Supes approve $750k to support, defend immigrants

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved $750,000 in funding for support and defense of immigrant and refugee populations Tuesday.

The vote means that the county can also take advantage of $750,000 in matching funds offered by an anonymous donor, giving the county $1.5 million available to be allocated by the county’s Social Services Agency to benefit immigrant populations.

Board president Wilma Chan in calling for the funding said that 30 percent of the county’s residents were born in another country, a population of 439,000. Of those, 105,000 are undocumented and 222,000 have become citizens, according to Chan’s office.

Chan said of Tuesday’s vote:

“I think this is just the first step…I’m going to continue to work on this with other funders.”

She said her greatest fear is for children to come home and find their parent is being detained or deported. Chan started calling around just after the November election, looking for possible funding sources for legal defense and other services for immigrants vulnerable to the tough immigration policies of President Donald Trump.

The supervisors heard over an hour of supportive public comment before their vote Tuesday, including from Juliana Batista, the Unaccompanied Minor Services Coordinator at Hayward Unified School District.

Batista works with children in the district who came from other countries without their parents or whose parents have been deported, including populations from countries like El Salvador, Guatamala and Honduras who have fled poverty and gang violence and are seeking education and employment opportunities.

She said that the students perform much better when their health care and legal needs are met.

Batista said:

“We have seen an increase in the number of students who are arriving here to the United States…In many ways they are pushed out of their countries to find safety here.”

Pamela Drake, a former Oakland teacher working with the California Sanctuary Campaign, also spoke in support of the measure and said she was heartened by the leadership on this issue demonstrated by Alameda County and in Sacramento, where state legislators are working to declare California a “Sanctuary State.”

Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities, where local law enforcement by policy limits coordination with federal immigration officials. He has even threatened to cut off funds for the entire state, despite California residents paying more in taxes than the state receives in federal funds.

Drake said:

“We are a donor state and we need to find some way if our funds are turned off by the feds, that we do the same for the feds.”

Also among the speakers in support of the funding was Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo. The Oakland City Council voted last month to allocate $150,000 for the legal defense of immigrants.

Gallo said:

“It’s really about children and families to make sure they have an opportunity, an opportunity to grow in this country.”