South Bay Latinx community starts push for immigration reform in Biden administration

While President-elect Joe Biden plans how to meet the challenges facing the nation, San Jose’s Latinx community is creating a strategy for immigration reform.

The Si Se Puede Collective will be asking local officials to sign a list of demands, which include a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, ending raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reuniting families of children being held in cages and COVID-19 relief funding.

Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, executive director of SOMOS Mayfair, said the collective is standing with its immigrant community against what she called racist and unjust policies. With a combined budget of more than $10 million, the collective serves more than 10,000 people in East San Jose.

“Our moment is now to rise up as one community,” Llanes-Fontanilla said at a rally at Mexican Heritage Plaza Nov. 13 in announcing the effort. “We will no longer be the drivers of this economy … while being demeaned, forced into the shadows, separated from our children, living in fear. Together, we demand policies that recognize people as full human beings with dignity and self-determination.”

According to Priya Murthy, policy and advocacy director of Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network, there are about 23,000 DACA-eligible individuals and more than 134,000 undocumented immigrants in Santa Clara County. On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA.

DACA grants temporary protection from deportation and authorization for a work permit for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before age 16.

Maritza Maldonado, executive director of Amigos de Guadalupe, said the collective is counting on Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and other federal officials to support immigration reform.

“Racist policies, attitudes, behavior and oppressive policies need to stop,” said Maldonado. “We will not be silent.”

Maldonado said immigrants faced a host of challenges during the pandemic. Undocumented people were unable to return home to bury their parents. Some lost jobs of 25 years after contracting COVID-19.

By Lorraine Gabbert for SAN JOSÉ spotlight
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