The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to allocate $750,000 to the creation of a county-wide rapid response network to fight deportations under President Donald Trump.
The money would go to several local nonprofits and the Public Defender’s Office to hire immigration attorneys, community responders in case of raids, and know-your-rights coordinators for immigrants.
This is in addition to $300,000 that Oakland recently allocated over two years to the legal defense fund, and a $1,050,000 matching grant that was donated by the San Francisco Foundation last week.
During the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday, several community members and nonprofit representatives spoke in favor of the response network and its importance in today’s political climate.
Many mentioned a noticeable rise in harassment of immigrants within local communities and in schools, along with the continuous struggle for communities of color to fight displacement and disparate health problems, as reasons why the county needs a united front on the issue of immigration.
“We need the rapid response network, especially now as immigrant communities are being displaced from San Francisco and Oakland to other parts of the Bay Area,” said Eduarda Cruz, a member of Causa Justa: Just Cause.
“It pains me to know that so many families have been separated by deportations and displacement,” she said.
Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo emphasized the importance of protecting the county’s students from the trauma of family separation.
“Here in Alameda County we value education as the number one (priority) and we have a student body that wants to be successful,” Gallo said, noting that the fears of Trump’s immigration policies have adversely affected the well-being of local immigrant students.
According to Paul Chavez, executive director of Centro Legal de la Raza, there is a great need for more immigration attorneys who will legally defend immigrants in deportation proceedings at no or low cost.
“It’s not just undocumented folks who are at risk of deportation but a lot of families,” Chavez told the Post.
“One-third of people in Alameda County are foreign born, and 53 percent of families in the county are of mixed (immigration) status,” he said.
Chavez is also anticipating an escalation in the number of ICE raids that will be taking place across the country, which the county will not be immune to.
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 than those without representation.
Unlike criminal court in the US, those in immigration court are not guaranteed an attorney and can be subject to deportation merely for being suspected of a crime. Many immigrant rights advocates have deemed this a violation of due process.
According to Chavez, the creation of a network of nonprofits to quickly share information and provide much-needed legal representation to people at risk of deportation is one way that local communities can defend themselves against Trump’s immigration policies.
“What Alameda County and Oakland is doing is a replicable model that other counties and states should follow,” said Chavez.
Tulio Ospina is the assistant editor of the Oakland Post and editor-in-chief of El Mundo.