SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — In light of the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.- Mexico border, local officials in Sonoma County are working to provide adequate legal and mental health services for its undocumented residents.
As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact the county’s Latino, BIPOC, and indigenous language-speaking community, Sonoma County’s Secure Families Collaborative has been at the forefront in providing assistance.
To help their efforts, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) presented the collaborative with a $250,000 grant to continue to provide needed legal and social services for the underserved.
“It goes back to the larger ethic of our people and that is to take care of one another, do what you can with what you have,” said Greg Sarris, Chairman of FIGR.
“We haven’t forgotten how when we didn’t have much legal representation, we had no money at one point.”
The Sonoma County Secure Families Collaborative is a public-private partnership that has been serving those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those who are in a precarious position legally.
The grant will go towards the collaborative’s fund which provides services for asylum applicants, also known as “Dreamers” and others who are in need of legal assistance.
“The pandemic has been catastrophic to Sonoma County, we were still recovering from the fires,” said Margaret Flores McCabe, Executive Director for the Sonoma County Secure Families Collaborative.
“The undocumented immigrants were three times more likely to be adversely impacted by COVID, they were also deemed essential workers, so they were still going to work during the height of the pandemic and therefore had a really high infection rate,” Flores McCabe added.
“But it is also that they were ineligible for federal benefits.”
Flores McCabe says although more people have been getting vaccinated the county’s undocumented community continues to face challenges with housing, food security, mental health.
“We’ve been able to disperse the funds among partners and build this really strong collaborative to be able to address the various needs with immigration legal services, said Flores McCabe.
“Because we do know that many of these undocumented immigrants have pathway to citizenship they just do not have the resources to be able to pay for those services.”
The collaborative also meets the needs of the immigrant community’s increased challenges due to changes in federal immigration policy.
The pandemic brought many challenges for the collaborative and it’s team to continue to serve its undocumented community.
Mariana Monreal who serves as the Community Access Navigator for the collaborative “Humanidad Therapy and Education Services” says the biggest challenge has been trying to best assist individuals virtually.
“Essentially any funding we receive is a way to be able to support our community that do not have access to care or mental health services,” said Monreal.
“This will allow us to create capacity building in ways of hiring more bilingual, bicultural therapists, to be able to facilitate and provide more support groups, being able to come out with more programs that would support our communities and more programs that would really provide services to all families.”
FIGR has been a strong supporter of Sonoma County Secure Families Collaborative Fund since its inception, contributing more than $300,000 over the few years.
Since then, the Collaborative partners, including VIDAS Legal Services, University of San Francisco Law School’s Immigration and Deportation Clinic and Catholic Charities, have worked to provide free legal immigration services to local immigrant families across Sonoma County.
The Collaborative has assisted more than 600 Sonoma County community members in the last two years and provided culturally appropriate mental health services.