NSC operates at the congregational, grass-roots level to promote “social and economic justice” by working for the “reform of United States immigration laws.” Its principal objective is to protect illegal aliens from the consequences of violating those statutes, most notably deportation. Calling on religious congregations to “open their doors to individuals and families who have a final deportation order and may be a target of ... ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] raids,” the Coalition exhorts all “faith communities” to “provide what they can [for illegals], including safe haven [and] physical sanctuary.” NSC also believes that illegal immigrants should be granted voting privileges and free access to a public college education, to help ensure their ability to thrive in, and contribute to, American society. Toaddress the “unjust global and systemic economic relationships and racism [that] form the basis of the injustices that affect immigrants,” the Coalition advocates aggressive campaigns of “civil disobedience” and “resistance”; offers legal as well as “faith/community” support resources to illegal aliens; and publicizes the heartrending personal stories of various immigrant families with members facing deportation.
In partnership with Make the Road NY and the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, NSC in August 2009 launched an “Immigration Out of Rikers” initiative condemning the presence of ICE operations at Rikers Island Prison. “The whole way ICE functions goes against all our conceptions of human rights,” said Angad Bhalla. “First and foremost, family unity is a human right that ICE does not respect by enforcing deportation orders that tear apart families.” Bhalla also spoke out against the detention of immigrants at Rikers and other jail facilities run by New York City's Departments of Corrections and Probation.
NSC gained national attention in December 2009 when it launched a campaign to free Jean Montrevil—a Haitian immigrant, ex-felon, and NSC member who was being detained by the U.S. government under a deportation order. The Coalition's efforts on Montrevil's behalf received endorsements from more than 100 organizations, while Congressional Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velasquez also spoke out in the man's defense. NSC staged a number of rallies for Montrevil in January 2010, arguing that American immigration laws were unjust, overly punitive, and destructive of families. “Why are we sentencing his kids to not having a father?” Angad Bhalla asked in front of the Varick Federal Detention Facility in lower Manhattan. Later that month, Montrevil was released.
In April 2010, NSC condemned Arizona’s SB 1070, a newly passed law permitting police in that state to check the immigration status of suspected criminals, and posted a prayer on its website likening the statute to the policies of Nazi Germany: “Keep us from the silence that allows hate to fester. Don’t let us become like the Germans of the last century who didn’t see or hear what was happening.” In May 2010, the Coalition re-emphasized its uncompromising opposition to SB 1070: “Resistance to this law is in solidarity with all God’s children.... We echo the sentiments of Juan Carlos Ruiz, Catholic leader and co-founder of the New Sanctuary Movement, who has promised resistance: 'Anything that belittles or debases the human person is an offense and an insult against our God and must be resisted with all the resources of our faith traditions that call us to build a world of compassion, justice and peace.'”
One of NSC's most significant initiatives today is its Immigration Accompaniment Program, which “provides a support structure to strengthen those caught in immigration proceedings”; “keeps family members informed at every step of the process as their loved ones move forward”; and “holds legal officials accountable for providing accurate information and serving due process.” Moreover, this program assigns volunteers to accompany immigrants who are in final removal proceedings, to their required, periodic check-ins with ICE and the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP).
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