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Local businesses and social groups join forces to aid immigration reform

Leaders from local business and social services came together Thursday in a virtual discussion to talk about the importance of immigrants and immigration reform in Sonoma County.

The conference, hosted by Latino business and leadership organization Los Cien and Sonoma County’s Secure Families Collaborative, was the first in a series of discussions hosted by the two organizations which have come together to support immigration reform.

The Zoom event, called “Immigration Reform at the Crossroad - Sonoma County Impacts and Response,” was moderated by Lisa Carreño, the CEO of the United Way of the Wine Country and a Los Cien board member.

Immigrants part of the social fabric of community

Oscar Pardo, co-Chair of Los Cien, said that the plight of local immigrants should matter to everyone, since immigrants are part of the social fabric of Sonoma County.

“This community is the work base for a county that depends almost exclusively of agriculture, hospitality and tourism to sustain its economy. We don’t need to see in-depth to know that without the work, sweat and effort of the migrant community, and specifically the Latino community, the County of Sonoma would be in ruins.”

“[It’s] not just political power but economic power and money speaks,” United Way’s Carreño said, mentioning that 40% of the immigrants in the country live in California. ¨But for our immigrant community here in the state of California we wouldn't function, we wouldn't be the number five or six economy in the world and somehow that message has to be communicated to senators.”

Immigration can be traumatic

All the benefits of immigration came come with a cost to new immigrants’ mental health, said Nubia Padilla, executive director of Humanidad Therapy and Education Services, a nonprofit counseling service in Santa Rosa.

“You don't even have the identity that you used to have,” Padilla said. “There is a broad process of personal loss and you lose identity, family and friends. You always have to start over.”

Many immigrants already come with issues that need to be recognized and nurtured, Padilla said. Loneliness and a lack of a sense of belonging often does great harm, she said.

“I can’t tell you how important it is to create and have an environment where you feel that you belong. That's something that would be very important if as a community all of us across the community can come together and make that person feel welcome,” Padilla said.

Keeping the pressure on

Nithya Nathan‑Pineau, policy attorney and strategist who works in Washington for the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a policy advocacy group, said that immigrant residents, due to their numbers and work, are a priority for the state. She added that this is the reason the issues with the Dreamers and agricultural workers are important

“I think the more that senators hear from constituents the more that they will feel the pressure, the more that they will feel that this is a priority issue,” Nathan-Pineau said.

Margaret Flores McCabe, executive director of Secure Familiies Collaborative, agreed that now, under Biden, is the right time to help advance real immigration reform.

“But we see right now it's such a fragile situation in terms of immigration as you see that from one administration to another, so we're fearful that the pendulum could swing back,” McCabe said. “It's really important for all of us to engage, to become involved and to really commit ourselves to assisting undocumented immigrants.”

You can see the entire “Immigration Reform at the crossroads; Sonoma County impacts and response” conference at Los Cien’s Facebook page here.

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