The popularity of Ancestor.com shows that we are naturally curious to know where we came from and who we are and where others came from. That the United States is a nation of immigrants is often obvious. Immigration is in the news right now and most of us living here descend from relatives who came from somewhere else.
As we struggle as a nation whether to be open and welcoming to those escaping from tyranny and poverty, we celebrate the month of June as National Immigrant Heritage Month. This month was set aside for remembrance of the many brave and courageous people who risked everything to seek refuge in this country. It also honors the contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to our country. One of the most obvious ones seen in rural areas in California is the work being done by farmworkers, many of whom are here undocumented.
SLO County Undocu Support formed in April 2020 to assist undocumented immigrants. Funded by grants from multiple organizations and the San Luis Obispo Community Foundation, this nonprofit has four pillars established as their focus areas: Aid for Urgent Critical Needs, Integrated and Streamlined Access to and delivery of services for undocumented and other immigrants, System Change, and Fiscal and Operational Sustainability.
Since forming, SLO County Undocu Support has raised more than $350,000 and disbursed these funds through collaborative grantees to more than 600 families in 17 communities. They have also held focus groups bringing together organizations involved in answering the needs of the undocumented population.
With an estimated more than 9000 undocumented individuals living and working in San Luis Obispo County, this group strives to provide resources, support, and advocacy to put into effect true system change. Through community partners that act as grantees funds are sent directly to needy people. Efforts are also focused on strengthening the work of existing providers to fill the gaps in aid, reduce duplication of efforts, and facilitate collaboration to serve more families efficiently.
System change within the government moves slowly and Undocu Support acts in a leadership way of coalition building to influence policy and decision makers. As influential leaders they focus their efforts to raise their voices to help immigrants become more influential leaders. Funding is provided supporting advocacy groups and emerging change-makers. Education and increasing community awareness of the issues surrounding immigration is of prime importance. Access to resources for legal aid and other immigration services are provided. Maintaining fiscal sustainability to provide uninterrupted funding for the cash aid program, advocacy support, and general operating funds as well as providing secure staffing require fundraising activities.
In a recent podcast Chelsea Ruiz, program manager of Undocu Support, reported that they are working on developing a Resource Hub consisting of a formal coalition of organizations that would meet regularly to have a unified voice to advocate for the undocumented community.
Ruiz also spoke about the Community Services Workshops held throughout the county offering presentations from organizations such as United Way, CAPSLO, SLO Legal Assistance Foundation, SLO District Attorney office, the Food Bank, and other organizations such as Allies for Immigration Justice. Undocumented individuals attend safely to learn about these services, fill out appropriate applications for aid such as United Way’s Farmworker Relief Payments, or to sign up for CalFresh benefits. Two workshops were held in May, one in Paso Robles and one in Los Osos. Plans are for three more workshops to be held and all to be completed by October 31.
Volunteers are always needed, and anyone interested can contact Ruiz at UndocuSupport@cfslo.org or call 805-543-2323 ext. 109. Undocumented individuals and others interested can access more information at www.sloundocusupport.org available in both English and Spanish.
Folks can listen to the podcast at www.losososcares.org and www.yeswecanpeacebuilders.org.