Reflections on the New Sanctuary Coalition Accompaniment Training

Ansche Chesed hosted The New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC) for an Accompaniment Training. The Accompaniment training was open to Ansche Chesed members, as well as the wider community. We had an overflowing room with over 100 individuals present for the training. The NSC accompaniment program recruits and trains volunteers to accompany people facing deportation to their immigration hearings and ICE check-ins. This provides moral support to the person facing deportation and enables volunteers to hold immigration authorities accountable. Standing in solidarity with migrants facing deportation also demonstrates to immigration judges, ICE officers, and government attorneys that there is a community mobilized against their deportation. NSC accompanies hundreds of people a year.

The Immigration Accompaniment Program helps support families who are going through the immigration process in 3 ways:

  • 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
  • HOLDS LEGAL OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE for providing accurate information and serving due process

Through the training process, I learned the 3 ground rules of Accompaniment: Do No Harm, No Judgment and Respect.
A few weeks after the training, I had the experience of accompanying a “friend” to their Master Calendar appointment in Immigration Court. My group leader, a retired Special Education teacher, described the experience as follows:

“The atmosphere surrounding Immigration is anxiety ridden and dehumanizing. We accompany to combat those feelings. Our strength inside Federal Plaza and Varick Street is in our stillness. Our power is in our silence. Our weapon is our witness. We give to our Friends the assurance that we will be behind them as they step forward to take control of their lives with dignity.”

As a rabbi who likes to DO, it was humbling to just BE – to offer strength through eidut – through witnessing.
As a rabbi who likes to TALK, it was powerful to be QUIET – to offer support through sheket – through silence.
As a rabbi who likes to LEAD, it was empowering to FOLLOW – to offer sustenance through kavod – through respect.