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."