The Rochester Rapid Response Network was formed in the Spring of 2017 in response to the anti-immigrant political climate in upstate NY, the increasing detentions of non-criminal residents many of whom are long-standing members of our communities, and the historical moment of grassroots immigrant farmworker organizing. We were and remain dedicated to a systems-change* approach in our organizing and advocacy efforts. Our work is grounded in anti-racism, anti-white supremacy, anti-fascism and restorative justice. 

Since forming, in addition to our critical work of Emergency Response to immigration enforcement emergencies and Family and Court Support we have engaged in broader efforts of political and social advocacy while being led by undocumented immigrant groups, collectives and families. Below is a list of some of our advocacy efforts and campaigns.

Featured: An end to the warrant-less searches by Border Patrol at the Rochester Greyhound and Trailways Bus station. 

Border Patrol agents regularly board buses and demand proof of citizenship and/or identification from passengers without a proper, judicial warrant, therefore violating the 4th amendment of civilian passengers. Warrantless searches result in racial profiling and an infringement on passenger civil rights.

Until recently RRRN understood that the City of Rochester and New York State owned the property at 186 Cumberland St. The State of New York leases its portion of the bus station to Rochester and Rochester subleases the bus station to ‘Trailways’ bus corporation. The most recent lease agreement between Rochester and Trailways was executed in November 2009 and has since expired. As far as we and the City Council knew, the lease had not been re-negotiated. It was the coalition’s plan to work with City Council and the Mayor to re-negotiate the lease in such a way that it could protect riders from warrantless searches, or lead to penalties if these are allowed by Greyhound and Trailways. Members of RRRN along with Rochester City Council were recently informed by a representative of Mayor Warren’s office that the City of Rochester no longer has jurisdiction over this property and that it is now under the jurisdiction of the State of New York exclusively. This news came two weeks after the City Council submitted its letter to the Mayor’s office. We are currently demanding answers about when and how the City of Rochester gave up jurisdiction over the lease and effectively handed over decision-making power to the State of New York. RRRN is calling for the lease to be re-negotiated in line with the sanctuary city resolution that was adopted by the City of Rochester in February 2017. 

Additional Advocacy Efforts

  • Organized or participated in 20 public events, rallies and press events (some were connected to individual cases, while others focused on broader immigration policy issues). Including an ‘Immigration Forum: Education for Action’, a full day of learning, conversations and connecting to local organizing, attended by over 100 participants.
  • Actively supported the Greenlight NY access to Driver’s Licenses for All campaign led by undocumented immigrants in NYS. Which was historically one in 2019. 
  • Participated in numerous community education talks, forums and presentations including at the University of Rochester Medical School. 
  • Advocated for the release of all detainees from the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia NY during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Member organization of The New York Immigration Coalition, which advocates for the rights of all immigrants in New York State. 
  • From 2018 to 2019 RRRN organized ongoing data collection of daily Border Patrol activity at the bus station, utilizing anonymous online data collection from volunteers within our network.
  • Provided (detention, legal and follow up) support to three individuals affected by detention through BP activity at the transit center. 
  • Held regular trainings on Witnessing and Documenting Border Patrol activity. 
  • Engaged stakeholders, including local area college students, city council members, political leaders and community organizations.
  • Partnered with the Worker Justice Center of NY, NYCLU, National Lawyers Guild, Metro Justice, and various local faith congregations. 
  • Contributed to numerous media stories, including a national NBC piece. 
  • Held numerous rallies at the transit center to raise awareness, centering those most directly affected.

Our Community Partners

Advocacy Speeches

“As an advocate on local immigration issues, at the heart of our thoughts on immigrant and migrant justice are family and community. In our local dairy industry, we see young Mexican and Central American men fleeing poverty and joblessness in their communities, a systematic crisis created by neoliberal U.S. foreign policies. These men, often migrating alone, are confined to the rural farms on which they live and work 12-hour days, 6 to 7 days a week, without labor protections, in substandard housing, politically denied a driver’s license, and isolated to closed social and economic ecosystems. 

These unnaturally conceived communities where people live without enrichment, access to elders and multi-generational communities, nor food security are a byproduct of the United States’ blatant disrespect and disregard of immigrant and migrant lives. Fighting alongside the immigrant and migrant communities for me means fighting for people’s right to live in healthy, holistic communities. 

For those who have gone through the trials of permanently establishing and nourishing their families in our region, the fear of family separation is a daily reality for every trip to the grocery store, or a doctor visit, or even a rally here in downtown Rochester.

We’re in a political moment where people’s rights to family and community are being systematically attacked by our immigration system. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency only in operation since 2003, a direct product of the post–September 11th anti-immigrant hysteria, is following new directives from the Trump administration that call for the separation of families coming into the United States, regardless of their circumstances. 

These attacks are specifically carried out to stop displaced persons from seeking safety in the U.S. They’re a continuation of the United States’ long-time practice and policy of waging warfare on Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color by attacking kinship structures. From separating enslaved parents from their children, and Indigenous children’s forced removal from their communities to boarding schools and the foster care system, a white-supremacist government knows this is a way to gouge, hurt, and destabilize communities. While this specific policy is coming out of the Trump administration, this attack on marginalized communities is nothing new. 

For those of us who enjoy the privileges of citizenship and permanent residence, our allied outrage alongside the immigrant and migrant communities is not only needed, but a moral imperative at this moment of historical upheaval. We have the opportunity to make a decision on the kind of community we’d like to create- one in which people can live and move freely- or by our inaction, one in which people continue to live in fear, persecution and disappearance.” – Rochester Rapid Response Network, August 2019. 

*Systems change is about addressing the root causes of social problems, which are often intractable and embedded in networks of cause and effect. It is an intentional process designed to fundamentally alter the components and structures that cause the system to behave in a certain way.