Emergency PLanning Workshop, September 22, 2017

The Community of Friends in Action will present a special workshop, Emergency Planning for Parents at Risk of Deportation, on Wednesday, September 22, 2017, at 7:15 at the Palisades Park Public Library. Recently situations have developed where one or both parents have been deported, leaving behind children including American children. This workshop will help people who are at risk of such ICE action plan for such a frightening possibility. In Spanish.

Emergency planning flyer 9.19.17

Updates on Estrada/Chocoj family

estrada family
Happier Days

In August of 2017, we reported here that Jose Estrada, a Guatemalan immigrant who lived with his family in Fairview and was a potential recipient of the Obama-era DAPA program (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), was deported. The DAPA program was never implemented, and in June of 2017 it was ended by the Trump administration.

Estrada had left Guatemala in 1998 because of threats of violence he had received. He and his wife Gloria have three children, all American born. He had regularly checked in with ICE but on his latest visit he was told to come back with a one-way paid ticket. He left on August 12. Since both he and his wife had been working full-time, his departure left the family in dire financial straits.

Our friends at Action 21, a small agency that is helping the family, report that “there are times when Gloria finds the children crying, hugging their pillows at night.” She is working 7 days a week and is determined to be strong and keep going, so that their children can have the opportunity of the better life that Jose was seeking when he fled from Guatemala years ago.

CoFiA has provided a little assistance from our emergency “Spiegel Fund,” but the needs of the family are overwhelming. A recent setback involved finding after school care for the children. An arrangement Gloria had worked out with a friend to pick the children up after school and take them to her store fell apart when some inspector told the store owner that she could not have kids there. We are asking CoFiA members and friends to contribute to our Spiegel fund to help with this problem.

Checks payable to CoFiA, with Spiegel Fund/Estrada on the memo line, can be sent to us at P.O. Box 313, Leonia, NJ 07605. Or use PayPal. And thanks!

CoFiA selected for Outreach Auction, November 4, 2017

The Community of Friends in Action is honored to announce that we have been selected as one of the beneficiaries of the 2017 Unitarian Universalist Outreach Auction. The event will be held on Saturday, November 4, at 6:30 p.m. at Central Unitarian Church, 156 Forest Avenue, Paramus. For more information go to uuoutreachauction@gmail.com.

This is the first year CoFiA has been chosen to be one of the beneficiaries. Organizations chosen in the past have included Shelter our Sisters, Center for Food Action, Family Promise of Bergen County, PFLAG, Holley Childcare & Development Center, and Children’s Aid and Family Services, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to these groups. This gala evening features a live auction and Tricy Tray, as well as refreshments and more. Bids are received from $10 to over $1000!

All members of CoFiA are encouraged to participate both by attending on November 4 and by contributing some of the items solicited for the live auction, and “bidding” to contribute directly to CoFiA.

CoFiA’s application was targeted for the needs of “American Children in Crisis.”
A growing number of immigrant families are facing the heart-breaking question of how to prepare for and protect their children, many of them American born, in case one or both parents are deported. CoFiA has a small special fund to assist, and we also are offering workshops to advise the parents of what they need to do to prepare for this terrible possibility.

We are most grateful to the Outreach Auction sponsors for including our small organization in this important event.

International Day of Peace, Leonia

CoFiA members participated in a wonderful celebration of the International Day of Peace on September 17 on the lawn of the United Methodist Church in Leonia. It was a beautiful afternoon, enriched by the presentation of stories of the lives of many people from around the world. Norm Smith spoke on behalf of CoFiA, Carolyn Sobering and other members set up a table with information about our organization, and Joselino Chocoj performed. Ellie Spiegel, a founder of CoFiA, has been a long-time member of the group that presents the IDP. It was a rewarding and uplifting afternoon–much needed in these difficult times.

an attentive audience
CoFiA members participated
CoFiA pic
Norm Smith spoke for CoFiA
CoFiA pics
Many religious leaders participated
CoFiA pics
Joselino Chocoj performed

ESL Classes resume

CoFiA began registering students for the 2017-2018 season of English as a Second Language classes at the Palisades Park Library on Tuesday, September 5, 2017. Regular classes begin September 12. It was good to see old friends and new students as well. Classes are from 7:00 – 8:45 every Tuesday evening. Everyone is welcome. This year we are offering a small incentive for perfect attendance–a big challenge for students who work irregular schedules.

Beginners Class
Beginners Class 2016
Intermediates and teacher Norm
Intermediates and teacher Norm 2016

Deportation threats cause mental health problems

The devastating effects of living in this country without documents on the mental health of the population are widely recognized in the immigrant community but seldom mentioned in other conversations.  Most of the people CoFiA comes in contact say they arrived here with PTSD, built up from anxieties and poverty experienced in their home countries and seriously exacerbated by the policies and practices of the U.S. government.  The article below is a powerful examination of this phenomenon.  Follow the link at the end of the excerpt for the full article. Thanks to Tiziana Rinaldi, Angilee Shah, and Ravi Ragbir.
Immigration limbo is a ‘tug of emotions.’ It’s also a mental health issue.

AUG 22, 2017

He’s walking on the edge of an abysmal, black lake, painfully aware of what lies beneath the water. Ominous waves keep crashing ashore, reaching for him.

That’s how Ravi Ragbir sees the trauma that engulfs his long and scarring deportation battle. It didn’t spare his mental health: sudden spasms of sadness, his chest closing up, tears choking his throat, his heart racing. They’re all signs that he’s getting too close to the lake — the imaginary place where he confines his suffering.

“I don’t want to fall in; I will break down,” says Ragbir. The water is a psychological tool he uses to curb his recurring emotional anguish.

“I basically shut down for a day or two, most of the time closed in myself. It drains me.”

As he talks about the lake, he breathes deeply to regain composure, straddling a fine line between trying to describe the fresh pain that wells up unpredictably and not letting that pain overwhelm him.

Ragbir is a former green card holder who became a popular immigrant organizer in New York City when he decided to transform his deportation case into a vehicle of resistance. In March, after nearly a decade of nerve-wracking check-ins with federal immigration agents, he was told to start preparing travel documents to return to Trinidad, which he left in 1994. When he walked out of the meeting, his whole body was trembling.

Ragbir says he started to feel the weight of his immigration struggle in 2010, a few years after he was ordered removed from the US. Since then, he’s been through appeals and check-ins with authorities and has had many depressive episodes. He calls them a “tug of emotions” and never talked about them before. But after his last intense crisis in June, he decided to open up.

Over 43 million immigrants who live in the US could be affected, directly or indirectly, by the turn of the screw of the Trump administration’s policies on immigration enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new policy is tono longer tolerate anyone without papers, and Donald Trump has endorsed legislation that would significantly decrease legal immigration. While the Obama administration came around to a targeted deportation strategy, the Trump administration has proclaimed that it will “take the shackles off” immigration enforcers.



RESIST! Don’t end DACA


Here is some information on current protest events against the proposal to end DACA, from our friends,  NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice


Hello Everyone,

Hope all are well in these trying times. I wanted to flag a few DACA actions that folks can support this week; they are listed below. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Hope you can make it and lend your voices!
1. September 5th, 12-1pm Emergency Rally to Defend DACA – NJ State House (Mercer County Advocates and LALDEF) https://actionnetwork.org/events/nj-emergency-rally-to-defend-daca
2. September 5th @ 11am – Rally at Rutgers University – Labor Education Center – Room 130/131 – 50 Labor Center Way, New Brunswick, NJ
In solidarity,


Dina Mansour
Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice

CoFiA member Betty DeMarco has new show

run Liza run
Run Liza Run

Elizabeth DeMarco, secretary of CoFiA, invites us to the opening of her show, “New Works,” at Fairleigh Dickinson University, September 9, 2017, from 4 – 7 p.m., University Hall, Room 11, 1000 River Road,  Teaneck.  Show runs through September 22.  See link below for details.