The North Bergen Coalition has been working on community outreach and securing partnerships with key individuals familiar with immigration issues. These efforts have enriched our understanding of the North Bergen community’s population needs and how to better engage with undocumented residents who are often reticent to reveal their identities and legal status.
In our exploration into this increasingly fraught issue, representing our NJHI: Upstream Action Acceleration team, Doug Bratton, Partners in Prevention Executive Director, met with an immigration attorney who has provided legal representation in matters directly affecting immigrants for more than 25 years. The attorney said heightened penalization of undocumented immigrants has created a case backlog spanning several years.
Our continuing assessment reveals that the intensified scrutiny of this community has had many adverse consequences. Many undocumented families are no longer accessing needed services due to fear of deportation. Parents might keep their children from attending school if they hear U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is investigating their neighborhood, or they may choose not to make a police report on a criminal act because they fear legal retribution and questions regarding their resident status. This insight provides a glimpse into challenges that our coalition may face as we implement Rainbow Days, Curriculum-Based Support Groups, to address Adverse Childhood Experiences among immigrant populations.
To minimize these obstacles, we sought the aid of local partners such as the North Hudson Partnership (NHP). The NHP seek to improve health and equity for the residents of Hudson County by creating strong social connections in schools, early care, and other civic entities. We collaborated alongside community leaders and residents for the first Mental Health Meet N’ Greet held in the North Bergen Public Library in the summer. These weekly sessions aimed to destigmatize mental health services by creating a safe space where individuals can learn how and where to access help.
Finally, we contributed to North Bergen’s eighth annual Head to Toe Health Awareness Fair by providing information on immigrants’ rights drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in English and Spanish. The pamphlets addressed:
- Ways to reduce the risk for yourself and your family
- Legal due process
- What to do if questioned by law enforcement
It is a critical time for vulnerable populations in North Bergen. Through our advocacy and education efforts, we aim to strengthen family supports, inclusiveness, and overall wellness. To learn more, contact our project directors here.