By Ritchie Eppink, NLG Idaho Chair
The NLG Idaho Chapter received a small grant from the NLG Foundation as part of the 2017 Guild Grants Program. In December, the chapter was awarded $2,500 to aid local immigrant communities facing law enforcement and ICE targeting through trainings and Know Your Rights workshops. This grant to the Idaho chapter has had a huge impact on Guild work and movement legal support in Idaho.
At a basic structural level, the grant pushed the chapter to create sustainable practices for the first time: a credit union account, specific people responsible for handling money, regular meetings, a rotating facilitation schedule, meeting notes, and meeting rooms and technical capacity that now allow us to connect members by video in north and south Idaho—300 miles apart—for meetings. Having these structures in place has paid off. We got our first donation last week, for $250, from a Legal Observer.
Programmatically, the grant allowed us to create a curriculum to cross-train Legal Observers and monitor ICE enforcement actions. In April, we held the largest Legal Observer training ever in Idaho, where we trained 30 new Legal Observers for both conventional LO work at protests and actions as well as LO monitoring of ICE. We based our ICE Watch program on programs that the NLG Central Valley (California) chapter and the ACLU of Oregon developed, as well as ideas from Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) and the NLG’s National Immigration Project (our NLG Idaho member Maria Andrade is on the NIP board).
We designed the first phase of our ICE monitoring program to focus on reconnaissance of courthouse enforcement. After two months of LO work, we believe that ICE courthouse enforcement in the two Idaho counties we have covered so far is minimal. So we want to expand our courthouse reconnaissance to other counties. Our ICE watch work in northern Idaho, however, discovered ICE enforcement is aggressive on the Greyhound bus route between Moscow, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington. Based on this discovery, we’ve started to develop an LO and know-your-rights outreach program for Greyhound buses. We intend to place LOs on buses and at bus stations along the routes to distribute KYR information and monitor ICE practices. We plan to use grant funds to cover transportation costs for this program, including bus tickets.
The grant has also allowed us to make our website (nlgidaho.org) available in both Spanish and English. We have also collaborated with the Idaho Organizing Project, Andrade Legal, the ACLU of Idaho, and PODER of Idaho to provide LOs and other legal support for immigrant-led and immigrant-focused protests and actions. Our expenses under the grant so far have been limited to expenses related to the April ICE watch LO training, which was held in both Boise (southwest Idaho) and Moscow (north Idaho, along the Washington border), with trainers in both locations and connected by video. The five-hour training included lunch which we covered using grant funds.
We anticipate using the remainder of the grant for expenses such as transportation for trainers to Driggs (in eastern Idaho, along the Wyoming border) to provide ICE Watch and LO training there, so that we can monitor courthouses in Teton County, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming. Based on the community’s interests, we expect this training will just cover the ICE Watch program. That may allow us to shorten the training and hold it in the morning or afternoon without lunch, to reduce expenses. We also look forward to printing KYR materials for our Greyhound ICE Watch LO work, as well as covering transportation costs for LOs.
We are all extremely grateful for the grant, which has had an historic impact on our work in Idaho. For over a decade, the NLG in Idaho had been just three lawyers who rarely did any specific work under the Guild name. Now, and especially with the grant, we have a functioning NLG chapter spread across north and south Idaho that is meeting regularly, recruiting law students into the Guild, training dozens of new LOs, and monitoring ICE enforcement—work that nobody else is doing in Idaho. ■