SAN JOSE, California — Officials and of leaders San Francisco Bay Area cities of San Jose and Santa Clara launched a Rapid Response Network Hotline to support immigrants threatened by federal immigration sweeps.
Through the network, anyone from Santa Clara County who witnesses immigration enforcement activity within the county is advised to immediately call the 24/7 hotline (408) 290-1144 to alert first responders. If the caller is a vulnerable immigrant, he or she will receive help in real-time, initially from the dispatcher who will encourage callers to assert their constitutional rights.
The dispatcher will also try to ascertain the safety of the caller and send trained responders to the site of incident and, if the reported federal agents’ operation is confirmed, conduct legal observation to prevent any abuses by the agents.
Responders will also collect evidence that may support the affected family’s immigration case, provide moral support and will even stay with family during the operation.
Community leaders, residents and immigrant advocates warmly welcomed the program, which was launched at Santee Community Center in San Jose.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the rapid response hotline will serve as a critical tool for residents to support those who feel threatened by possible immigrations operations in the area.
“The is a tool to educate residents about their rights, and to help residents access good information and time-sensitive services, in response to any immigration enforcement actions that may take place in our community,” Liccardo explained.
“I’d like to thank all of the government agencies, community partners and other stakeholders who have worked collaboratively to create this tool and support our immigrant neighbors during these uncertain times,” Liccardo added.
Santa Clara Board of Supervisor President David Cortese (Santa Clara County 3rd District) confirmed that the County invested $100,000 to support the Rapid Response Network.
“The investment was made in order to uphold the constitutional rights of immigrant residents and prevent them from being unlawfully detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE),” Cortese explained. “This Network will ensure immigrants are not intimidated or deceived by federal immigration agents who are simply trying to meet their quota for the day,” Cortese disclosed.
“I am inspired by and commend my fellow citizens who have signed up to be first responders and ensure immigrant families remain together,” he added.
San Jose City-based Asian Law Alliance Filipina staff attorney Bea Pangilinan readily agreed that the Rapid Response Hotline will be useful for finding immediate help for people who find themselves in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.
“This type of resource could be helpful in specific ways, such as verifying ICE enforcement activities before spreading mass panic, getting appropriate legal help for those who are in detention, educating the public by letting them know about confirmed ICE activities and helping them find ways of protecting themselves and letting the community get involved by supporting immigrants and their family members who are affected by ICE activities,” Pangilinan spelled out.
Pangilinan also thinks that Filipinos should know that the network exists and that it is a resource for them to seek help if they are in trouble.
San Francisco-based immigration lawyer Johnson Lazaro called the program “revolutionary” and was not sure if this type of response is unprecedented.
“If you are an undocumented immigrant with family, this program is a welcome break from years of government crackdown on undocumented immigrants and is paramount as families are broken apart by inhumane immigration laws,” Lazaro stated.
“However, from a fiscal standpoint $100,000 could certainly go a long way towards supporting other necessary programs for the youth, social services for the seniors and other programs for the needy and underprivileged in the county. One can certainly argue that since illegal aliens are breaking the law they should not be entitled to community support,” Lazaro pondered.
Lazaro also warned that despite the existence of the program, Filipinos should still be cautious and try to stay under the radar of ICE because federal immigration laws still supersede state laws, and despite Santa Clara County’s good intentions Filipinos should not be too overconfident in challenging immigration authorities.
“But with this program immigrant advocates and lawyers can monitor and prevent abuses by agents of ICE. And the records, tapes, evidence that are gathered as a result of this program can be used to lobby congressional representatives to create legislation protecting undocumented families and individuals,” Lazaro observed.
Filipino former six-term Mayor of Milpitas Jose Esteves – the city is part Santa Clara County — had questions for Rapid Response Hotline proponents.
“Can this program can legally stop the deportation of an undocumented person? What power or law can the Santa Clara County or City of San Jose invoke?” asked Esteves. “Are there already specific cases to demonstrate the services of this program? Maybe, we should send these questions to the program administrator.”
The Rapid Response Hotline is a collaborative project by Sacred Heart Community Service, Pangea Legal Services, People Acting in Community Together (PACT), SOMOS Mayfair, LUNA, SIREN, South Bay Labor Council, CARAS/SEIU, Diocese of San Jose, City of San Jose Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations.
For immediate support, San Jose City and Santa Clara County residents are asked to call (408) 290-1144 to report if ICE comes to their homes, workplaces or neighborhoods.