Our Theory of Change
Many in our community feel at home in the Berkshires. It can be, as one of our leaders once described, “like living in a Norman Rockwell painting,” spending time in tiny towns of rosy, smiling faces and never questioning that you belong.
However, not all residents of our county are painted on that iconic canvas. Our friends from the growing Latinx and immigrant communities are too often left at the margins.
Through relationship building in these communities, we’ve learned that a major barrier is our broken immigration system.
An opaque system, combined with heightened anti-immigrant sentiment and policies spreading in our nation, has resulted in many of our immigrant and Latinx neighbors living in fear and isolation.
We are committed to bringing our immigrant community into relationship with the entire community, and fighting together for systemic change.
Our current/ongoing work stems from a desire to bridge the divide between the American-born and immigrant communities, build relationships based on equality, integration and respect, and work together to create change in areas of struggle identified by immigrant members of the community.
We are currently in the relationship-building part of the work of organizing: we are investing time, focus and energy into strengthening and deepening relationships between American-born and immigrant members of the Berkshire community. Building on our Past Campaign work (see below) in Sanctuary, Accompaniment, and Interpretation in Pittsfield Schools, our current work is centered on Latinx members of the Berkshire community.
Our goal is to build relationships, so we can work together to leverage our combined power, to make needed systemic change.
Welcoming Resolution and Trust Policies
Preventing local police from collaborating with ICE in non-criminal cases
In Great Barrington, we ran a joint campaign with Multicultural BRIDGE. We united community members from all walks of life to write a policy which ensures that local police do not work with ICE to deport undocumented immigrants, outside of criminal cases.
The policy passed in 2017 with a vote of 250 to 3, and immigrants in Great Barrington immediately reported feeling safer leaving their homes to go to work, spend time with family, and attend worship services.
Interpretation in Pittsfield Public Schools
Local Latinx leaders identified language access in the schools as a key issue. This became an especially big problem during the pandemic when information was changing and needed to be communicated quickly. The Latinx leaders drafted six demands and sent them to the Superintendent and requested his presence at one of their weekly meetings. The Superintendent sent a representative which provided a way for parents to share their concerns. The story-sharing of Latinx parents and leaders led to the posting of a job for a paid staff interpreter position in November 2021. .
Berkshire Sanctuary Network
We created the Berkshire Sanctuary Network, a network of congregations, to shelter an undocumented immigrant facing an unjust deportation and buy them time to find a legal remedy and secure legal status. Seven Level 2 congregations, committed to supporting a future Level 1 congregation, where the immigrant would actually live.
We deeply thank the seven covenanted congregations that united to form the Berkshire Sanctuary Network!
First Church of Christ on Park Square, Pittsfield
First Congregational Church Williamstown
Lee Congregational Church, Lee
South Congregational Church, Pittsfield
St. John's Episcopal Church, Williamstown
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Pittsfield
Unitarian Universalist Church, Pittsfield
The BIO Accompaniment Program, which launched in March 2019, trained over 75 volunteers to travel with an undocumented immigrant to their ICE check-ins to provide moral support, bear public witness to their interactions with law enforcement, and assist in case an emergency arises during the check-in.
During the training, volunteers:
learned why accompaniment helps
understood how to be a thoughtful and effective accompanier
committed to showing up when a request for accompaniment arose
At the same time, the Accompaniment Coordinators’ group created a triage process for accompaniment requests to ensure a quick response and designed and distributed a multilingual flyer.
Our Goals for Accompaniment
The Accompaniment Program has four main goals:
Leverage the privilege of our citizenship in order to benefit the immigrant community
Provide free transportation for undocumented immigrants to court dates and ICE check-ins, and bear witness during a moment of fear and anxiety.
Together with our immigrant neighbors, educate ourselves and others on how to navigate our broken immigration system.
Build relationships across lines of difference that are based in mutual respect, equity, and integration.
During COVID, ICE was no longer requiring in person check-ins, so accompaniment was not needed. Recently, there has been renewed interest in this program and we hope to reevaluate the need and capacity to provide this service.
Through all of this work, we connected deeply with our immigrant partners. Despite the language barrier, we learned that we share a strong commitment to justice, and love and concern for each other’s safety and well-being.
Transportation / Transportacion
Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires