California immigrant rights advocates commended Bonta's efforts. "We applaud Assemblymember Bonta for introducing this landmark legislation," says Maricela Gutiérrez, executive director of Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network, an advocacy group active in the California Bay Area and Central Valley. "Such databases have been a back-door channel making it easier for ICE and CBP to continue to ramp up their deportation of community members."

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Fresno establishes ‘long overdue’ immigration committee — but it has no funding


FEBRUARY 17, 2019 06:00 AM,

UPDATED FEBRUARY 17, 2019 02:08 PM


Fresno immigrant advocates believe a “long overdue” new advisory committee will make a dent on issues affecting the local immigrant community — despite having no funding attached.

The Fresno City Council on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution to establish a 15-member immigrant affairs committee. The committee will be tasked with advising the City Council on issues related to immigrants, according to the resolution. 

In June 2017, the City Council turned down a proposal to establish a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation.

The proposal asked for the city to include $200,000 in its 2017-18 budget for its contribution to the public-private legal fund that had been pushed by immigration and civil rights advocates.

Some acknowledged that not having to make an upfront funding commitment for the advisory committee might have played a role in the unanimous support for Thursday’s resolution. 

Samuel Molina, state director for Mi Familia Vota, said he and others had been advocating for the committee for about a year and a half. 

“It’s long overdue,” Molina said.

While he agreed that having no funding attached might have contributed to the passage of the resolution, he believes the committee can accomplish several things.

For example, it shows the immigrant community that the City Council stands with them and takes their concerns seriously, he said. The committee has the potential to address several issues within the immigrant community, like transition into citizenship and language barriers.

Plus, similar committees in other jurisdictions have shown to be effective. “Committees have worked to develop strategic plans on addressing immigrant issues and needs,” he said.

Council Member Luis Chavez said the city has to start somewhere when it comes to communicating with the immigrant community and including immigrants in the city’s decision-making process.

“This is a way to bring them to the table,” he said. “I think what we are trying to do here, is the first step in building a bridge with city hall and the immigrant community.”

Each council member will nominate two members and the mayor will appoint one, Chavez said. All committee members are expected to be in place by the end of March or early April, and the group will start its work soon after that. 

The committee’s meetings will be subject to the Brown Act and will be open to the public, according to the resolution.

Eliseo V. Gamino, chair of the Central Valley Leadership Roundtable, said he hopes the committee will have resources and accountability. 

The committee should be based on assistance and in “helping keep families together” – a need that has recently been illustrated with the case of a Navy veteran who fears could be deported, Gamino said. 

But Gamino said the committee does need adequate resources to be effective. 

“It has to have appropriate resources and accountability goals to help families stay... together and avoid deportation without due process,” he said. 

Chavez said the committee will have city hall resources, as well as access to department heads, the city’s attorney’s office and access to his personal office. 

Issues the advisory committee can help address, Chavez said, range from long wait times for international flights at the Fresno International Airport due to an inadequate number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, to offering English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and making citizenship classes more widely available. 

The legal defense fund is an issue the committee could bring back to the table as well, he said. 

Maricela Gutierrez, executive director with Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Services (SIREN), applauded the new committee. 

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” she said. “Our wish and dream is that one day there is actually an office of immigrants and refugee affairs.”

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Gutiérrez: Immigrants hold the power with our vote

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SIREN started the 2019 year in the immigrant and refugees rights movement with the federal government in a partial shutdown, where more than 800,000 federal workers were working without pay due to a failure between President Donald Trump and Congress to compromise over a useless and unnecessary border wall.

And on January 25, after 35 days of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, a budget continuing resolution was passed to open the government for another three weeks — without funding for the border wall.

From the resistance by members of Congress who refused to give in to Trump’s border demands, a major theme rang true — immigrant voters helped put Congress in a position to resist this discriminatory and racist wall.

For the November 2018 midterm elections, we saw record voter turnout among immigrants on the regional, state, and national level. Though SIREN doesn’t engage voters on behalf of candidates, we heard the frustration from voters in those districts where incumbent members of Congress lost.

Our volunteers made more than 80,000 phone calls to Congressional Districts 10 and 21, who were represented by Rep. Jeff Denham and Rep. David Valadao, respectively, this past election. The number one concern voiced by immigrant voters was how Congress wasn’t doing enough for immigrants.

From not protecting immigrant youth by failing to pass a clean DREAM Act to not pushing back against Trump’s draconian immigration executive orders, immigrant voters shared their disapproval for their members of Congress and their empty promises. As a result, the two incumbents lost their congressional seats this past November, along with other incumbents across the state and country.

San Joaquin Valley’s elected officials must stand up for immigrants

San Joaquin Valley’s elected officials must stand up for immigrants


SEPTEMBER 04, 2018 11:47 AM,


Pro-ICE supporter Ben Bergquam, left, and Jaimie Loza, right, who spoke out for immigrant rights, have a heated exchange at the community rally outside the Hall of Records building, Tuesday Aug 8, 2018. The demonstration was held to protest recent arrests by ICE agents at the Fresno County Courthouse.    JOHN WALKER    FRESNO BEE FILE

Pro-ICE supporter Ben Bergquam, left, and Jaimie Loza, right, who spoke out for immigrant rights, have a heated exchange at the community rally outside the Hall of Records building, Tuesday Aug 8, 2018. The demonstration was held to protest recent arrests by ICE agents at the Fresno County Courthouse. JOHN WALKER FRESNO BEE FILE

Since mid-July, Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials have been making arrests at Fresno’s courthouses, violating people’s right to due process and continuing to stoke fear within the immigrant community. It’s no coincidence that Fresno County is home to one of the fiercest in-state critics of California’s sanctuary policies, Sheriff Margaret Mims, who has proudly announced that her deputies and ICE have a strong working relationship. Though she claims that she is complying with state laws, the experience of community members in the Valley proves that there continues to be tight entanglement between her office and ICE. In our daily interactions with the immigrant community, providing legal services and know your rights trainings, we have heard more and more stories about a growing fear of contacting local law enforcement because of legitimate concerns of potential deportation.

The Central Valley is being acutely impacted by Trump’s war on immigrants – so much so that my organization, the Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network is poised to open a new office in Fresno due to increased demand. I have witnessed the plight of immigrants in our community firsthand since I was young. I grew up in the Fresno area as the daughter of immigrant farmworkers, hearing the stories of abusive employers and seeing my family and neighbors racially profiled by police and targeted by ICE. Now, as the executive director of SIREN, an immigrant and refugee rights advocacy organization, I’ve been connecting with many people who have been swept up by ICE in their brutal campaign.

Festival held to honor immigrants and refugees in Central Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 

The drumbeat of the immigration debate got louder in Central Fresno.

Drummers and dancers got things rolling for a festival to mark the opening of the first SIREN office in Fresno, and food vendors kept everybody fed.

After this opening festival, they will turn to serious business.

The Services Immigrant Right and Education Network has helped immigrants out of its San Jose offices for more than 30 years with legal help, and political organizing.

"Right now we're at a crossroads where people want to get us to stop talking, complaining, and just remember that we are a community and this is your house. You have our backs and we have your backs," said Tomas Margain.

Organizers say about 900,000 immigrants live in the Central Valley and half a million native-born children have immigrant parents.

Community Spotlight: Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) in Modern Latina

by Linda Castillo,

Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) was founded by attorneys, immigrant rights activists and advocates over 31 years ago in response to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act to assure that immigrants and refugees in Silicon Valley would have a place to land for legal services, receive support on an advocacy level for those that didn’t receive amnesty. Over the years, SIREN has grown to include policy analysis and advocacy, community education, legal services, civic engagement and community and service provider trainings.

I had a chance to speak with SIREN’s Executive Director, Maricela Gutiérrez. Maricela’s parents came from San Luís Potosí, Mexico over 40 years ago to the Central Valley, California. Growing up in a farm working rural area, she experienced firsthand the economic equity issues that are still apparent today for immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants. She saw the lack of health care, lack of well-paying jobs with benefits and overall lack of resources. She experienced 7 to 8 ICE deportation interactions growing up which formed her view of the world. She always grew up knowing she wanted to do something about it.

New poll finds most parents don’t support arming teachers

New poll finds most parents don’t support arming teachers

The immigrant advocacy group Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN) in San Jose has been fielding more concerns about immigration raids than in the past. Children are worried about their parents being deported, said executive director Maricela Gutierrez, which can make it hard for them to focus in class. Some school districts have even seen a decrease in student attendance, she said, after high-profile raids.

“It’s going to have long-term effects on how our children are seeing our government,” she said, “and the distrust they are building in our federal government.”

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We Demand a Clean Dream Act

SIREN has been working relentlessly for a Clean Dream Act. Just this past week, SIREN leaders were in Washington, DC along with hundreds of other activists in the largest showing of civil disobedience in immigrant rights history. Maricela Gutierrez, SIREN’s Executive Director, was arrested in Washington, DC as she and hundreds of immigrant rights leaders demonstrated their unwavering commitment to fight for justice.

While SIREN staff and youth leaders represented Northern California in Washington, DC to fight for a #CleanDREAMAct, SIREN also led an action in Modesto with partners at Rep. Jeff Denham's office in Modesto. We delivered nearly 1,000 postcards and sang some holiday carols to support a CLEAN DREAM Act before the end of the year!

Here are two news articles about SIREN’s advocacy efforts:

Mercury News, 12/6/2017
Immigration activists push Congress to act on DACA

Daily Kos, 12/6/2017
Two members of Congress among the over 200 demonstrators arrested in support of Dreamers