The Bond Fund asks Shannah Kurland, “Why do you care?”

Shannah Kurland, of the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, speaking outside the Wyatt Detention Facility. Photo: The Providence Journal / Andrew Dickerman

The Bond Fund has worked with Shannah Kurland of Olneyville Neighborhood Association in Rhode Island since July 2008. Initially started in response to a workplace raid, our partnership continues as bond fund recipients go through the immigration process, and have their fair day in court.

The Bond Fund wanted to find out why Shannah Kurland cares about justice for immigrants.  Her own family has been in the US for more than a hundred years:  Pennsylvania Dutch on her mother’s side, and German-Jewish on her father’s.  This is our recent conversation with Shannah.

NIBF:  What do you do at the ONA?

Shannah: We try to bring people into the neighborhood association, and build an infrastructure for the community.   People are not really clients.  They are members of the ONA.  If someone is detained by immigration (ICE) we call around and try to figure out where they are.  We try to find people to go with someone to an ICE interview, or find a lawyer to help.

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NIBF:   Tell us a highlight of your community organizing work.

Shannah: So many people came out so fast to support the cleaning people arrested in the raid that night at the courthouse, in July 2008.   Within two hours there were about 200 people gathered, blocking the vans to transport people to ICE detention.  Out of the 31 arrested, 20 were released the same evening, or by morning.  I don’t know if the crowd made the difference, but you have to wonder.

NIBF:  Why do you care about immigrants?

Shannah: How can I feel good living in a world that’s messed up?  The big question is why do people have to migrate in the first place?   What is lacking for them, food? education?  I wouldn’t last a minute if I had to make that trip.  All the discussion is around “please don’t beat people up in detention,” when I really question the rules around the borders and who gets to make them.  I try to keep that perspective in my community work.  Its not like someone is “being nice” by “allowing” you to have a driver’s license.  People have a right!

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