Every morning, Corinn Williams, the director of the Community Economic Development Center (CEDC), powers up her computer to tally the latest emails she has sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), notifying them about the arrival of new immigrants at her office. In September, there were more than a dozen notifications. However, that doesn’t equate to 12 individuals. In reality, she explains, it involves a dozen families.
This is how Williams gauges the influx of new immigrants to New Bedford. The national wave has authorities in a state of emergency.
“What’s happening here is different from other places,” she explained.” Migrants don’t arrive at hotels. They arrive at the homes of their relatives, predominantly Guatemalans.”
The CEDC is located at 1501 Acushnet Ave., a space they rented a couple of years ago after they had to vacate their previous building on the same street, which was damaged by fire.
Within their offices, boxes of food and diapers, bags of toys, and second-hand children’s clothing all mix together. Everything is intended for families who have just arrived from a long journey that begins well before the Mexican border — often involving perilous journeys, hidden in the back of trucks, and endangering their lives.
“These are individuals who have made tremendous sacrifices to reach here and establish New Bedford as their new home,” Williams said. She has a motherly tone, the same tone she employs every time she cares for someone.
The atmosphere is welcoming to people who come to the CEDC because they are taken care of by migrants like themselves, many of whom have several years of experience in community work. Currently, the center is bustling with activities, including translations and notarial procedures to help people obtain things like the new driver’s licenses. Next March, the focus will shift to tax preparation, and during the summer, there are activities at Riverside Park such as the Patio de Comidas and the Festival Tipico Guatemalteco. “We’re busy all the time,” Williams said.
On a recent night, the CEDC has already closed its doors to the public. However, Williams continued working. Brian Pastori, her right-hand man, accompanied her, working on various tasks from her office. Williams mentions that she enjoys this time because everything is calmer. On this night, she’s concerned about a person who needs to remove an ankle shackle installed by ICE at the border. She becomes enthusiastic when discussing the upcoming move to a nearby building that they plan to renovate. She envisions developing a medical center, classrooms, and cultural activities in a theater. Her dedication knows no bounds.
Email reporter Gerardo Beltrán Salinas at firstname.lastname@example.org