Oakland Council, SF Foundation Kickstart Immigrant Defense Network


The Oakland City Council voted unanimously this week to appropriate $300,000 over two years from the city’s general fund to help establish of a countywide rapid response network for immigration legal defense.


The money is meant to add to a proposal coming before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors next Tuesday to spend $750,000 for several local nonprofits to hire immigration attorneys, community responders and know-your-rights coordinators in case of raids.


Moments before the City Council voted this week, council members received an email from San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell, saying his organization would add $300,000 to Oakland’s proposal and up to $750,000 more to match the county’s fund.


Blackwell told the Post the San Francisco Foundation has committed to funding the rapid response network “given the climate and urgency of the moment regarding the need for deportation defense and know your rights work.”


“In addition, we will match dollar for dollar up to $750,000 the County of Alameda’s proposed commitment for a similar collaborative to support immigrants and their families county-wide,” he said.


With President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies escalating by the day, local immigrant rights groups are fearful that the Bay Area may soon experience raids and deportations at an unprecedented level.


According to the 2010 census report, over a quarter of Oakland’s residents are immigrants.


Creating a rapid response network across several cities and local nonprofits would act as a shield to help protect Alameda County’s immigrant families from separation and potentially life-threatening deportations, according to immigrant rights advocates.


“Legal representation and community rapid response are more crucial than ever given our current crisis,” said Laura Polstein, immigration staff attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza.


A study released by the Stanford Law School reveals that when detained immigrants have legal representation from Bay Area nonprofits, they are over 70 percent more likely to succeed in challenging their deportation.


The funds generated by the proposal would be given to organizations like Centro Legal, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation—groups that have already worked intimately with the East Bay’s most vulnerable communities.


According to Councilmember Noel Gallo, who helped introduce Oakland’s portion to the City Council, those most impacted by intensified anti-immigrant policies include children and students.


“The reality is these children, some undocumented, are here in our schools and neighborhoods, and we need to provide the necessary support to help them stay in school,” Gallo told the Post.


Oakland School Boardmember Roseann Torres came out to speak at Tuesday’s council meeting, telling the council that many students are afraid to go to classes for fear that their parents may not be home when they return from school.


While the full proposal has yet to come before the county Board of Supervisors, community-based groups are hopeful that the board will vote unanimously to approve the $750,000 appropriation.


Some supervisors have expressed their support for the proposal, including Board President Wilma Chan and Nate Miley, who told the Post that they support setting up a fund to make Alameda County a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees.


“The Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies are deplorable, un-American, likely unconstitutional, and undermine our core values and beliefs,” Chan told the Post.


“I hope my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors will support this one-time allocation – to be matched by philanthropic dollars – that will be earmarked for legal assistance and related services for immigrants and refugees in our county,” she said.


Supervisor Miley echoed Chan’s sentiments and sense of urgency surrounding Trump’s likely future policies.


“In the midst of unrest and uncertainty at the federal level about the future of immigration, locally we have the opportunity to provide a safety net of support for immigrant families who are fearful and face threats of being detained and deported,” Miley said.



Tulio Ospina is the assistant editor of the Oakland Post and editor-in-chief of El Mundo.

Email [email protected]



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