CoFiA Presents “Let’s Drive NJ” campaign August 19

Margaret White, Chair of CoFiA, will lead the service at Central Unitarian Church on Forest Avenue in Paramus this coming Sunday, August 19, at 10:30 a.m. The topic will be the “Let’s Drive NJ” campaign, an effort that is promoting legislation to provide access to driver’s licenses for all eligible NJ drivers, including people who are undocumented.

Having a state-issued driver’s license would be a great benefit to the almost 500,000 undocumented residents of the state. The legislation would make New Jersey the 13th state to allow all its residents to apply for driver’s licenses, regardless of their immigration status. While the wording of the legislation would have certain restrictions–it would say “Federal Limits Apply” and would only provide a license to drive a motor vehicle and would not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits–it would be of great value both to those who would hold it and to the state itself. Having such a license, with the additional fees that would be collected, would add some $223 million a year to the state’s coffers; and the newly licensed drivers would be likely to purchase an estimated 84,000 additional automobiles, further boosting vehicle registration fees by about $3.9 million.

Furthermore, if all residents were able to have legal driver’s licenses, parents would be able to drive their children to all the activities suburban families value–school, sporting events, doctors’ appointments, play dates, cultural events and so forth. Many parents and other residents must drive with or without a license; we would all be safer if everyone has had to pass the tests required for legal licenses.

On Thursday, September 6, there will be a rally in support of the legislation at the State House Annex in Trenton, at 10:30 a.m. For more information and to arrange for transportation, text “letsdrive” to 973-577-6388. If you plan to attend and would like to connect with others from our area who are going, send an email to


Saturday Group at Olivo

CoFiA’s Saturday Group–also known as the Delegados–will meet this coming Saturday, August 18, at 7:00 p.m., at St. Michael’s Church, Central Avenue at First St. Entrance to the meeting room is from First St.

St. Michael’s Church, Palisades Park
A Previous Saturday Group meeting

Led by CoFiA volunteer organizer Elias Garcia, the group gets together to provide mutual support and explore topics of current interest. Presently they are reviewing the benefits of taking OSHA training, a process that if successful leads to an official federally-supplied OSHA certificate. These are very valuable to workers who want to document that they have particular skills and have received the approved training.

Diana speaking to an OSHA training group

The speaker on August 18 will be Diana Mejia, chair of the group Wind of the Spirit, who is an OSHA trainer. Diana is a long-time friend of COFIA, and has spoken to our lunch program groups and led OSHA training frequently in the past.

A Fond Farewell

Norm, LeAnne, Angelica

CoFiA is saying goodbye to our summer intern, LeAnne Drum. A rising sophomore at Providence College, LeAnne worked with us through the summer and left us with very useful products.

For one thing, she surveyed social service and other agencies throughout the county and took careful note of which provided services to undocumented immigrants. This not-very-long list is now available from CoFiA in both English and Spanish in a brochure entitled “Community Resource Guide” or “Guia de Recursos.” To receive an electronic copy just sent an email to us at info@communityof

In addition, she did research on other Immigrants Rights or immigrant-sympathetic organizations that we can recommend to our immigrant friends. This list is also available from our email address and includes familiar names such as the National Day Laborers Organization, Immigration Advocates Network, United We Dream, American Friends Service Committee, ACLU, KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), and the Women’s Refugee Commission Inc.

LeAnne also attended many CoFiA meetings, including the Saturday night gatherings of the “delegados”, which has been meeting at St. Michael’s Church; Tuesday staff meetings; some wage-theft committee meetings, and others. She has also taught the ESL intermediate class at the library; we don’t usually offer ESL in the summer, but we found that several of the students were interested in continuing and with her help we were able to offer these Tuesday night sessions.

LeAnne also worked closely with Angelica, helping her with transportation issues and learning a lot about the needs of the Guatemalan community in the Palisades Park area. We will miss her and appreciate her smarts and her willingness to lend a hand wherever needed.


On Thursday, September 6, 2018, the “Let’s Drive New Jersey” campaign will hold a rally in support of drivers’ licenses for all New Jerseyans at the State House Annex in Trenton at 12 noon. This is an important campaign that seems to have every chance of being successful. Please spread the word widely. Our undocumented friends would benefit greatly if they can have licenses that allow them to drive safely and legally.

Let’s Drive New Jersey


Many thanks to our friends in the Bergen County Immigration Strategy Group for these comprehensive but succinct summaries of the latest news:

  1. Fewer Deportations in Cities That Adopted “Welcoming” Policies (YES). In regions where city and state governments worked hand in hand with ICE, deportations have increased more than 75 percent. In regions where sanctuary policies are more prevalent, increases have remained relatively low. (!!!! – ed)

  1. ICE agents routinely make arrests at Middlesex County Courthouse ( “Middlesex County’s efforts to limit cooperation with federal immigration officials haven’t stopped enforcement agents from arresting immigrants showing up at court in New Brunswick … ‘When your clients are worried about ICE, I think they’re less inclined to be honest with you. They’re less inclined to be trusting of you. They’re less inclined to want to cooperate in general with the criminal justice system,’ says Lauren Bayer, a public defender who has had two clients detained by ICE at the courthouse. ‘I think that goes for the defendants, and it also goes for crime victims and witnesses.’”

  1. Rally for Licenses! Let’s Drive NJ/Manejemos NJ (MakeTheRoadNJ). Thursday, September 6 at 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. New Jersey State House. 125 W State St. Trenton, New Jersey 08608. Let’s Drive NJ brings together nearly fifty community, faith, labor, social service and advocacy organizations to push to expand access to drivers’ licenses in the Garden State. & more info at:


  1. Mayors convene in support of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants ( Quijano’s bill aims to offer a separate driver authorization card for residents who can show other forms of identification, including passports and bills. Homeless people, domestic violence survivors and people displaced by natural disasters would also benefit in addition to undocumented immigrants. 

  1. Want to Learn how to do a street team, i.e., setting up a table & talking to people on the street about an issue (‘tabling’), canvass, phone bank, register voters, etc.,? (Swing Left). The organization Swing Left produces succinct videos about these topics.

  1. Trump’s Road to American Martial Law (NYT). Columnist Roger Cohen lays out the sequences to a fundamental altering, or collapse, of the American system under number 45. (What might the scenario of Trump consciously sending his followers into the streets look like? Charlottesville write large? — ed

  1. Immigration Myths & Facts: U.S, Chamber of Commerce — via League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Knocks every myth down at length, with substantial endnotes. Well presented.


  1. Government Told Immigrant Parents to Pay for DNA Tests to Get Kids Back, Advocate Says (Daily Beast). “The government wants the parents to foot the bill for the DNA testing when they’re the ones that caused the need for DNA testing,” Holguin said. “It’s incredible.”

  1. Trump’s migrant fiasco diverts millions from health programs (Politico). “The Department of Health and Human Services has burned through at least $40 million in the past two months for the care and reunification of migrant children separated from their families at the border — with housing costs recently estimated at about $1.5 million per day … We have a public health emergency like Ebola, Zika, hurricanes — except this one is man-made,” said Emily Holubowich, executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding, who says HHS should request emergency funding too. “We should not be taking discretionary funding away from programs that need it.”

  1. Immigration agencies share vague plans to reunite migrant parents and children (LATimes). Immigration officials had few answers for Congress on Wednesday on what is next for the families, in the latest confusing chapter of the family separations saga. With continued confusion in Washington, immigration lawyers and civil rights groups on the southwest border say they are providing legal assistance to children and parents as best they can.

  1. Pilgrims to WWII Concentration Camp Outraged by Parallels in Migrant Family Separations (Yes). Many also have compared the confinement of Japanese during World War II to the detention of families seeking refuge from violence in other countries. Racism and debates over incarcerating migrating families have awoken the activist voice of a new generation of Japanese Americans.

  1. Border Patrol agent reacts to Biden’s immigration comments (Fox ‘News’). How the other side covers up: Joe Biden calls Trump’s immigration policies one of the ‘darkest moments’ in U.S. history; National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd reacts.

  1. Immigration Advocates Network (IAN). A collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

  1. Women Ask ‘What if It Were Me?’ and Rush to Aid Separated Families (NYT). “People ask me, ‘Why this?’ ‘Why aren’t you focusing on the midterms?’ I think it comes back to empathy,” she said. “To the gut punch of a mom separated from her 5-year-old….” Like the Texas-based nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, … $20 million Facebook fund-raiser, this New York group exceeded its goals. As of this week, the group, Immigrant Families Together,’ has raised more than $300,000. They call themselves “a network of Americans committed to rapid response unification of families separated by the ‘zero tolerance’ policy.”®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=4&pgtype=collection

  1. Whistle-Blowers Say Detaining Migrant Families ‘Poses High Risk of Harm’ (NYT). The Trump administration, faced with a public outcry over the separation of migrant families at the Southwest border, has said it is exploring a major expansion of family detention centers. But two of the government’s own medical consultants said this week that they had identified a “high risk of harm” to migrant children housed at such facilities.®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=collection

  1. AFSC joins people across the country in the call to abolish ICE (AFSC). SIGN THE PETITION. ICE has a long history of separating families, violating human rights, and terrorizing our communities. It’s time to stop its abuses once and for all.

  1. “I Just Simply Did What He Wanted”: Sexual Abuse Inside Immigrant Detention Facilities (NYT).®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=8&pgtype=collection

  1. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen gives neo-Nazis a pass (AZCentral).  The Homeland Security Secretary had a chance to condemn white supremacists and…didn’t.

  1. A Wall? Here? (AZCentral). In many places, viewing the border from above is the only expedient way to comprehend it. Much of the geography is unimaginably remote. An automobile cannot stay with the line. By helicopter, we grasp just how much of the line is far removed from roads. Also from cement plants, a supply of construction workers and other provisions of wall-building. A mission to see every inch of the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

  1. Judge, calm in court, takes hard line on splitting families (AP). U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued a blistering opinion faulting the administration and its “zero tolerance” policy for a “crisis” of its own making. He went well beyond the American Civil Liberties Union’s initial request to halt family separation by imposing a deadline of this Thursday to reunify more than 2,500 children with their families.,-calm-in-court,-takes-hard-line-on-splitting-families

  1. Report: Betraying Family Values: How Immigration Policy at the United States Border is Separating Families (Women Refugee Commission; Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service; KIND). From the Executive summary: “ Over the past five years, the United States has seen a shift in the demographics of migrants encountered at our borders—from a majority of adult males, often from Mexico, seeking employment, to families, children, grandparents, aunts, and uncles fleeing together, seeking protection in the United States, coming mostly from Central America.1 Tragically, U.S. immigration enforcement policies, instead of shifting to adapt to this significant change, have continued to try forcing a square peg into a round hole, and in doing so have compounded the vulnerabilities of families and protection-seeking migrants. Instead of promoting family unity, we as a nation are breaking families apart.” (Extensive, 30 pages, annotated bibliography, explanations of processes).

  1. Trump Administration Escalates Attacks on Legal Immigration With Stringent New Visa Rules (RSN). The Trump administration has made it easier for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to immediately deny visa applications if there is missing or inaccurate information. Under the previous guidance applicants were given 30 days to fix any issues.

  1. Trump’s Plot Against America, By Frank Rich, New York Magazine (RSN). Why is an American president openly colluding with an enemy dictator who’s out to subvert Western democracy in general, and America in particular? As James Fallows has put it, Trump is either a “useful idiot” or “conscious tool” of Russia. Trump’s Vichy defenders pick the former…

  1. Contractor clears out Phoenix office where it held immigrant children (Reveal). Children were seen bathing in office sinks. The company has detained dozens of children, including some separated from their parents, in leased office spaces that have no kitchens, bedrooms, showers or yards. One teenager transported to a Phoenix office site by MVM ran away and has not been found.

  1. “Deportation Agents Are Hunting Down Our People” (United We Dream). “When Trump was elected, we knew that our communities would be under attack in ways we had never seen before, but we were in disbelief at how ruthlessly Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda went into play … to hunt down our people, lock us in detention camps and erase us from this country through any means they could. They tossed aside morality and justice out the window and directed deportation agents to implement his racist agenda…”  (United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country, and an ACLU partner)

  1.  Federal Immigration Authorities Are Running Amok Across Maine and Its Coastline (ACLU). Customs is making news again for aggressive immigration enforcement questioning Canadian fishing vessels in disputed international waters, plus American vessels (mostly Maine fishermen). Although CBP claims that these operations fall within its immigration enforcement authority, nobody should be surprised to learn that targeting these fishing boats has yielded no immigration arrests.

  1. Immigrant Parents Face a Dilemma: Will Making an Asylum Claim Make it Harder to Reunite with Their Kids? (New Yorker). Despite having spent weeks in detention, Santos was never given a so-called credible-fear interview, which the government is supposed to administer as a first step in the asylum process. She was in a bind. She was reluctant to push for the interview because she didn’t want to remain separated from her children while the asylum process played out….

  1. House Approves Resolution Supporting Immigration And Customs Enforcement (NPR). The House of Representatives approved a resolution backing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on Wednesday, after some progressive Democrats introduced legislation to abolish it.…

  1. Caravan of Grandmothers Heads to Mexico Border (YES). The group leaving from New York will onboard other “grannies” and allies along the way to support migrating families. Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden is a movement of grandmothers and their allies who have been similarly spurred to action by the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the southern border.

  1. Andrew Cuomo is Selling Out New York’s Immigrants (Eyes on the Ties). While Cuomo has been trying to position himself as a defender of immigrants and an opponent of Trump’s vicious policies, companies with close ties to Cuomo, and which have donated gobs of money to him, also rake in millions from renting out space to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  &

  1. The Hate Report: The big lie fueling the immigration crackdown (Reveal News). The mountain of studies that obliterate the link between immigrants and crime, hate attacks at Pride events, how white supremacy may dissolve a town’s government and more.

  1. Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children (The Hill). Harassment, kids reported having to scrub toilets with their bare hands or being denied medical treatment after breaking an arm; shelter employee allegedly repeatedly gave injections to a 5-year-old from Guatemala to make him sleepy.


  1. Tug-of-Love: Immigrant Mom Loses Effort to Regain Son Given to US Parents (ABC News). A Guatemalan mother lost her effort today to get back the five-year old son who was taken away from her after her arrest on immigration charges and put up for adoption in Missouri despite her objections. “Illegally smuggling herself into the country is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for the child,” said the Missouri judge who terminated her parental rights.

  1. Reminder: Women Migrants Are Fleeing Countries The U.S. Helped Decimate (Huff Po). Experts and advocates are working to remind Americans — and the world — that some of the violence driving people to seek shelter in the U.S. has its roots in American foreign policy.

The quote…

When Trump was elected, we knew that our communities would be under attack in ways we had never seen before, but we were in disbelief at how ruthlessly Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda went into play. It quickly became clear to us that the goal of this administration was to hunt down our people, lock us in detention camps and erase us from this country through any means they could. They tossed aside morality and justice out the window and directed deportation agents to implement his racist agenda…

— United We Dream

Send news items to Peter at: Reports above are from Bergen County Immigration Strategy Group (BCISG) members

Saturday Group meets at St. Michael’s

A previous meeting, at Olivo Restaurant

CoFiA’s Saturday workers’ group, the delegados, met on July 14, 2018, at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, Central Avenue, Palisades Park. Thank you so much to Father Cho and the congregations of St. Michael’s for making the space available to us.

St. Michael’s Church

In the photo of a previous meeting of the group, we celebrated an honor recently presented to our organizer, Elias Garcia, as a Leader of the Community. Elias worked with Pedro Calan from St. Michael’s, as well as Angelica, our summer intern LeAnne,intern Enok Cho, Norm Smith and others to put the meeting together.

Here is a summary written by Norm:

We had an excellent, productive and participative meeting thanks to Elias’s leadership, Angelica’s guidance, Enok’s research, and LeAnne’s presentation. Elias opened the meeting, welcoming the attendees, announcing plans to build interest in a future OSHA training, and inviting the participants to bring acquaintances who might benefit. He then turned the program over to LeAnne, who distributed the new CoFiA Guide to Community Resources which she has been putting together this summer. She asked the group to review it, especially the health resource section. Members made very helpful suggestions. Elias noted the importance of prevention, and the group noted that town health fairs can be a source of preventative medicine–blood-pressure testing, cholesterol checks, etc. Every year the Health Department of Palisades Park invites CoFiA to participate in the town health fair.

CoFiA staff with Mayor Rotundo at PP Health Fair

LeAnne asked the group if the topics included in the Guide (banking, legal, health) are correct and they said they are. The Guide has been translated by CoFiA member Ruth Swinney.

Enok Choe presented a survey on participants’ attitudes toward education.

Enok and Norm Smith

The consensus was that learning is important for both children and adults. Elias’ emphasis on OSHA training and the participation of some of the delegados in ESL underscores their commitment.

It was a packed meeting with lots of participation. Elias announced that the next meeting will be in mid-August, on the Saturday or Sunday of the weekend of August 18.

Senator Denied Access to Immigration Center Housing Children

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley attempted to tour an immigration detention center for undocumented children on Sunday, June 3, 2018, but was denied access. The police were also called.

This center is one of 27 different immigration facilities for children run by Southwest Key Programs, a private, nonprofit organization. After the event, Merkley said, “I think it’s unacceptable that a member of Congress is not being admitted to see what is happening to children whose families are applying for asylum. I decided to come here, go up to the door, and ask to be let in.” He had previously been in touch with the facility and announced his intention to visit. The center is in a former Walmart building, where the windows are blacked out and the doors are locked.

Thousands of children have been removed from immigrant parents in recent years, and it is believed that as many as 1500 of them are presently unaccounted for. Theoretically the children who are separated from parents or guardians are placed in foster homes that have been vetted, but even the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency admits that many cannot be found. In an interview on CNN on Monday, June 4, Senator Merkley confirmed the incident in Brownsville.

Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, referring to Senator Merkley’s experience said it was outrageous, and that Secretary Nielsen owes us answers for this practice. He said his team was also barred from touring a migrant processing center where families were being separated.

The video can be found on Senator Merkley’s web site. suggests people who are concerned about the issue call the office of Health and Human Services at 202-401-9215. Another organization–#Wherearethechildren–is also collecting information.

Saturday Group at new location

Saturday group
The CoFiA Saturday Group (“delegados”) met on Saturday night, May 19, at the Grand Shilla Bakery on Broad Avenue. We were pleased to welcome Elias Garcia, a long-time member and volunteer with CoFiA, who has agreed to work with this group. The current focus is the “Let’s Drive New Jersey” campaign, which is being sponsored by New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, Cosecha, and other groups.

Our good friend Elias
The group signed postcards to be sent to New Jersey legislators, as well as a petition to be taken to Trenton, urging the adoption of a bill currently before the legislature that would allow anyone living in New Jersey to have licenses to drive. This is a very important issue not only for immigrants but for other people in the state who are currently prevented from having licenses because of age, disability, or other factors. CoFiA is working with NJAIJ and other groups to promote the legislation.

Guest Speaker Saturday night

Our good friend Elias

CoFiA is happy to welcome Elias Garcia, a long-time friend and volunteer with CoFiA, to speak to our Saturday night group (“delegados”) this Saturday, May 19, 2018, at 7:00 p.m.

The meeting will be at Grand Shillah Bakery and Deli on Broad Avenue, just north of the Municipal Parking Lot, in Palisades Park. All are welcome. Refreshments will be provided.