March to South Bay Detention Center, June 5th, 2016

International Day of Solidarity with Refugees and Migrants

March to South Bay Detention Center, June 5th, 2016


Social Work and the call for Solidarity with Refugees

Beginning in November of 2015 and ratified in March of 2016 the Social Work Action Network (SWAN) and the European Association of Schools of Social Work (EASSW) called for an international day of solidarity in response to the growing human rights crisis in Europe and around the world. In response to this, June 4th-6th have been designated as international days of solidarity and action for refugees.

Since this announcement, major social work organizations across the world have endorsed this event to draw attention to both the forces that have led to the current crisis, as well as the deplorable conditions and attitudes to which immigrants, migrants and refugees are routinely subjected around the world. These groups include:

International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW-AIETS)
Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (JUC SWEC)
International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
Association of Professors of Social Work (APSW – UK)

Despite the outpouring of support for human rights in the international social work community, the largest professional organization for social work in the US, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has chosen not to commit resources to today’s efforts. While the organization’s SIG for Racial Justice has endorsed the action, they have fallen short in committing time or people; continuing a tradition of almost complete non-participation in efforts to support this human rights crisis. While we stand here in solidarity with immigrants, migrants and refugees, we stand as well in contrast to our professional organizations, and demand they stop taking back-seat roles in attending to this world-wide crisis. We demand that NASW:

  • Take an active role in organizing the social work and allied professions to mobilize for the rights of migrants and refugees by committing their considerable resources – not mere lip service – to being a serious voice for immigrant rights.
  • Join on-the-ground efforts at home and abroad to bring needed care and solidarity to refugees while using their power and political capital to push back against the 10,000 person cap the US has chosen for refugees from the current crisis.


Why the Suffolk County House of Corrections

The SCHC is home to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) South Bay Detention Center. Nowhere is the US attitude toward refugees and migrants more apparent than in the way ICE has chosen to treat undocumented people. While not all immigrants are refugees, and certainly not all immigrants are here without documentation, detention centers are a symbol of US apathy to its own role in the creation of economic and military instability around the world in places like El Salvador, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. We are here to stand in solidarity with all those who believe that no human being should be denied the right to live in security and safety, and to declare: NO ONE IS ILLEGAL! 


The Crisis

Last year, the European Union received over 1.3 million asylum claims, with an estimated 1.8 million migrants arriving in Europe in 2015 alone.[1] Their journeys have been extremely perilous: in April 2015, over 1,200 people are known to have died en route In Greece, the rise of neo-Fascism has seen a stunning increase in violent hate crimes against immigrants and refugees, including the 2014 shooting of 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers by a farmer who was refusing to pay them for their labor.[2]

The human rights crisis is by no means restricted to Europe.  According to RT, in the first half of 2014, 52,000 children attempted to enter the United States,[3] and as in Greece, white supremacist groups have responded with violence, including armed attacks against migrant workers along the border.

In August of 2015, a homeless man was attacked by two brothers in Boston who believed he was in the country without documentation.[4] In December of the same year, 18 hate crimes were documented in a single week against victims who were perceived to be Muslim immigrants. This spate of violence included a 16-year-old Somali teenager who was beaten and thrown from a 6-story window in Seattle. Characteristic of all of these attacks have been assertions that the victims needed to “go home”.[5]

These attacks have paralleled the state-sanctioned violence of US border agents: in the three and a half years between late 2010 and early 2014, US border agents have admitted to the use of 43 counts of deadly force, 10 of which have resulted in death. In the six months between October 2015 to March 2016, 32,000 families have been rounded up for deportation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).[6] The overwhelming majority of these families came from countries like Guatemala and El Salvador, both of which have suffered enormous destabilization at the hands of US military and corporate interests.