Groups form ‘rapid response’ team to aid Aurora-area residents caught up in immigration raids

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COLORADO | A coalition of civil liberty and immigrant rights groups have formed a rapid response network to document raids on undocumented communities as they happen across the state.

The Colorado Rapid Response Network’s has trained about 150 volunteers to man phone lines and dispatch 24-hours-a-day to the scene of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, including in Aurora. The network is a combined effort of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Mi Familia Vota, Colorado People’s Alliance, Together Colorado and many other organizations.

Ana Rodriguez, an organizer with the Colorado People’s Alliance, said her group has worked with other organizations on the curriculum to train volunteers in every facet. One issue Rodriguez said needed tackled was making sure undocumented immigrants weren’t on the front lines of response to raids, thereby putting themselves in danger of being detained.

As an undocumented immigrant who was protected under the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Rodriguez said she knows the real dangers for other undocumented immigrants trying to be on the front lines. But as someone who knows the fears that other undocumented immigrants feel, she said she and others can provide help over the phone to immigrants in the middle of a raid.

“I’m not going to be (one of) the ones legally observing because it’s too risky. I’m not going to be of any assistance to anybody if I get detained,” Rodriguez said. “As undocumented folks … we have a role to play in this network as well, and as somebody with DACA, that is to help develop this system and also to fill the role as a dispatcher.”

Celesté Martinez, bilingual organizer with Together Colorado, said training has focused on preparing volunteers throughout the network to deal with situations that they wouldn’t encounter in their daily lives. Another major focus is to make sure everyone knows the legal protections granted by the law, and to be able to document instances where those rights are being abused.

“This is an ongoing project,” Martinez said. “The more people we can have on the ground, the better.”

While the short-term goal is to provide immediate assistance and documentation of potential abuses during immigration raids, the long-term objective is to compile data to give a larger picture of raids across the state. And with that data, activists then hope to be able to change policy and work with lawmakers to create protections for immigrant communities, said Carla Castedo, state director of Mi Familia Vota.

“This is definitely a response to the attacks that are happening within our communities. The long-term goal is to be legalization of our communities and stop being second-class citizens,” Castedo said. “There’s a ton of things that we need to do in order to make that happen. One of those things is making sure our elected officials make the connection between the real human being and the issue.”

The 24-hour hotline number is 1-844-UNITE-41 (1-844-864-8341).