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IRTF's Annual Activity Report for 2019-2020
SINCE THE SPRING OF 2019, IRTF HAS...
IRTF has given dozens of presentations and workshops for community groups, congregations, high school and college classes, clubs, and organizations.
IRTF has organized 11 events for our community--from cozy “coffeehouses” to the Social Justice and Fair Trade Teach-Ins with hundreds of attendees.
Through these events and presentations, we have been fortunate to share our values with 3,199 people (just in the past year), 1,209 of whom engaged with IRTF for the first time!
And at most every event, we bring a petition. Over the past year, IRTF has collected over 1,500 signatures urging U.S. congresspersons to defend immigrants’ rights by granting permanent legal status to recipients of DACA and TPS.
VICTORIES TO CELEBRATE!
IRTF has been instrumental in founding, shaping, facilitating, and guiding these projects:
- Cleveland’s branch of the National Immigration Transit Assistance “Overground Railroad”
- Cleveland Immigration Working Group, in broad coalition with the Ohio Immigrant Alliance
- Bond Collective project
- NE Ohio Rapid Response Team
- Disciples Justice Ministries Working Group
- Coalition to Stop the Inhumanity at the Cuyahoga County Jail
- Cleveland Pandemic Response network
At its national conference held in Cleveland in November 2019, the Catholic Volunteer Network awarded IRTF the 2019 Mader Award, which “celebrates the contributions of individuals and organizations who have taken great strides to increase volunteerism in their community or around the globe.” The Catholic Volunteer Network supports over 18,000 volunteers with 185 programs in 45 states and 109 countries, impacting the lives of 2.8 million individuals through service, advocacy, and organizing.
IMMIGRANT SUPPORT AND DEFENSE
IRTF obtained a “stakeholder visit” at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, a for-profit prison operated by CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America). Under the watchful eyes of CoreCivic, Homeland Security, and ICE representatives, we were able to meet with and offer support to 70 non-criminal immigrant detainees.
IRTF trained and engaged 25 volunteers to prepare bond packets for 22 immigrant detainees, asking immigration judges for their release. IRTF partnered with the organization RAICES to cover bonds for 2 of the cases; an additional 8 were able to raise their bond money and leave detention.
IRTF, together with the Diocese of Cleveland, AMIS, Inc., and Cleveland Jobs with Justice, raised $45,000 to secure the release of Idrissa, Issoufou, and Emanuel, three men from Burkina Faso who had been incarcerated at the CoreCivic for-profit prison in Youngstown for over 5 months.
IRTF organized to free Elías, a 25-year-old Guatemalan man picked up by ICE at his home in Ohio, from detention by CoreCivic. Many, many IRTF supporters came together --with our friends at AMIS and the Immigration Working Group CLE-- and enabled us to raise his $12,500 bond. Elías has returned home!
1 down, 4 to go: ICE had been detaining immigrants in 5 facilities across Ohio. CoreCivic recently terminated its contract with DHS, making Youngstown one fewer community where ICE can imprison people. There are still 4 facilities detaining migrants across the state, even as our communities face increased dangers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis!
Our co-director was nominated for Scene Magazine’s Best of Cleveland 2019: activist of the year award, and the Cleveland Young NonProfit Network’s 10th Anniversary award.
RRN VICTORIES AND UPDATES
One of IRTF’s central programs is the Rapid Response Network, through which IRTF volunteers and staff respond to 72 urgent human rights cases in Central America and Colombia (6 each month). The majority of the victims of these crimes are indigenous peoples, land rights defenders, environmentalists, human rights organizers, lawyers, and journalists. We would like to share a few positive updates with you:
- letters since 4/1/2016 - Honduras: on December 2, 2019, a Honduran court sentenced seven men for the murder of the visionary indigenous and environmental movement leader Berta Cáceres.
- letters since 3/21/2018 - Honduras: in August, 2019, Edwin Espinal and Raul Alvarez, who were detained as political prisoners for almost two years, were freed.
- letters since 2/24/2017 - Guatemala: In April, 2019, Abelino Chub Caal, Maya Q’eqchi’ land defender, was released and absolved of all charges after over two years in detention.
HOW IRTF GREW & FLOURISHED THROUGH OUR VALUES IN THE PAST YEAR
IRTF participated in the creation of 6 new programs (detailed on the other side), which we continue to implement and facilitate in collaboration with many volunteers, members, and partner organizations.
IRTF is a proud member of 11 organizations and collectives - local, regional, national, and international - and continues to partner with many more groups on justice campaigns. These relationships keep IRTF growing and evolving!
Participating in 7 human rights delegations to Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, volunteers and staff continued to ground IRTF’s work in centering and following the leadership of those who are marginalized and oppressed through political, economic, and environmental injustice.
* As always, we only accompany folks who have invited us to observe and report back on human rights conditions in their communities, and we never participate in activities that could be supported by the native economy.
Through the generosity of our grassroots community, IRTF was able to fund over 800 people, mainly students and young people, to participate without charge in IRTF workshops and events.
HOW IRTF DEEPENED OUR ROOTS IN OUR VALUES IN THE PAST YEAR
We maintained relationships and dialogue with our local, state, and federal representatives. In the past year, we met with 28 different staffers from the offices of 12 of Ohio’s 16 U.S. House representatives and both U.S. senators.
Over 100 IRTF volunteers raised $24,074 in direct economic support for fair trade cooperatives in southern Mexico, Colombia, and Central America by staffing IRTF tables at 45 off-site events.
And the heart of IRTF’s movement, the Rapid Response Network, continues to inform our work, by responding to 72 urgent human rights cases each year. We are pleased to share a few RRN victories on the other side of this page.
Our community organized and/or attended over 45 vigils, rallies, protests, and marches in the past year, promoting immigrant and farmworker rights, gender and sexual rights, economic justice, Afro-descendant and indigenous solidarity, demilitarization and anti-imperialism.
Staff and community members attended conferences in Ohio, DC, NYC, Chicago, and all around the nation, most notably, at the School of Americas Watch convergence for the 30th anniversary of the UCA Jesuit massacre.