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Families Separated by ICE Raids Get Support from Wash. Community

Families of Bellingham men detained in an August ICE raid are getting support from the organization Raid Relief to Reunite Families. (RRRF)
Families of Bellingham men detained in an August ICE raid are getting support from the organization Raid Relief to Reunite Families. (RRRF)
October 11, 2018

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – After an immigration raid in August that resulted in the detention of Bellingham construction workers, the community is stepping up to help affected families.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents picked up 16 employees of Granite Precast at home or on their way to work on Aug. 29.

The men have been scattered since. Eight have been deported, two still are detained and six are out on bond but unable to work.

Ruby Castañeda is the wife of one of the workers, and the couple has a newborn. She says once the initial shock of her husband's arrest wore off, she stepped into the role of coordinator for the newly formed Raid Relief to Reunite Families.

"That kind of was what was giving me hope when my husband was detained and at the detention center because I was occupied doing other things – helping families and my husband at the same time," she states.

Raid Relief to Reunite Families is offering financial support to families and funds for legal fees while the men fight their cases.

Castañeda's husband spent nine days in detention, but is back home now and seeking the ability to work and permanent legal status.

The Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Community to Community Development and Whatcom Community Foundation are coordinating fundraising efforts for the organization.

Castañeda and the group's other coordinator, Marisol Chapina, have been meeting with families once a week to offer their support.

Chapina's partner remains detained and is applying for asylum status from detention. She says even though everyone's case is different, members of the raid-relief group have become like one big family.

"They've already been deported or they've already been told that they're not going to be eligible for bond and they're not going to be eligible to pursue any sort of status, and so we're all definitely trying to support each other because we're all in different situations in this process," she relates.

Castañeda says after these cases conclude, Raid Relief to Reunite Families wants to continue to help immigrant communities.

Once funds used for bail come back to the organization, the group will use it to bail out other detained Washingtonians.

"We want that money to keep getting recycled for other families to be reunited and continue with the legal process and all sorts of stuff,” she explains. “So we just want to be prepared for another raid to happen and give resources, as we were given."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA