Alameda, California residents get ready to defend immigrants
ALAMEDA, California — Community interfaith and leaders, politicians and residents gathered to reiterate their support for immigrant rights in the wake of recent developments affecting a lot of immigrant families locally and in the whole country.
Alameda County District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle said the meeting demonstrated that leaders and residents are united Alameda County and that everybody deserves the right to due process.
“We are also here to point out that the executive order of the president has demonized, scared and separated people and that was the intent. But we want to make sure that the people of Alameda are protected. So today we brought people together to give them hope and the sense of the future that we are here for them,” Valle disclosed.
Spearheaded by Filipino Advocates for Justice (FAJ), the meeting was deemed urgent in the light of President Trump’s attempted travel ban against Muslims.
FAJ Executive Director Lillian Galedo said actions were needed “to protect immigrants, women, LGBTQ identified people and others threatened by the rhetoric and policies coming from the new administration in Washington, DC.”
“As this past week has demonstrated, the campaign rhetoric was not an empty threat. We must come together in a common commitment to justice and security for all people,” Galedo added.
Resources to be provided
Valle said that it was not the first meeting of its kind and more meetings will be held in the next months to take people’s testimonies and bring resources.
“We have a $1.5 million pledge to help people who are having difficulty with their immigration status. We welcome refugees and we welcome immigrants. Everybody is entitled to the American dream,” Valle announced.
“We also want children, especially those with deferred action on childhood arrivals (DACA) in elementary schools, high school, college, universities doing research not to be afraid for we stand by them and that we will support them by bringing legal services to their support whenever needed,” Valle added.
The $1.5 million pledge is part of Alameda County’s to match $750,000 in private funding to support immigrants.
Filipino American lawyer and Vice Mayor of the City of Alameda Malia Vella, whose immigrant grandparents traced their roots to Pangasinan, Ilocos and Japan, is no stranger to providing pro bono services to immigrants including undocumented ones. She noted that Alameda became a sanctuary city last January to make sure that nobody in the community would feel that they were not being abandoned.
“We want to make sure that everybody felt protected and included in our community. We actually passed the ordinance for a sanctuary city on January 17th because we wanted it in place three days before the Trump inauguration,” Vella recounted.
“It was very personal for me as my Japanese grandmother who was impacted by President Roosevelt’s executive order 9066 that authorized the evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to national security was at the passage,” added Vella.
Vella also explained that as a sanctuary city, Alameda will be proactive in helping members of the community and that she, in partnership with Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer, would like to adopt the city of Seattle as a model. That means partnering with the school district and other groups to make sure that different services are offered to constituents, like pro bono legal clinics, among others.
“We are less concerned with the threat of defunding by the federal government after we found out that only $2.5 million was really at issue and one had to really violate the actual terms of the grants, legally speaking, in order to have the defunding occur,” she explained.
Green card holders
Civic leader Cynthia Bonta, mother of lone Filipino American California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta, was glad to attend the gathering.
As a longtime green card holder it took her “a long time to want to vote in this country, but finally I did. I can understand that a lot of green card holders who may not want to be citizens. It is an emotional decision. I think that they contribute as much as a U.S. citizen it is just that they cannot vote,” she said.
“So when green card holders are also being restricted and being victimized by the Trump ban, that is very close to my heart and that is not right. I am very proud of my son for leading in making California a state sanctuary,” Bonta intimated.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta, (D-Oakland) earlier filed Assembly Bill 3 that would create state-funded centers to train public defenders and other defense attorneys on immigration law.
“We need to stand up for every man, woman and child who has contributed to our community that is under full-frontal attack by the federal administration now,” Rob Bonta pitched as he co-sponsored other pro-sanctuary state bills filed in the legislature.
“You should come out and avail yourself of the information and all the protective measures that we can follow because you have a lot of support. You should not be afraid to come out,” advised Bonta’s mother, Cynthia, to undocumented immigrants. “We should spread the word to the undocumented kababayan as they really are many out there.”