a voluntary departure, and then I asked for a stay in order to try and reopen my criminal case where I had received poor legal advice, and immigration denied that stay, twice, and the Quakers had been accompanying me during the two times they denied my stay and they offered me Sanctuary and that was a chance to keep fighting my legal case and to try and get justice. It was also the only way to keep my family together, to keep my two boys and my partner and I together in the United States while I fight my case.

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Ingird is accepted into Sanctuary at Mountain View Friends Meeting, photo by Gabriela Flora

 

Lucy: And what was the impact on you and your family, of being in sanctuary? And how did the community care for you?

Ingrid: It was an experience that was both beautiful and sad. It was sad because my partner and my oldest son stayed in our family home and myself and my youngest son came to live in Sanctuary and so we were somewhat separated by the experience. But it was also beautiful because I felt very protected and safe in Sanctuary. Every day, people came to visit us, and play with my younger son and talk with me, and stay the night in case immigration should come to the church. I felt very supported by the community.

Lucy: Ingrid, you received a temporary stay of removal until August. I know Arturo was picked up, but then received a stay, and also Jeanette has received a stay. It seems as though…and why do you think that ICE is willing to grant that for each of you? What do you think were the circumstances that made it possible for that to happen?

Ingrid: So the three cases are very different and very distinct. In my case, I’m really pursuing a legal strategy that would allow me to reopen my original case and change the plea, which would then allow me to reopen my immigration case. In the case of Jeanette and Arturo, because Arturo doesn’t have any convictions, and Jeanette’s are misdemeanors, Senator Bennett introduced a private bill for each of them, they were part of the last group of people who can access a stay through a private bill. I was hoping to be included and to have a private bill as well in my case, but that didn’t happen, and I can’t be upset or jealous about that. I feel very grateful to have the two months that I do have, to be able to attend my court on July 7th, and I hope that I’ll win my case that day. If I win my case that day, if I’m able to reopen my criminal case, then I can continue with more time here to reopen my immigration case. But each case is very distinct and I don’t know if every person who enters sanctuary will end up with a stay of deportation or not.

 

Ingrid4C 710Ingrid at Mountain View Friends Meeting, photo by Gabriela Flora

 

Lucy: Are there elements of the way that’s it’s very public that are supportive, do you think the media prominence has an influence on what happens?

Ingrid: It can go either way, the press attention in your case, it can help you or hurt you. And each case is very different. In the case of Jeanette, she’s a long-term activist who’s very comfortable with the media and being very assertive in her case. In my case, both because of who I am, my own personality, and the sensitivity of my case, with me having to go to court, and my lack of experience before Sanctuary with the media, it was kind of a quieter approach. We did some media work, but it was much more sporadic and had a softer tone to it. The press is helpful with organizing the immigrant and the faith communities, they become engaged because of what they see on the news or they become more involved in supporting our cases and supporting changes.

Lucy: So last week, Haris was deported. I know a little about the story, and the arrest and detention of undocumented people has risen 38% since Trump became President. What do you think is needed to interrupt these deportations? Piper was talking earlier about the regression from all of the policy wins in the Obama administration. What do you think it’s going to take to shift things now?

Ingrid: What we really need is the Congress people and the Senators to do their job and do the hard work of figuring out an amnesty and immigration reform program that would allow all people who are undocumented in the United States, all 11 million, to get on a path to citizenship, but for that to happen, we really need better unity and more people within the country pushing for that, and being united between all the immigrant communities and all the communities that were born here in the U.S. to work together and to push for that, because otherwise it’s not happening. It’s not looking very hopeful at this moment with the Congress that we have and the amount of pressure that we have from communities is not enough yet to get there.

Jennifer Piper: I think it’s also going to require the immigrant community to get organized at the neighborhood level in defense communities and be super ready to push hard and to interrupt what’s happening in their neighborhoods, supported by really strong groups of allies who are ready to do that work and to call for reform for all 11 million and not be dividing and labeling the immigrant community into deserving and undeserving, but to really push for a more just system. And I think the other thing is going to require support for general labor strikes by immigrants and their allies, to cause the sort of moral and economic crisis that’s needed for change, if we’re going to get there in the short term and not in another 20 years, it’s going to require resistance across all facets of our society.

Lucy: Thank you, that’s very powerful. It’s interesting, because it seems like we’re at a very precarious moment with the shifts in the administration and the massive criminalization of immigrants. It’s also reminiscent of the other times in history, like when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, there was a sense that free Blacks at the time felt a little bit more safe and a little bit more protected, but when the Fugitive Slave Act happened, there was mass criminalization and they weren’t safe anywhere, and so it radicalized the movement, it radicalized the white progressive supporters, and they stopped thinking of gradual change and they started fighting for immediate emancipation and the abolition of slavery. I wonder about Trump, there’s this other piece where he’s vastly exposing the system, which some people didn’t even notice, or ignored under Obama, even though he was deporting so many people. So the question is, what are your thoughts about the possibilities for deeper change? What you’re talking about in terms of much more massive resistance is one of them, but what is your sense of the possibilities for deeper change in the migrant rights movement at this time?

 

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Ingrid with her son Anibal

 

Ingrid: I think it’s time for us to act, and to live without fear. We need to be really be in the streets doing strikes, hunger strikes and labor strikes and lifting up our voices. I don’t think that hiding will save us. We have to speak out and we have to get a change, not only in these policies, but also in this administration. We have to see this President go, he’s someone who’s just not ethical.

Lucy: What are your hopes? I hear about expanding the kinds of activism that is happening with economic strikes and hunger strikes and massive resistance, but if there’s more a vision for an expanded Sanctuary movement, what would it look like? And not only for the migrant community, but beyond that, and what might it accomplish for us all?

Ingrid: My hope would be that the movement would expand beyond Denver and beyond the places where it is already to as many places as possible. And not just to have allied churches, but to have many more immigrants involved in leading the movement. And sometimes that’s a difficult thing, but I’ve been trying to say to people that it’s never too late to get involved, to come to a meeting, to get involved with Not One More or another organization and make your voice heard and be a part of changing things. And I try to really refer people to the meetings I know are going on and to invite people to get involved.

 

Ingrid's family

Ingrid and her family

 

Jenn Piper: I think we’re at a juncture where we have to decide what it is we’re going to do. A lot of that depends on what the immigrant community is going to ask from us, and I think they’re still figuring that out to a large degree, but are we going to invest the time and the energy into creating more networks and more support earlier on, in sort of this rapid response to immigration enforcement and really exposing what that looks like in our communities and our schools, or are we going to expand the church Sanctuary movement with the idea of really overwhelming the system and making it impossible for people to get away from the consequences, both economic and human, of the system that we have. I think that we have to make a choice and we need to be strategic about it.

If all 400 congregations who have signed up to say that they would definitely do Sanctuary did it, that would have an enormous impact, to have 400 immigrants around the country in resistance, and have their voices amplified by the congregations they’re working with, would be pretty inescapable for the larger populace, and I think people would have to start making a choice about where they stand. I think if we’re not going to do that, then what are we doing to support the other forms of resistance that Ingrid was just talking about?

 

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Jenn Piper at the Posada welcoming Ingird into Sanctuary at Mountain View Friends Meeting

 

Lucy: What would you ask of allies in the fight for migrant justice? And not just to do, but how to be? I think it’s important that people hear this again and again, what’s the best role to play for an ally?

Ingrid: That people get involved and work harder next to us, so we don’t feel so isolated, so alone.

Piper: What I would ask from allies is to be really conscious of the privilege of time. There are communities that are ideologically diverse and actually do need time to make a decision together and to hear one another, and then there are communities that aren’t, that are all on the same page, that are uncomfortable with acting without knowing everything or are uncomfortable acting in an area that is new to them, or to us. What I would ask of allies is to get used to, and to search out being uncomfortable every day. Where we’re really learning and transforming ourselves and our communities is in that place of uncomfortablility. We need to live into a place where we don’t know the answers, walking alongside people who are in a system where there are no answers. And I think in terms of transformed policies, like what Ingrid said, in terms of being able to honor, i think that citizenship is tricky, because it’s been denied to Native people and all kinds of people over the course of our history, but it’s one of the ways we confer human rights on people in the US, is by affording them citizenship and through that, access to human rights and dignity. I think that that’s one piece of it. I think there’s a much bigger piece that’s looking at how do we disarm capitalism? If we’re not going to do that, how we ensure that people have the same rights as goods and as money to cross borders and to move freely about the world, if we’re going to have this very competitive, Darwinian competition of the fittest, in the capitalist vision, then we should also allow the people who are involved the same amount of freedom to move and to compete and to follow the resources. So I think at a much larger systemic level, we have to look at: what is the economy we’ve created, and how do we enforce second class citizenship around the globe by denying some people the right to move and to follow the resources that sustain them or keep them relatively safe, or provide them opportunity.

Lucy: What would the community where migrant justice was a lived reality look like? What would that vision include? Obviously not being threatened by ICE and by deportation, but what else might it include for a community that’s really based on justice for migrants and for everyone?

Ingrid: It’s almost hard to imagine, that it seems so far away, that vision, but I think that a lot of it would be just feeling free to walk about and to move about wherever you are without always looking over your shoulder to see if there’s a police officer or immigration officer coming to your house or pulling you over in your car or when you’re walking down the street. To have that freedom, to go to the store and to the park and not be afraid.

Lucy: Thank you. The last question that I have is, what gives you courage? What gives you hope?

Ingrid: What gives me hope is my family. They’re really what inspires me to struggle and to fight, to stay together.

Piper: What gives me hope is seeing people willing to have hard conversations. And people both from the ally and immigrant communities’ willingness to speak out and to be vulnerable and to push.

  • Jon

    Speaking of sanctuaries, I was a civilian supporter during this turbulent time:

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    JOIN US! Hawai’i August 1969: Pentagon at the Crossroads as soldiers resist war

    Posted in Anti-war, Asia, World

    Airman Buffy Parry, the first sanctuary member, here in Waikiki Beach Park.

    By John Catalinotto
    August 9, 2016

    One
    thousand people hushed as Airman 1st Class Louis “Buffy” Parry
    announced his act of conscience. He would end his “complicity with the
    U.S. military and its crimes against humanity” in the war against
    Vietnam, then at its height, and take sanctuary at Honolulu’s Church of
    the Crossroads.

    It was Sunday, Aug. 10, 1969. Parry and I were
    keynote speakers at the Nagasaki Day anti-war rally at Waikiki Beach
    Park in Honolulu.

    Even had it remained an individual act, Parry’s
    stand was powerful. But following the rally at Waikiki Beach Park, seven
    other service members left the military for the sanctuary. It was
    becoming a mass action.

    For the preceding two years, I had been
    working in the GI anti-war movement. The Honolulu protest’s rapid growth
    presented an opportunity to stop the Pentagon in its tank tracks.

    A
    mile east of Waikiki Beach Park was Diamond Head Monument, a volcanic
    crater and symbol of Honolulu with views of all of Oahu island. Volcanic
    eruptions had given birth to all the islands.

    The park was filled
    with palms and 12-foot-wide Banyan trees whose many trunks, intertwined
    like great serpents around a central column, support one tree’s
    branches and leaves. The anti-war civilians and GIs sought similar
    mutual support.

    We marched parallel to the Pacific beaches along
    Waikiki and Ala Moana parks, and then another two miles through
    Honolulu’s city center, quiet on Sunday, to the Church of the
    Crossroads. That evening, we counted eight service members in the
    sanctuary. We all slept at the church.

    The next day, we learned
    that Black Marines at the nearby Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station had
    torn apart the mess hall to protest prejudicial job assignments and
    racist harassment. This rebellion added another dimension to volcanic
    movements shaking the military.

    An accident of timing put me on
    Oahu. The anti-war movement in Hawai’i, urged by a student at the
    University of Hawai’i, had invited Andy Stapp, the chairperson of the
    American Servicemen’s Union, to speak. Stapp’s spouse, Deirdre Griswold,
    was about to give birth, so he sent me from New York in his place.

    The
    ASU was an anti-war and anti-racist organization of low-ranking GIs. As
    of mid-1969 it had some 8,000 active-duty members. Tens of thousands of
    GIs read its monthly newspaper, The Bond.

    I had nothing like
    Stapp’s charisma to keep an audience spellbound, nor his skill with
    media. My realm was the union office, writing letters to GIs on a manual
    typewriter, doing headquarters and logistics work as circulation
    manager for The Bond. Now suddenly I was on point at the front lines and
    the only ASU organizer on site.

    The Hawai’i Resistance, the
    church elders and the ASU had a tiger by the tail. The tiger was
    growling. My job as ASU organizer was to make the tiger grow.

    To
    the Marine officers at Kaneohe MCAS, what the Black troops did was a
    mutinous riot. To the ASU it was a righteous uprising. The rebellion
    presented a challenge to the anti-war movement.

    Solidarity with Black Marines

    Could
    we unite the military resistance at the Crossroads church with this
    outbreak of the Black Liberation struggle that was sweeping the U.S. in
    1969, in this case right nearby at the Marine base?

    After a night
    sleeping on the church floor with some 50 young anti-war people who
    might have been at home at the iconic Woodstock, N.Y., concert that took
    place a week later, I proposed we hold a demonstration picket at the
    gates of Kaneohe in solidarity with the Black Marines.

    The night
    after this symbolic action, a group of Marines from Kaneohe brought food
    they had liberated from the mess hall to the church to help feed those
    taking sanctuary.

    These Marines were not yet willing to risk open
    resistance and disobedience, but they still donated under the table
    something we could put on the table at the Crossroads.

    Maybe my
    vision was too optimistic, but the seeds of a widespread rebellion were
    there. To even conceive of it now, 47 years later, you have to recreate
    the mood of August 1969. You also have to know what a military center
    Oahu was.

    Leading to this struggle

    As early as
    January 1968, the Tet Offensive of the Vietnamese National Liberation
    Front inflicted heavy casualties on U.S. troops, demoralized U.S.
    government leaders and began to turn the U.S. population against the
    war. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, identified with the war, was
    forced to withdraw from the 1968 election.

    Richard Nixon, the new
    Republican president, promised to end the war. Yet he still increased
    the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam until it peaked at 543,400 on April
    30, 1969. Up to that time, 33,641 U.S. troops had been killed there.

    In
    June 1969, Nixon announced plans to gradually remove U.S. troops. The
    U.S. forces were to be replaced by expanding the puppet army of South
    Vietnam in a plan known as “Vietnamization.”

    Meanwhile, the
    majority of the U.S. population had turned against the war and the
    anti-war movement had grown both broader and more combative. To the
    anti-war movement and the GIs, Nixon’s steps were too little, too slow
    and too easily reversed.

    Anti-war resistance also grew within the
    military. For the GIs, the war was an immediate life-and-death issue.
    The troops’ hostility mounted year by year. Some Pentagon officers
    worried the war machine would fall apart.

    Marine Col. Robert D.
    Heinl Jr., a military historian, described this development: “As early
    as mid-1969, an entire company of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade
    publicly sat down on the battlefield. Later that year, another rifle
    company, from the famed 1st Air Cavalry Division, flatly refused — on
    CBS-TV — to advance down a dangerous trail.” (“The Collapse of the Armed
    Forces,” Armed Forces Journal, June 7, 1971)

    Hawai’i: Pentagon in the Pacific

    Ever
    since a 1893 planters’ uprising led to the U.S.’s illegal annexation of
    the Hawaiian nation in 1898, the Hawai’i Islands and especially Oahu
    have been a center for the U.S. military in the Pacific.

    It is 30
    miles from Haleiwa, on the northern coast of Oahu, to the Church of the
    Crossroads in central Honolulu. On the island of lush tropical forest
    and superb beaches, five major military bases of the U.S. Army, Navy,
    Air Force and Marines were located.

    On our 30-mile drive to
    Haleiwa to pick up leaflets, my host pointed out the warships in Pearl
    Harbor, which housed 60,000 sailors, and nearby Hickam Air Force Base.
    He pointed out the gap in the mountains where the Japanese planes first
    appeared beyond a cloudbank before bombing Pearl Harbor in December 1941
    in the battle of two imperialist powers for the Pacific.

    We
    continued along the Kamehameha Highway past Wheeler Airfield and
    Schofield Army Barracks, which housed 15,000 Army troops. And then to
    the east of Honolulu, on the windward coast of Oahu, was the Kaneohe
    Marine base.

    In 1969, tens of thousands of U.S. troops, among the
    more than half a million doing a year’s service in Vietnam, were rotated
    out for “rest and recreation” in Hawai’i. If you wanted to reach out to
    U.S. troops, including those in Vietnam, the place to do it was Oahu,
    Hawai’i.

    The American Servicemen’s Union had a friendly working
    relationship with the anti-war movement in Honolulu, known as the
    Hawai’i Resistance, and shipped them hundreds of copies of The Bond each
    month to distribute to the troops.

    The Church of the Crossroads
    congregation itself resolved to “provide moral support and such other
    assistance as may be appropriate to persons whose conscience is in
    conflict with requirements of the state,” including “sanctuary for those
    who engage in nonviolent forms of resistance as a matter of
    conscience.”

    ‘Break chains of military injustice’

    It’s
    with that background that the Hawai’i Resistance announced and promoted
    the GI-Civilian Walk for Peace set for Sunday, Aug. 10, 1969, to
    commemorate the atomic massacres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The American
    Servicemen’s Union co-sponsored the action.

    “Leaflets urging men
    to ‘Break the Chains of Military Injustice’ were distributed on bases
    and in Waikiki and emphasized the ASU’s demands, focused on winning a
    bill of rights for GIs, especially the right to refuse orders to
    participate in the illegal war in Vietnam.” [Source of quotes, unless
    otherwise noted, is Hawai’i Resistance report, 1969]

    As the
    sanctuary movement grew, the ASU approach was to define the gathering of
    GIs at the church as a “union meeting.” In the vision of the ASU
    organizers, none of the actions of the rebellious GIs should be
    considered illegal. It was the war that was illegal, unconstitutional,
    had never been declared, and its prosecution meant further Pentagon war
    crimes against the Vietnamese people.

    The GIs were like other
    workers, who had the right to come to the Church of the Crossroads
    simply as an act of forming their own organization.

    Based on my
    reports of the initial few days, the ASU office in New York, with the
    support of Workers World Party, sent a delegation of four organizers to
    Honolulu, including two AWOL soldiers who joined the GIs in sanctuary. I
    reluctantly returned home to less dramatic support tasks with The Bond.

    On
    Sunday morning, Aug. 17, the 18 GIs then in sanctuary received a
    standing ovation from 350 people at the church. The church elders,
    however, acted worried that Parry’s act of conscience had expanded to
    become an open confrontation with the U.S. Armed Forces.

    The
    ambivalent church elders enforced a moratorium against seeking new
    sanctuary members. Nevertheless, the number of GIs in sanctuary grew to
    35 in the next three weeks.

    Meanwhile, the military surrounded the
    sanctuary with police and intelligence units that prevented GIs from
    entering and arrested those who left the church. Unless the movement
    could be constantly expanded, it would be weakened by the constant
    confinement and tension among the GIs and their civilian supporters.

    Finally,
    on Sept. 12, about 40 military police stormed the grounds at
    Crossroads, kicking in all locked doors including those to the church.
    Many GIs had already slipped out. The MPs found and arrested only eight
    of the men, but the police action ended the sanctuary.

    Throughout
    the five weeks, the focus of the ASU delegation was this: “How can we
    continue to expand this movement until it affects the entire Armed
    Forces, from Western Europe to Vietnam?” To move in that direction one
    needed to have the attitude and the ideology that looked upon the
    collapse of the U.S. imperialist Armed Forces as both positive and
    possible.

    The Crossroads was another chapter in this struggle, even if it fell short of its apparent potential.

    The
    Hawai’i Resistance continued its work with anti-war GIs for the next
    six years. The ASU’s AWOL Pvts. John Lewis and Greg Laxer avoided being
    sent to Vietnam and continued organizing at Fort Dix, N.J. Both later
    became leaders at the ASU office.

    Susan Steinman, a student at the
    University of Hawai’i who initiated the invitation to the ASU, became
    the Hawai’i organizer for the ASU and later a national field organizer
    working out of the ASU national office in New York City. Later, she
    became a lead organizer for the Communication Workers; her work led to
    union representation for 18,000 women telephone operators.

    While
    continuing to bomb Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for the next six years,
    the Nixon administration kept withdrawing U.S. troops. On April 30,
    1975, the Vietnamese liberated their country.

    Based on a chapter in Catalinotto’s forthcoming book, “Turn the Guns Around: Mutinies, Soldier Revolts and Revolutions.”

    This book is now published. (Jon)