On August 5th, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, in a 4-1 vote, authorized the County Executive’s office to move forward on developing a plan to provide support for unaccompanied immigrant children coming to our area. During the meeting, the County Executive presented the contours of a plan based on conversations with local government agencies and community-based organizations. The plan would include creating a host family program to house at least 50 children who are not yet reunited with family members as well as provide legal support for them as they await their cases in immigration court.
Over the past few months, the country has been moved by the photos and stories of tens of thousands of children and families, primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, who have turned themselves to immigration agents seeking refuge from extreme violence and abuse in their home countries. In contrast to hate-filled responses in other parts of the country, such as Murrieta where many were “greeted” with signs and shouts of “go back home”, Santa Clara County has clearly charted a different path. During the discussion at the Board meeting, various Supervisors spoke of the need to address a humanitarian issue with a humanitarian response, to provide innovative local responses given Congressional inaction, and to respect the rule of law – including the rights of these children to have due process as they await their day in court. They also recognized that while the County cannot do everything, what was being proposed was doable and would make a significant difference in the lives of these children.
Prior to the meeting, members of the Santa Clara County Coalition for Immigration Reform, including SIREN, coordinated a press conference urging the Board to stand up for these children. Members of the immigrant community spoke of the toils that these children have overcome, advocates shared their expertise on housing and legal needs of the children, and Supervisor Dave Cortese underscored the need for our County to continue to lead the way in protecting immigrants. Community members from across the County – from educators, to parents, to lawyers – spoke during the meeting urging the Board members to vote in support of the children.
We applaud Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Supervisor Dave Cortese, Supervisor Joe Simitian, and Supervisor Ken Yeager for voting in favor of moving forward with developing a plan to provide assistance to the children. We look forward to continuing to work with the County in the coming weeks on this effort.