On Wednesday, August 30th, a press conference was held to announce that the Rapid Response Network (RRN) will now cover the entire county. It has been active for 2 months in San Jose, and now enough volunteers have taken the ICE Observer training to respond to requests for assistance in any zip code.
Call (408) 290-1144 to report ICE activity.
The Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations and the San Jose Office of Immigrant Affairs have been working with Community Based Organizations to establish the RRN. It’s based on a model that is spreading across the country as the national campaign of detainment and deportation has mushroomed. A telephone dispatcher is available 24/7 to receive information about ICE activities and notify the closest volunteers to verify the report and witness the event. Volunteers learn how to do this without interfering with ICE officers, but documenting whether or not they are following their own guidelines and the respecting the constitutional rights that everyone has, regardless of immigration status.
If someone is detained, the dispatcher is alerted with the details, and legal assistance is immediately contacted. There is also a component to support the families with information, advocacy, transportation to attend proceedings, and sometimes cash assistance. Frequently it is the working member (and sole support) of the family who is picked up.
Federal immigration officials have been authorized to detain anyone who is in the U.S. illegally, but they are supposed to follow the law while doing it. This RRN model has already demonstrated that people behave better when they know they might be witnessed and recorded.
These are times when political interests frequently override basic humanitarian concerns. On Wednesday we were reminded that in Santa Clara County, there are still some adults in charge. Some of the messages for the press included:
Dave Cortese, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors shared that Santa Clara County has already allocated millions of dollars to fund supportive programs, such as multi-language “Know Your Rights” workshops, legal fees to defend undocumented immigrants, and the creation of the Rapid Response Network. The commitment will continue for the County because, “This is not just something we are doing. It’s how we are.”
Mt. View Police Chief, Max Bosel pointed out that a community cannot be safe when half of its members are afraid to request help, report crimes, appear in court as witnesses, or speak with government authorities. The police can’t do their jobs unless people believe that everyone will receive the same respect and protection regardless of immigration status.
Mt. View Mayor, Ken Rosenberg said all members of the Mt. View community should feel safe to live here and know that they are valued members of the community.
District 5 Supervisor, Joe Simitian expressed sympathy for those who go through every day with a shadow over them, wondering if this will be the day….
The President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce stated the obvious need of businesses for a stable workforce and the entrepreneurial spirit of Latino immigrants.
In addition to local government support, we heard from some service providers, such as Sacred Heart Community Center, SIREN, PACT (People Acting in Communities Together), LUNA (Latinos United for a New America) and the Dayworker Center of Mt. View. Many are themselves, members of the immigrant and refugee communities that they work with every day. They are experiencing first-hand the unrelenting stress of families who live in fear, knowing that they could be separated at any time. They are unable to tell their clients that they are safe – only to share the resources developed to protect them.
Two “elementary school moms” started Mt. View Listo – a group of parents helping undocumented parents to make a plan and take steps to assure that their children will be cared for if they are detained. They receive assistance filling in forms and then free review by a lawyer. It helps to alleviate some of the stress, knowing that they have done what they can to make arrangements for their families in the worst case scenario.
Even though a dire situation had brought us together, Father Jon Pedigo of Catholic Charities kept energy and spirits high with some chants and songs, reminding us that we are much stronger than we imagine when we stand together.
One blessing of challenging times is the courage and creativity that is brought out in community members who recognize a need and step forward to help. The expansion of the Rapid Response Network would not be possible without the volunteers who are signing up to learn more about the situation and how they can help. Upcoming Rapid Response Training
It is a good time for all of us to ask ourselves,
“What kind of community do we want to live in?”
“What are we willing to do to create that community?”