County aims to protect residents from Trump administration

Supervisors agree to boost legal help for immigrants at risk of mass deportation

With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump just weeks away, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed to launch multiple new efforts to defend the county's immigrant population and mitigate any action from Washington that could jeopardize its values and policies regarding health care, civil rights, housing and the environment.

In a unanimous decision, board members agreed to create a new plan to designed to provide legal services and representation to undocumented immigrants who may be facing deportation proceedings when Trump takes office on Jan. 20. The concern, according to the staff report, is that Trump and his cabinet selections so far have "publicly and explicitly announced an intent to execute mass deportation" of up to 11 million immigrants in the United States.

The language is particularly alarming for Santa Clara County, where 38 percent of the residents are foreign-born, and 50 percent of households speak a language other than English in the home, Supervisor Cindy Chavez said at the Dec. 6 meeting.

"A great deal of our economic prosperity and our public safety is rooted on having a community where people feel safe and welcome," Chavez said. "I've talked to people who have been here for years, who are immigrants and vital parts of our community, who are frightened about what this means for their families."

The county is expected to take a leadership role in coordinating pro bono legal representation to residents facing deportation, working with nonprofit organizations to make sure privately-funded legal representation is available to supplement county efforts. This new county-funded program is not intended to be used by residents who are charged with crimes not related to immigration, and the hope is that the effort will come at low or no cost to the public.

County Executive Jeffrey Smith emphasized that the county's actions are not intended to sidestep federal immigration law, and instead reinforces the protections under the 14th Amendment guaranteeing that residents, regardless of status, are given equal protections under the law.

"We're envisioning making sure that nobody loses their rights or their due process, or has any infringement on their health and welfare that is not within the consistency of the Constitution," Smith said.

Having representation makes a big difference. Lisa Weissman-Ward, a lecturer at Stanford's Immigrants' Rights Clinic, said she authored a report on 2014 that found two-thirds of detained immigrants have no legal representation, and without legal representation they had only an 11 percent chance of prevailing in court. By comparison, 83 percent of detained immigrations with legal representation from local Bay Area nonprofits were successful in avoiding deportation.

The number of immigrants facing deportation without legal representation is also expected to go up if the Trump administration steps up enforcement. Ilyce Shugall, the directing attorney at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, told supervisors that there's already a backlog of 36,400 cases in San Francisco's immigration court for non-detained immigrations, delaying proceedings by as much as five years. With the new administration coming in, Shugall expects that the backlog is going to get worse, meaning fewer people will be represented by lawyers.

Richard Konda, the executive director of Asian Law Alliance, said there are an estimated 180,000 undocumented immigrants in the county, from Palo Alto to Gilroy, most of whom have families and deep roots in the community. It's the only area of American law, he said, that empowers the government to lock people up and force them to fight against trained government attorneys without legal assistance.

"Now more than ever, Santa Clara County must fortify its commitment... and ensure that everyone is armed with information to protect themselves and have a fair chance at their deportation case," Konda said.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian said he has struggled to sort out how to move forward in a time of great uncertainty, and that his approach is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. He said the county needs to act fast because of the potential for "overzealous" enforcement on the part of the Trump administration, and the fact that the president-elect uses phrases like "day one" and "first 100 days" regarding his plans.

Supervisor Dave Cortese said much of the focus has been on Latino immigrants, but the county has to step up its protection for immigrants irrespective of ethnicity and documentation. He pointed out that plenty of immigrants on work visas, even if they've done everything right, may be at risk because of "breakdowns in bureaucracies" over the years.

"Our approach is going to be the full spectrum on this," he said.

In addition to legal protection for immigrants, county supervisors also voted to create a new Federal Legislative Advocacy Task Force, which will be designed to evaluate and analyze changes in federal policies that might have a major effect on Santa Clara County. Top concerns in the staff report include the potential repeal of Obamacare, which would affect many residents relying on Covered California for health care, as well as changes in infrastructure investments that could affect county housing and transportation projects that rely on federal dollars for support. Simitian pointed out that the selection of Ben Carson as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for example, could have major implications on the $950 Measure A housing bond that Santa Clara County voters passed last month.

The task force will be chaired by Simitian, and will include Cortese, and U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo and Ro Khanna.

Supervisors also voted unanimously to kick off strategic plans aimed at addressing any legal issues that the county faces from the incoming Trump administration, making sure the county has a seat at the table as Washington considers changes in health care, housing and social services, and protects its funding streams from the federal government.

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22 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2016 at 11:16 am

This is not just about immigrants. Many non-white US citizens have legitimate fears for their safety with the growing influence of the ALT RIGHT movement within the Trump administration.

49 people like this
Posted by So wrong
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2016 at 2:08 pm

This is ridiculous, you are talking about using US citizen tax dollars to fund ILLEGALs. This is outrageous. How in any way can this be considered acceptable. This is exactly how and why Trump was elected, because of this extreme far-left vision.

We can only hope a moderate, common-sense law firm takes this on and ensures that US citizen tax dollars are not used to fund ILLEGALS.

57 people like this
Posted by @So wrong
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 12, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Just calling your neighbors "illegals" is a fundamentally dehumanizing way to talk about them. These are working people whose only crime is wanting a better life for themselves and their families. We can all use a lot more empathy when discussing our fellow human beings.

Additionally, I'll remind you that Donald Trump lost horribly in California, where we outright rejected his divisive vision for our country. He performed even worse in Santa Clara county. We care about our neighbors here and strive to protect them. We all can be proud of our state and local governments.

34 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

I'm with "so wrong". We are a land of laws. These are people who are breaking the law. They are here illegally.

I have many, many friends who came here from different countries. It's one of the things I love about living here, our diversity. But they came here legally. They went thru the process.

I agree with "so wrong", our tax dollars should not be used to help illegals. Period.

38 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Jared Martin is a registered user.

@mvresident2003, it's really disappointing that you insist on referring to your neighbors as "illegals." They are people, and a person cannot be "illegal."

How is it that you know the immigration status of your friends? It's not a question I often find myself asking my neighbors, and I generally think it's not something people will bring up.

Regardless, as the poster above pointed out, we have soundly rejected Donald Trump's vision of America here in Santa Clara. We will protect the members of our community, and it is something I am proud of as both a Californian and an American.

25 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2016 at 7:54 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

I know my friends status because we've had conversations about the difficulties they had going through the convoluted, complicated process we have to become a citizen. And they are also extremely unhappy to have their new government apply a set of rules and standards to them then let a whole other group of people get away with totally different experience. They are angry that their new tax dollars are spent on a group of people who did and have not gone thru the agonizing experience they endured....waiting to see if they'd get their cards; starting jobs, creating friends and social circles and homes all while worrying that their green card wouldn't come thru and they'd have to go back home. And yet they stood by the process and did it the right way, the legal way.

I am not against people of any country or culture coming here but I do feel strongly that we need to adhere to our laws and process. I truly don't understand this incessant desire to protect law breakers. Yes, they are people, people with families and friends and homes. But they did not come here thru he process we have in place.

And yes actually, if a person is here illegally, they are "an illegal". You can try to pretty it up all you want with different words but illegal is illegal.

34 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Jared Martin is a registered user.

@mvresident2003, asserting that someone is "an illegal" just because you've said they are isn't a convincing argument. Illegal is not a noun, it's an adjective used to describe something. Calling someone "an illegal" is simply reducing them to a modifier describing their immigration status, which is why people say it is dehumanizing. Even if you disagree with someone's beliefs or actions, you should continue to respect them as people.

I agree with your friends that the immigration process is agonizing. The solution is to make it easier, and we can start with the people already here who are our friends, families, and neighbors. However, to be punitive to them just because something was difficult for your friends does not speak well for our values as a community.

20 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2016 at 8:33 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

So which do you feel is more empathetic; criminal aliens? Law breakers?

change the laws but don't excuse or reward the illegal behavior. Because then you're punishing those who are and have done it the right, the legal, way.

29 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Jared Martin is a registered user.

@mvresident2003, you're presenting a false dichotomy. We can, and must, feel empathy for everyone in our community. If their only crime is staying in the country with the hope of a better life, why is that so grave that you must dehumanize them?

Your last statement is flat out incorrect: we have a moral duty to excuse illegal behavior when a law is unjust. Our great nation has been about doing that for its entire existence.

21 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2016 at 9:11 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

I am not dehumanizing anything, they broke the law and there are consequences? I have empathy but I won't excuse the illegal behavior. And I disagree that we have a "moral duty to excuse behavior", I absolutely and whole-heartedly disagree. We have a duty to change the laws perhaps, but absolutely do NOT have any duty to excuse illegal behavior. That's like saying it's ok for a person to steal because they can't afford food. Or it's ok for someone to speed because they're late for a meeting.

We are a nation of laws. You start picking and choosing which you're going to follow and the whole basis and strength of our nation is denigrated and torn.

Again, change the process, fix the laws but no, I'll never agree that we excuse the blatantly illegal behavior. I have too much respect for those who followed the law, did the right thing.

Using your reasoning,

31 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 12, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Jared Martin is a registered user.

@mvresident2003, you're dehumanizing them when you keep insisting on calling them "illegals." I appreciate that you didn't do it in the last post, making this progress allows us to have an open and accessible dialog.

So I take it you think poorly of those lawbreakers in the Boston Tea Party, or those sitting at the Woolworth's lunch counter.

Regarding stealing bread, Jean Valjean is meant to be the protagonist of Les Miserables, not Javert ;-).

28 people like this
Posted by Geek
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 13, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Geek is a registered user.

Let's call them illegal aliens and not illegals. Does it change the fact that our tax dollars work not to improve our lives, but to encourage the unlawful behavior?
No wonder that every election we are asked for more money to support the bureaucracy that is running amok.

35 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Jared Martin is a registered user.

@Geek, that's certainly an improvement, and it allows us to have a reasonable discussion! Thank you for the effort.

Do you honestly believe our tax dollars don't work to improve our lives? I'd have to disagree.

Do you think this encourages "unlawful behavior," in that there is anyone who came to or will come to California under the impression that they'd be getting some benefit? Again, I'd have to disagree.

This sort of divisive rhetoric is yet another reason why Donald Trump and the Republican party have performed so poorly in California. Californians actually care about and want to protect our neighbors, not discard them or split their families apart.

24 people like this
Posted by Geek
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 13, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Geek is a registered user.

Where are your arguments? Besides "I'd have to disagree"?
Our schools do not have enough money and ask for an additional parcel tax and at the same time our county is going to spend millions of dollars to prevent extradition of illegal aliens. Do you disagree?

33 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2016 at 8:51 pm

Jared Martin is a registered user.

@Geek, ah, now you've moved the goalposts. You said "our tax dollars work not to improve our lives." They certainly do work improve our lives. We have some of the best schools here in Mountain View, we have excellent roads and services.

So that's obviously false. Further, what's the goal of using our tax dollars? Is it only meant to help other taxpayers? That can't be right because we use them to help the destitute who pay no income tax. Is it only citizens? That can't be right either since we use them to help our neighbors that are here on H1-b Visas.

The goal of using our tax dollars is to improve and protect our community, which includes all of our neighbors regardless of immigration status. To ignore these vulnerable members of our community would reflect quite poorly on us as compassionate neighbors.

This is why empathy is so important, rather than trying to divide up our community, and it's why Californians rejected this division in the election.

27 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 13, 2016 at 10:08 pm

True is a registered user.


We can just go with "criminal" then.

Their very presence, unauthorized, within our borders violates federal law.

If they have forged documents as many do they have committed a number of crimes including identity fraud and theft according to 18 U.S.C. ยง 1028(a)(7) punishable by up to 15yrs in prison BTW.

If they use those documents to fraudulently fill out an I9 & W4 for a job there's two more counts of fraud...which is as you know...a crime.

If they in turn through this job get health coverage for themselves or family they've commuted insurance fraud....also, quite naughty.

So try to tart it up all you like by calling people "undocumented" but the simple fact is...they're criminals.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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