Rapid Response Network formed to assist immigrants

REGION — Five civil rights organizations have teamed up to form the San Diego Rapid Response Network to assist immigrants.

Alor Calderon, a steering committee member of the Rapid Response Network and director of the Employee Rights Center, said the nexus was formed in response to aggressive and dehumanizing enforcement activities.

Calderon said immigrants have faced increased checkpoints, raids, arrests and harassment since November 2017. He said the president’s promises of a border wall and immigration ban has sparked unnecessary forceful actions by immigration services.

“On a daily basis we’re on the phone with people going to court and dealing with it,” Calderon said.

The nonprofit groups involved in the network are the San Diego Organizing Project, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Employee Rights Center, Jewish Family Service of San Diego and SEIU Local 221. They bring together nonpartisan community voice, litigation, union representation, individual empowerment and employee representation.

The organizations have independently addressed immigration issues for decades. Together they are pooling resources to respond to family separation issues and unresolved undocumented immigration issues.

Calderon said he is not against reasonable immigration efforts that target criminals. Unfortunately, current efforts are separating family members for noncriminal offenses, sending them back across the border and creating social and economic problems for family members in the U.S.

“The harshness is a complete overkill with cruel consequences,” Calderon said.

Calderon said people are being detained at the border because they are related to someone who is undocumented or did not answer a border agent’s question correctly. He added these practices were unheard of before.

“People who were not fearful are being detained and are now fearful,” Calderon said. “There’s a high number of people dealing with this, and it looks like it’s going to get worse.”

Calderon said increased arrests and detainments are not targeting those with a criminal record. Instead immigrants who live and work in the U.S. are being unfairly harassed.

He said this includes DACA students, who are not respected by authorities. Examples include young people being detained and fingerprinted for loitering, or nervously answering questions.

“Dreamers were brought here as children beyond their choice, why would you go there?” Calderon asked.

To support the rights of undocumented immigrants a 24-hour hotline has been set up. The call center documents aggressive enforcement, provides emergency assistance and connects people with resources.

Calderon said real change will come about with comprehensive immigration reform.

For now, California has become a sanctuary state and is more independent of the federal government. 

San Diego County cities are taking a range of actions. Some are adopting resolutions that welcome everyone to the city. Others are accepting additional funds to enforce immigration laws.

Formation of the Rapid Response Network was announced at a public meeting in San Diego on Dec. 19.  Calderon said about 150 people attended and welcomed efforts.

Since then flyers and posters have been shared throughout the county to inform people of the network’s 24-hour hotline and services. Calderon said the network’s goal is to provide rapid response, collect data, educate people and better serve undocumented individuals in San Diego County.

“We all have rights,” Calderon said.

Rapid Response Networks are in place in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco.

To report immigration checkpoints, raids, arrests and harassment the San Diego Rapid Response Network hotline number is (619) 536-0823.

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