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Freedom Cities Convening Imagines Cities Safe For All

We’re pleased to share the latest grant from our Immigrant Rights Fund’s Action Fund, which supports ongoing civil resistance and organizing efforts, to Enlace for the National Freedom Cities Convening.

On March 16, the National Freedom Cities Convening drew organizers and activists to strengthen relationships between leaders spanning issues from fighting mass incarceration to supporting immigrant families and building Black youth leadership, map the changing political landscape, and create a strategic plan to mobilize thousands of people in New York and across the country.

Launched in January 2017 by immigrants and communities of color, Freedom Cities is a movement that seeks to make entire cities, towns, and communities safe for immigrants, Black people, Muslims, workers, and all oppressed communities.

More than 40 organizations attended the convening, which is organized by Enlace, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), and Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Daniel Carrillo, Executive Director at Enlace, said that policing and safety were key issues at the convening. “Politicians are always saying that more policing equals more safety for the community,” he said. “But does that really mean more safety for communities of color and immigrants? And the answer is always no, that just means people being harassed more because of the color of their skin or their appearance.”

In one workshop, participants talked about alternative ways to address safety in communities of color. Instead of increasing police presence, dealing with poverty and access to resources would go farther in addressing safety concerns.

Other conversations focused on creating a checklist outlining the components of a freedom city. “What do we need to get to that place where the community can thrive?” was a central question, said Daniel, adding that affordable housing, jobs with union protections and living wages, and safety beyond police surveillance were key components.

Some communities have already made headway in achieving the Freedom Cities vision. In California, the Restore Oakland initiative aims to build investment in local institutions with particular focus on the restaurant industry. In Portland, the city has divested from prisons and is exploring how it might create a municipal bank as an additional measure to make sure that it is not supporting institutions that may harm its citizens. While New York City has already divested from private prisons, the next step for organizations here is to pressure the state to do the same.

The convening also examined how movements and organizations can work together, focusing on the ways that issues might overlap and fighting the ways that different groups have historically been pitted against each other.

“There there was a big focus on how immigration and criminal systems overlap but also how those movements are connected to other movements,” said Daniel. “How does the immigrant rights struggle overlap with folks fighting for criminal justice reform? How does that overlap with folks fighting for workers’ rights, and how does that overlap with gender justice and LGBTQ issues? Particularly when it’s the same communities that don’t have access to good jobs or don’t have access to affordable housing or they’re being targeted by police or targeted by ICE.”

In the coming months, Freedom Cities will turn ideas from the convening into campaigns. In New York City, a day of action on May Day (International Workers Day) and the Night out for Safety and Liberation in August will be opportunities to educate and engage with the community around issues like safety, affordable housing, and jobs.

We look forward to continuing leadership from Freedom Cities in its work to make communities safe for everyone.


Maria Ylvisaker

Communications Coordinator
“There there was a big focus on how immigration and criminal systems overlap but also how those movements are connected to other movements,” said Enlace Executive Director Daniel Carrillo.