UPDATE: The video of the Immigrants and Allies forum can be found here.
Amid fears of increasing intolerance and anti-immigrant bias, 11 organizations will host a free public forum on Jan. 19 to empower immigrants during expected federal immigration policy changes.
"Immigrants and Allies in 2017: Feeling Safe in a New Era" is sponsored by the City of Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission and local organizations dedicated to public service, education, government, law and mental health services.
The event will be in Spanish and will include a panel discussion with experts in law, civil rights advocacy, mental health and immigrant services. Resources, information and support for immigrants and their allies and headsets with English translation will be available, said June Klein, Palo Alto University vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer, an event sponsor.
Organizers want to "create a culture of hope and optimism when it seems like we are going the other way," Klein said.
The panel discussion will include an immigration attorney from Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN), who will discuss topics such as different types of visas, green card eligibility, what "sanctuary" means and how to get a pro bono lawyer. Other panelists include Andres Connell, executive director of Nuestra Casa; Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, director of Not in Our Schools, a project of Not in Our Town; and Dr. Elisabet Revilla, director of Latino Specialty Clinic at the Gronowski Center's La Clinica at Palo Alto University.
They will answer questions that include how to help parents and children advocate for themselves; how parents can allay fears in their children and help them develop coping skills; and what to do about bullying and scapegoating. Manny Santamaria, vice president of strategic initiatives and grant-making at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, will moderate, Klein said. The event will dedicate a significant amount of time to audience questions. Allies of immigrants can also build relationships and find ways to help, she said.
Additional sponsors include the City of Palo Alto, Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto, Children's Health Council, Adolescent Counseling Services, Palo Alto Family YMCA, Stanford Psychiatry Center for Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing and Youth Community Service.
The idea for the forum developed after members of Palo Alto's Project Safety Net Asian Outreach Subcommittee realized how many people in Palo Alto were distressed after the November election, Klein said.
The subcommittee was formed to address the 2015 suicide cluster, but it has changed its name to the broader Multicultural and Outreach Committee to could address the issues affecting all immigrants.
"After the election people were crying at work," Klein recalled. "(Palo Alto Unified) School District people said the Latino and Latina students were so upset."
The committee asked the city's Human Relations Commission to support the forum. Commissioners had held their own informational "The Immigrant Experience" series during meetings last year to study how the city can better serve Palo Alto's growing immigrant population.
In an effort to reach people who are likely most in need of support at this time, event organizers have widely distributed brochures in Spanish and English at schools, churches, libraries and public centers in communities of large immigrant populations, Klein said. Organizers expect at least 200 people to attend.
"We must be ever vigilant that there is no place for intolerance or anti-immigration bias in our neighborhoods of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. There are members of our community who do not feel safe. That is unacceptable," organizers said in a statement.
Information and resources are also available here, courtesy of the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission.
If you are going:
What: Immigrants and Allies in 2017: Feeling Safe in a New Era community forum
When: Thursday, Jan. 19, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Cubberley Theatre, Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto