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, ModernLatina.com

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.”

Read More

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