Nuestra Voz en la Comunidad Rallies Against LD 366
In late March, Nuestra Voz en la Comunidad began organizing around the proposed law LD 366: “An Act to Ensure Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities.” As described by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maine, this bill tells towns and cities that their local law enforcement must also act as immigration agents. Nuestra Voz en la Comunidad members decided to write a letter to local legislators from Washington and Hancock counties to urge them to vote against the bill.
Community members began by writing up personal testimonies that were compiled into one document. During subsequent Nuestra Voz meetings, members then re-worked and agreed upon a final copy of a letter in Spanish. Mano en Mano staff then translated the letter into English, which was also approved by the group. Staff collaborated with and were supported by ACLU staff and resources through this process.
On April 20, two Nuestra Voz members and a Mano en Mano staff member went to Augusta to present the letter to the judiciary committee at the bill’s hearing at the Maine State House. Activists and other citizens in opposition to the bill wore blue in opposition, and a group gathered for a rally against LD 366 before the hearing began. Nuestra Voz members were able to connect and network face to face with other immigrant-led organizations around the state.
Throughout April and into May, Nuestra Voz en la Comunidad members continued their activism around the proposed bill, calling their local representative, sharing updates in the Facebook group, and even showing up to the “Day Without Immigrants” rally on May 1 with a bilingual sign saying “NO to LD 366.”
Update: the bill was defeated in both the house and the senate! Congratulations to all those who worked hard to defeat this bill.
Read the letter in English below:
Now more than ever, it is important to recognize immigrants and their contributions to the state of Maine. As leaders of the community group Nuestra Voz en la Comunidad (Our Voice in the Community), we are writing to urge you to oppose LD 366: “An Act to Ensure Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities.” We are concerned that this bill will result in racial profiling and make immigrants and people of color like us afraid to trust and interact with the police - the very entity that is meant to keep us all safe.
Nuestra Voz en la Comunidad is an advocacy group of Latinos, immigrants, farmworkers, and allies in Downeast Maine, primarily from Milbridge and reaching as far as Bar Harbor.
The danger of LD 366 is that it allows for rapid expansion of immigration enforcement and policing in Maine, turning all state and local police as well as public officials into enforcers of federal immigration policy. It allows police to arrest any immigrant, regardless of documentation, if they are not able to produce proof of their immigration status at any police stop. Local police officers have not been trained as immigration agents and cannot be expected to interpret complicated immigration laws.
In reaction, one of our community leaders stated, “I believe this is unconstitutional and violates human rights. [LD 366] allows people to be judged based on their appearance. I have to drive my children to their doctor appointments. I have to drive to work, and contribute to my household income. If the police starts acting as immigration agents, I would not be able to go out and buy the food I prepare daily for my children, nor would I be able to attend their school meetings or sports events. My participation in their education would feel incomplete. I believe it would not be fair, not only for us the adults who are immigrants, but also for our children.” It would be a loss for all communities in Maine.
LD 366 would make immigrants feel less welcome in Maine and would encourage racial profiling by singling out people perceived to be "foreign" for different treatment. In response to LD366, one of our leaders said, “I am here out of necessity. Necessity to progress in this country, which has given me more opportunities than the one I was born. I am thankful for the state of Maine and this country for the jobs they offer. [I know] people who have been coming to this beautiful state for over twenty years to work under fair conditions and I would not like this to change. On the contrary, I would like for others to have the opportunity to come and experience Maine without any sense of fear.”
Police officers should be protecting all of us in our community, without having to worry about immigration status. This bill discourages cooperation between immigrants and police, making it harder for officers to do their jobs and our communities less safe. LD 366 would ultimately result in the undermining of trust between police and the immigrant community, and would eliminate the right of all people - regardless of immigration status - to report a crime or collaborate with police without fear of unlawful and unfounded detainment.
Thank you for hearing our concerns and we look forward to your reply.
Nuestra Voz en la Comunidad