Editorial: Talking less, doing more to help county immigrants | March 17, 2017 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 17, 2017

Editorial: Talking less, doing more to help county immigrants

Local governments out to protect members of the communities they serve, regardless of immigration status and economic circumstances, don't have an easy job of it these days. Rhetoric from the Trump administration alleging great ills of society resulting from undocumented immigrants fuels assaults by the ignorant and panic among the vulnerable.

The panic intensified in mid-February when the Department of Homeland Security issued a set of memos revealing plans to hire 10,000 more immigration agents and step up detainment and deportation of immigrants in this country without documents. The orders give agents "full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws" — an excerpt as reported by USA Today.

The administration is also threatening to cut federal funding streams to sanctuary cities, even to California as a whole.

With the growing level of threat to our immigrant community, officials of local cities, including Mountain View, and Santa Clara County are looking for the most effective strategies to protect families and individuals among us who came to this country seeking a better life.

Earlier this week, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took decisive action. After a series of public meetings held since after the presidential election last fall, during which supervisors made clear their concerns and determination to put some degree of protections into place, Supervisor Joe Simitian said: "I'm getting a little bit itchy about when we're going to start doing more and talking less. We started work ahead of the curve, but ... we've got people who need help right now, and they need it pretty seriously."

On a unanimous vote, the board approved a $3.5 million program that will offer legal assistance to local immigrants facing deportation proceedings; the program has an educational component to inform immigrants of their rights as they face possible encounters with federal agents and bounty hunters who can appear in the dead of night.

One sticking point as the supervisors hashed out the program's details was the question of whether immigrants with records of violent or serious crimes should be eligible for legal help from the county. In the end, they compromised, banning the use of the public funds to support those convicted of a violent felony who have finished their sentence within the last five years.

This was a courageous and compassionate move on the part of the board. There is little tolerance for those in our community who commit crimes, but when the offender is also an undocumented immigrant, emotions run high and sometimes reason vanishes from the picture. But due process of law should be considered a sacred element of our legal system. Because immigrants facing deportation aren't entitled to representation by a public defender if they can't afford a private attorney, providing a fund to pay attorney's fees to help those who might be eligible for asylum or permission to remain here was the right thing to do.

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