Founded in 2007, New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC) is a multi-faith immigrant-led organization that creates support systems for and empowers those navigating the immigration system. We do this by bringing together citizen volunteers and immigrants – our Friends – to achieve two primary goals: equip Friends with the knowledge they need to navigate the immigration system and lead the movement, and train and mobilize citizens and faith leaders to support and fight alongside our Friends, advocating for urgently needed changes to the system.
Learn more at https://www.newsanctuarynyc.org/
Over the past few years, JUNTOS has worked with an incredible organization called New Sanctuary Coalition (NSC). NSC is based in New York City, and works to build allies for immigrants by showing and promoting the other side of immigration; humanizing and empowering immigrants by telling their stories. JUNTOSPrograms Manager, Cristiana Cavallo sat down (virtually) with NSC Community Meeting Coordinator Judith Sanchez, and discussed challenges NSC faced during the pandemic and how they were able to meet the needs of their community – their clients seeking asylum in the United States, who they call belovedly, “Friends”.
Judith explained that the year 2020 was challenging for New Sanctuary Coalition. The team at NSC tried to keep their community connected but because of limited access to technology plus Friends feeling timid and shy about using a digital platform, this was difficult. Normally NSC met once a week to connect, receive food, express themselves through storytelling, art, theater, and dance, and have been forced to find new ways to virtually meet with one another. Like everyone around the world, they researched and adapted to the needs of their community, reducing their meetings to once a month, still prioritizing bringing in guests to incorporate dance, art, music, and more. In this way working with JUNTOS was a natural and organic addition to their meetings both before in person, and now virtually. Community meetings remained a safe place for each one of the Friends, some recently out of detention, and were always invited to share stories and express themselves, ask questions, to know what’s happening and to not feel isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Friends, volunteers, and staff always express their gratitude for the Community meetings and JUNTOS was lucky to join for a few occasions.
“NSC believes in the power of art and self-expression in the search for independence and confidence. For their Friends, art has always been an integral part of the immigration process, and has helped them to navigate the stress that comes with it. Regardless of the obstacles that came with virtual meetings, they were always so happy to see each other and connect, and to be reminded that they were not alone. The isolation of this past year affected every individual differently, and these meetings served as a reminder that we were still connected and navigating together during harsh times. We are so grateful to have been welcomed into these meetings and to have created such a special relationship with Judith and Friends.”
Cristiana Cavallo, JUNTOSPrograms Manager
This art was made by NSC Friends while in detention centers. Using extremely limited resources and tools, they were determined to express themselves and tell their stories in whatever way they could. For many, it came in the form of the art you see in the photos; paintings made with bed sheets, Q Tips and M&Ms, and bracelets made out of rolled up plastic bags. They would use a rubber shoe sole to erase unwanted marks, only given a pencil and paper. The name “Borderless Art” was coined by Judith Sanchez. She says that the art made it out of the detention centers before the people did, sent directly to Judith as a reminder that these humans are still there, alive, and fighting for their futures. The art crossed the barriers before they did, crossing the bars to the outside world. Even when behind bars they use the art to make themselves stronger and to remind others that they are humans, have feelings, and are part of our community. Judith Sanchez shared that she believes this art and the stories of the New Sanctuary Friends are what make the organization what it is. Her goal is to work toward a world that is constructive, not destructive, using art, community, advocacy, and activism. Judith sometimes works one on one with Friends, and she mentioned that often she doesn’t give Friends hope, but also receives it from them. They remind each other of shared humanity. One specific Friend Judith mentioned created some of the art pictured above. Although he was deported, she would remind him that he is a person and that he should not feel guilty. To Judith, his pieces are like a treasure and remind her of their conversations. We appreciate and support the important work NSC, their staff, and volunteers do for those seeking to immigrate here. JUNTOS and NSC both know the impact art, music, and dance can make on our lives, and how imperative art can be during the challenges we may go through. Being in community, creating and sharing art, makes us better humans and helps us make the world a better place.
“We are so grateful to New Sanctuary Coalition for inviting us into their monthly community meetings to lead them in movement workshops. Like JUNTOS, New Sanctuary Coalition sees the importance of self expression and physical creative freedom for all individuals, even in the face of struggle. Our workshops with NSC were full of smiles, laughter, and learning about each other by sharing stories and dancing together. We thank all of the NSC Friends for welcoming JUNTOS into their community.”
Cristiana Cavallo, JUNTOSPrograms Manager