As immigration policy grows stricter nationwide, Marin’s vibrant immigrant community feels the presence of increased ICE raids and the hostile, unstable political climate around programs such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and TPS (Temporary Protected Status). Fortunately, the San Rafael based organization Canal Alliance continues to support and assist the local immigrant population with bilingual educational programs, legal resources, and even student advocacy opportunities.
Canal Alliance’s Development Coordinator Fernando Barreto aims to spread awareness of the multitude of services offered by the Canal Alliance. Some common issues facing Marin’s undocumented community are the mistrust of law enforcement and the rocky path to naturalization. “Many of the problems facing the immigrant community are caused by a lack of information,” Barreto explains, especially regarding the law.
Although California’s TRUST (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act, serves to limit cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE, the legal jargon remains confusing and perpetuates misunderstanding about the relationship within law enforcement agencies. The legal grey area not covered by state legislation can be particularly nerve-wracking and dangerous, especially regarding loopholes ICE officers abuse such as preying on undocumented people when they’re most vulnerable (like in their homes or leaving a jail.)
On their website, the Canal Alliance offers relevant informational resources in Spanish and English. Packets clarifying immigrants’ constitutional rights, announcements regarding federal and state-level immigration aid programs, comprehensive reports about local law enforcement cooperation with ICE, and even guides for families hoping to apply for visas and passports are all present on their website.
Canal Alliance recognizes how all of these online resources combined can be overwhelming in any language, so they also provide personalized services, such as free consultations with lawyers and attorneys at documentation application and renewal workshops.
Despite the bleak political atmosphere regarding immigration laws on a national level, Barreto remains optimistic of Canal Alliance’s ability to provide meaningful help to Marin’s undocumented community, especially through Canal Alliance’s adult and youth education program. He argues that “Education can break the historical cycle of poverty”, and is proud of Canal Alliance’s community education classes.
On a more immediate level, the Canal Alliance partners with Marin Rapid Response Network in order to warn of any local ICE raids. A collaboration of local Marin organizations, Marin Rapid Response Network quickly spreads important information throughout the undocumented community. They encourage anyone witnessing suspicious activity by immigration enforcement officers to call their Hotline at 415-991-4545.
The Canal Alliance provides mental health services, which is especially important for refugees fleeing violent and traumatic circumstances. They also host a food pantry where low-income and economically challenged families can register to receive free food on Tuesdays.
While not everyone can volunteer to help the undocumented community through time-intensive opportunities like being a legal observer, anyone can show their support for California’s immigrant community by donating to tax-deductible organizations like the Canal Alliance. Canal Alliance also encourages participation in immigrant advocacy programs such as the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) and attending protests. May 14th is National Immigrant Day, the CIPC and Canal Alliance will be sending students to Sacramento to meet with legislators and speak on behalf of California’s undocumented communities.