By Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan
This 4th of July, I celebrate Independence Day, and I want to recognize hardworking immigrants like my parents, who came here to give their children a better life.
My parents taught me the importance of family, something I passed on to my own children. It’s also something I’ve been thinking about a lot in my job as County Supervisor, during a time when the communities I serve are experiencing new uncertainties and fear.
Under the current federal Administration, my greatest fear is that children will come home to find their parents had been detained or deported.
Almost one in three residents of Alameda County is an immigrant (about 439,000 people). About half of them (222,000 people) are naturalized U.S. citizens and enjoy all the protections that come with citizenship. About one-quarter of them (105,000 people) are undocumented.
The contributions of immigrants over many, many generations have made the Bay Area the thriving, diverse, and economically productive region it is today. In fact, major tech companies that have transformed our global economy like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Microsoft were all founded by immigrants or their children.
Immigrants are also more likely to become small-business entrepreneurs than native-born residents. We can see these contributions in the many mom and pop shops found in some of our most iconic and economically vibrant neighborhoods, including Oakland’s Chinatown and Fruitvale neighborhoods, which I proudly represent.
Immigrants make up a large part of our future workforce, especially in critical sectors like health care. About one-third of our nursing workforce is over age 50, and half of these nurses plan to retire in the next decade just as the demand for their services will substantially increase.
Instead of making our immigrant communities feel unwelcome or fearful, we should be working to create an environment that uplifts and builds on their contributions and hard work. Our immigrants should feel safe going to school and work, so they may also be free to pursue their dreams and maybe, one day, become the next Sergey Brin or Jerry Yang.
Together with my colleagues, I’ve been working to help provide support services for immigrant families.
Earlier this year, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved $750,000 in funding to defend immigrants and refugees. Thanks to matching philanthropic dollars, we raised $1.5 million to support immigrants.
If you’re an immigrant, there are steps you can take to see what kinds of relief you might qualify for – including covering the cost of legal services and application fees.
If you live or go to school in Oakland, you can access free or low-cost legal services through the Oakland Immigration Project, a project led by trusted immigration organizations serving Oakland. The Oakland Immigration Project helps qualified Oakland immigrant families apply for immigration relief and work authorization to open the door to economic stability and success.
I also want to encourage any immigrant or refugee who has been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to call the Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership (ACILEP)’s Rapid Response Hotline at 510.241.4011.
As we celebrate the 4th of July, we must remember that we are a country of immigrants whose ancestors sacrificed for the promise of a better life. I am proud to be the daughter of immigrants. And this 4th of July, I want all immigrants to know that I stand with them.
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan represents District 3. To access free or low cost legal services in Oakland, go to: www.oaklandimmigrationproject.org.