Foundation launches website to connect legal volunteers, immigrants

New Silicon Valley Community Foundation online tool to boost legal-services nonprofits

In anticipation of an eventual federal overhaul of the nation's immigration laws and a growing immigrant population in Silicon Valley, Mountain View-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) launched last week a new online tool to recruit volunteers for nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to the 200,000 low-income immigrants living in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Dubbed CONEC, the tool allows volunteers to search for opportunities via ZIP code, distance or key words and then matches their skills, location and availability with needs of local nonprofit legal-services groups. The website also provides a calendar detailing volunteer opportunities, posts upcoming immigration workshops and offers information about nonprofits who might need volunteer help, from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and the Asian Law Alliance.

"This tool fills a niche where no such tailored service existed," Manuel Santamaría, SVCF's vice president of strategic initiatives and grantmaking, said in a statement. "CONEC will help legal-service organizations be more efficient and allow more volunteers with legal expertise to help our neighbors."

The genesis of the online tool was two events that SVCF sponsored in 2013 to generate new ideas for strengthening immigration-related legal services through the use of technology, according to an SVCF press release. To develop the tool, SVCF worked with 15 nonprofit organizations that provide an array of legal services to low-income immigrants, from guidance through the citizenship process to low-cost legal representation.

According to government data, there are at least 200,000 low-income immigrants living in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who need such services. More than one-third of the 2.5 million residents of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are immigrants and almost two-thirds of those under the age of 18 are children of immigrants, according to SVCF.

With such numbers, the philanthropic organization said it is imperative that legal services, job training and English-language education are boosted to meet the ever-growing need.

"Our region's continued prosperity and quality of life depend on our ability to create communities that recognize immigrants as assets and that honor our shared values of family, hard work and opportunity for all," the organization's press release states. "SVCF believes that this requires that we address the insufficient number of effective English-language learning, job training and legal services for immigrants, which are not adequate to meet current need, let alone the potential demand that would result from comprehensive immigration reform."

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1 person likes this
Posted by lgjhere
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2014 at 10:16 am

Let’s face it, this immigration thing is a 20th century issue that has slopped over into the 21st century. The time has come to finally resolve it in an intelligent fashion, as polls show three-fourths of Americans favor and Obama confronts head-on. A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that helps explain the role, struggles, and contributions of immigrants and minorities is "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It paints a revealing picture of America for anyone who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs those who want to learn more about the last remaining superpower and how we compare to other nations on many issues.
As the book points out, immigrants and minorities are a major force in America. Immigrants and the children they bear account for 60 percent of our nation’s population growth and own 11 percent of US businesses and are 60 percent more likely to start a new business than native-born Americans. They represent 17 percent of all new business owners (in some states more than 30 percent). Foreign-born business owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California and nearly one-fifth in New York, Florida, and New Jersey. In fact, forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant, creating 10 million jobs and seven out of ten top brands in our country.
More importantly, they come to improve their lives and create a foundation of success for their children to build upon, as did the author’s grandparents when they landed at Ellis Island in 1899 after losing 2 children to disease on a cramped cattle car-like sailing from Europe to the Land of Opportunity. Many bring skills and a willingness to work hard to make their dreams a reality, something our founders did four hundred years ago. In describing America, chapter after chapter chronicles “foreigners” who became successful in the US and contributed to our society. However, most struggle in their efforts and need guidance in Anytown, USA. Perhaps intelligent immigration reform, White House/Congress and business/labor cooperation, concerned citizens and books like this can extend a helping hand, the same unwavering hand, lest we forget, that has been the anchor and lighthouse of American values for four hundred years.
Here’s a closing quote from the book’s Intro: “With all of our cultural differences though, you’ll be surprised to learn how much…we as human beings have in common on this little third rock from the sun. After all, the song played at our Disneyland parks around the world is ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Peace.”

2 people like this
Posted by can't stand it
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2014 at 11:02 am

What part of ILLEGAL people do not understand? We have immigration laws, as do all sovereign nations, including the ones from where the illegal aliens came from. So, how come we, the United States, must "reform" our immigration laws to accomodate illegal aliens because they want us to? How far is it to LEGAL immigrants who've spent thousands of dollars for lawyers and fees and waited years to immigrate to the United States, jsut to see an illegal hop a fence, get amnesty, food stamps, free health care, and a driver license [and oh, the right to vote]. We should not be rewarding ILLEGAL activities, from immigration violations to traffic violations to violent crimes. We must secure our own borders, like all other sovereign nations.

Like this comment
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm

@can't stand it...I can't either. [Portion removed.] It's REAL SIMPLE. Apply for citizenship LEGALLY, like anywhere else in the world. Our children are getting screwed by the "DREAM ACT" people. What about the dreams of our own children and citizen? [Portion removed.] We HAVE sensible immigration laws, more lenient than ANY COUNTRY in the world, but alas, it's all about getting votes while we lose our identity as a country [portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Did you watch the Governor's debate? The lady from Telemundo challenged the two candidates as to their "compassion". She did not like the answers and stuck her nose up after that. A response should have been directed at the state of Mexico - which is huge - as to their "compassion" in allowing the Central American children to hike across their country.
Reality is Mexico is in a better position to host it's own citizens and Central American citizens and should be pushed to have good school systems and an upgraded society. All of the people sitting in the US who are educated and pushing for immigration reform should be in their own countries and improving their own countries. The president of Mexico is an educated person - he should be upgrading his country from within.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jon Parsons
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Let's all start obeying only the laws that we like - the few that do not cramp our style, reduce our dwindling resources, or negate our aspirations. I think it is heartless to make people obey laws when they really really do not want to, or when they are sufficiently inconvenienced by the legal niceties. [Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Marlen
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 9, 2014 at 2:09 pm

@Jon Parsons

You mean laws like speed limits?

Like this comment
Posted by problematic population
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm

The underlying problem is population growth. Last month the United States added about 150,000 jobs but we had over 200,000 immigrants. This is not likely to change. We can't continue to grow our population - nationwide, statewide or locally. We live in a world of limited resources and now there are too many people for them. For most of humanities time on earth there was room and resources to exploit - this is no longer the case. People have now colonized and in many cases destroyed most of the habitable world. The largest extinction crisis since the end of the dinosaurs is being driven by humans and may well extend to us if we don't learn to live within the natural resources provided by the planet. The United States should establish a sustainable population size and then use education, tax law and positive rewards to reach that size. We should show the rest of the world how to provide a good quality of life for a reasonable, sustainable number of inhabitants and stop chasing the growth at any cost mentality that came with industrialization. Immigration has to be massively curtailed with the funds and energy rerouted to educating and sustaining our own population. Certainly in California we need to limit population to one that can be sustained by our water supplies and a decent quality of life that doesn't destroy all the other plants and animals in the state. No more stack and pack housing, no sprawl, limited and sustainable agriculture. This may mean fewer people than are here currently and take generations to accomplish but we used to have many fewer people here, a much better quality of life and a better environment for other creatures in the state. It is past time to plan for a better future with fewer people. And to do that we need a government that actually plans for how to get to that future. [Portion removed.]

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