What is a Defense Committee?
The defense committee is composed of a group of people who live within the same geographical area and host community meetings to educate each other about their rights, develop a plan of action in case of ICE and/or police activity. The members of the committee are connected by a safe network of group messaging, such as “Whatsapp” or “Signal,” to exchange information and to set up plans for immediate response. Furthermore, the defense committee could be the place where community members find safety and support. They can come up with creative solutions in case la Migra (officially, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) knocks on their door, and support a person if they are detained by going to their first court appearance or creating a fundraiser. Above all, the goal is to respond quickly, fight back as a community and provide a network of support where we can rely on each other and defend our families and neighbors.
A defense committee is an alternative to a racist system where undocumented, black, and other people of color are often persecuted to the point of massive incarceration, detention and deportation and creates an alternative for community members to protect and defend each other.
This is an alternative that aims to provide protection and support to immigrant communities that have continuously been under attack. Entities such as the Police and la Migra have benefited from the isolation and fear instilled by their actions in our communities. Therefore, the time is now to be intentional and build safer spaces with our neighbors, to fight together and find solutions as a community.
- Educate the community about their rights when interacting with ICE.
- Take action to protect our community and defend our rights.
- Respond quickly to situations such as raids.
- Provide support for community members in the aftermath of a raid.
- Create alternative systems of safety that don’t include law enforcement.
Invite neighbors, friends, or relatives who live near your home to a community meeting.
- Review your rights as a collective. Teams can use this website or get information from other organizations.
- Create a messaging group to remain connected and informed. You can use WhatsApp or Signal.
- Create a plan to be ready to respond in case ICE arrives at your block or neighborhood.
- This includes identifying schedules in which some people can walk around the neighborhood to observe police and/or ICE activity.
- Create a list of what the group needs in terms of materials, resources, and who to reach out for broader support.
- Be ready to support and to defend themselves and the community.
Make a Plan
We encourage you to think about the purpose of the meeting and prepare for it well in advance. Preparation will force you to think about the location of the meeting, food cost, and topics of discussion. Once the location has been determined, take note of the number of participants the space will be able to accommodate.
Upon attendees’ confirmation, encourage them to bring a snack item. If your group prefers to have a home-cooked meal, then ask participants to contribute with the cost of the groceries.
It’s important to ask your group about the topics of discussion they would like to cover during the meeting (Know Your Rights workshops are a good option, but make sure your group also thinks about family planning and fundraising to cover any rapid response needs in the community).
Once finalized, create an agenda and think about who might be willing to facilitate a session and delegate! If you decide to cover the Designation of Tutorship, invite a notary to the meeting to provide participants with the support they might need.
TIP: If your host insists in cooking, make sure he/she is not facilitating. Remind everyone about the importance of contributing to the space.
We have created a list of expectations for participants and for host/captains. These are all suggestions and of course change as you need. It is important, however, that people are clear about their contribution for the group.
Participants are the people in the community who join the committee and are willing to work together to create the base of the committee. Each participant commits themselves to:
- Communicating with your captain and neighbors to see if they know of a raid in your neighborhood, sharing information, and being open to collaborating.
- If it is safe, taking action by documenting what is going on, preferably in a notebook or on video if you are in a safe location.
Communicating key information to your neighbors regularly.
Each Participant is connected to a Captain. The Captains are the leaders of the Defense Committees. Each Captain commits themselves to:
- Hosting and facilitating meetings, or finding vounteers to do so.
- Making sure someone is taking notes at the meetings.
- Facilitating the creation of group agreements.
- Making sure meeting ends with a time you will all meet again and clear roles for people in the space, such as:
- Who will host?
- Are you getting a presenter?
- Do you need to invite other people?
- Do you need to plan for a pollada or another type of community event to collect money?