As an undocumented immigrant, you realize that the police, the sheriff, the system — everything — we’re outside of that. But when Undocufund started and we saw so many people helping from all kinds of different places, we realized that although we’re outside the system, we’re not outside the community. And that the community supports us. We know now that at least we are not alone. -Irma Garcia
Irma was just one of many people impacted by the Northern California Tubbs fire in October of 2017. While many of her neighbors were able to seek refuge and support from official relief agencies, undocumented immigrants, like Irma and her family, found themselves needing to fend for themselves. For some it was because they didn’t qualify for financial support, for others it was the legitimate fear of being reported to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or other law enforcement agencies.
And yet, the community came together to meet this need. Building upon years of community organizing, existing networks, and the trust that had been fostered between local immigrants and support organizations like the Graton Day Laborer Center, UndocuFund met a critical need in Sonoma County. It also later served as a model for other communities across the US.
It’s examples like this one where communities come together in the aftermath of disasters, that led us to create the The Response podcast last year.
Stories of personal experiences, like Irma’s, have the power to build empathy and compassion, educate, and inspire others to take action in their communities.
With inspiration from Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s “Voices of a People’s History of the United States” we’ve re-imagined the podcast for live theater with what we’re calling: “Voices of The Response.”
While the project is still in the early stage of development, we performed the first live reading of an excerpt from the show in March 2019 at the ReVerberation festival, sharing the stories of Irma and “Pastor Al” (another undocumented immigrant) and their experiences of the Tubbs Fire.
Over the next year we intend to integrate community voices from each episode of “The Response” into the show.