To combat Trump, Silicon Valley is helping its immigrants become citizens

A nation of immigrants faces an uncertain future under Trump.
A nation of immigrants faces an uncertain future under Trump.
Image: Reuters/Mike Blake
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Even though Donald Trump is married to an immigrant, his inauguration as US president has many of America’s transplants on edge. Now some Silicon Valley locales are enacting measures to combat that anxiety. 

During his campaign, Trump vowed to eject 11 million undocumented immigrants from the US, to build a wall along the Mexican border, and to implement refugee-vetting procedures that could make it near-impossible for Muslims to enter the country. Even though House speaker Paul Ryan said this week that Trump would focus on criminals over “nice” immigrants, many in America and abroad are preparing for the worst.

Some of those preparations took shape in California this week. The government of Santa Clara county, where San Jose is located, announced plans to not only combat any measures geared at punishing immigrants, but to help immigrants become citizens through education initiatives and other outreach.

“It is essential that we enable ourselves to collectively respond to this as a community, because we don’t know what is going to happen after Jan. 20,” said San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo during a City Council meeting on Jan. 10. That same day, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed a formal resolution to protect foreigners, communicate immigrant rights, and provide citizenship information through an educational campaign. The board is also considering providing legal aid for immigration cases.

Immigrants make up more than a third of the population in Santa Clara county, a greater share than in notorious melting pots like Los Angeles and New York City.

“This is personal for me because my parents immigrated to this country, and my husband did as well,” said San Jose councilwoman Sylvia Arenas at the council meeting. “This city is a beacon for diversity. We can show the world how immigrant communities can live together.”

California’s public schools are also contemplating protections for foreign students. The state’s superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson, on Dec. 21 encouraged all public schools to be declared “safe havens” for students and their parents, urging education officials to remind families that students’ records are protected from immigration-status scrutiny.

“Unfortunately, since the presidential election, reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of K-12 students based on immigration status, religious, or ethnic identification are on the rise,” Torlakson wrote in a letter to district superintendents, charter school administrators, and principals across California.

The school district in nearby Alameda County—just across the bridge from San Francisco, and home to Oakland—is also considering a proposal to adopt sanctuary status. A draft resolution proposed earlier this month would ask trustees in the district to prevent, “to the maximum extent possible,” US immigration agents from visiting school premises without the written permission of the school superintendent.

Students in Alameda come from around the world and speak 72 different languages, so locals are understandably tense about what a Trump presidency will mean for them. And they’re not alone.