We at JFCS East Bay, along with so many others in our community, have been horrified by what’s gone on at the border during the past month and longer. As an agency with a long history of helping children and families, we are profoundly disturbed by witnessing the forcible separation of children from their parents, understanding the lifelong trauma that ensues.
While most public attention is focused on the border, there is plenty going on here in our own community. Many of our friends and neighbors, some of whom have been here for many years, are living with a tremendous amount of uncertainty, fearful of their families being torn apart. In the face of these threats to our community, I want to share with you what we’re doing and invite you to join us in our efforts.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
- Our Immigration Legal Services program is busier than ever. Established originally to help refugees with green cards, family reunification, and citizenship, it has expanded to assist immigrants with a whole range of legal remedies. Several months ago we became part of the founding group of Stand Together Contra Costa, working together with the Public Defender’s office and other nonprofits to provide information and legal representation to county residents facing detention and possible deportation. As you might imagine, our staff attorneys and legal services assistants are extremely busy.
- Our Early Childhood Mental Health program continues to serve a broad range of children and families in Alameda County, including many with undocumented parents. Our staff has worked diligently to support families not only with the “regular” issues they face, but also with access to public benefits and contingency planning in the event of a parent (or both parents) being suddenly incarcerated.
- Given our staff expertise in providing trauma-informed care to children and families – and that a number of our staff experts are Spanish-speaking – we have been looking into potential partnerships with agencies closer to the border, with the intent that our staff can help support families as they (hopefully) reunite with their children. There is currently a lot of chaos and confusion, but we will continue our efforts to find a way to provide strategic and expert assistance.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Donate! We are trying to increase our Immigration Legal Services staffing to meet community needs. We are also trying to expand the program to provide mental health and social services to our legal services clients. Please support our efforts.
- Volunteer! We are looking for community members who can do any of the following, with our support and training:
- Help people complete their citizenship applications. Spanish language skills preferred.
- Tutor people in preparation for their citizenship tests and interviews.
- Accompany people to their citizenship interviews. Experience with immigration legal services preferred.
- Help the legal services staff with administrative, filing, and data entry tasks.
Most volunteering happens in or around our Walnut Creek office, mostly during weekday hours. If interested, email Kathryn Winogura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Advocate! Speak out, participate in rallies and interfaith events, and contact elected officials in support of sensible and humane immigration policies.
Thank you for all your caring, commitment, and support – we couldn’t do this without you.
PS: Please donate today to ensure that vulnerable immigrants have the best legal representation possible.
In addition to directly supporting our Immigration Legal Services program, you may also be interested in donating to a new community fund set up to cover bonds to get low-income immigrants out of detention. More information is here.