Kiwanis Club, Pueblo de San Jose’s President introduced Ms. Teresa Castellanos, Coordinator, Immigrant Relations & Integration Services (IRIS), County of Santa Clara, as the keynote speaker of their meeting on August 12.
Ms. Castellanos began her presentation by asking those present “What is it that you want to learn about IRIS?” She took notes and responded to each and every concern during her presentation. What all learned was an entirely new perspective about the “Immigration Issues”. According to Castellanos, the current ‘broken system’ has not happened because of neglect by many stakeholders. The largest undocumented immigrant population in the County of Santa Clara are those who entered this nation legally using an H-!B visa which has expired. These undocumented individuals come mainly from India and China.
“I do not understand why mainstream media focuses upon the undocumented Mexican immigrant when there exist a very large diverse group of immigrants here in this county. It is these folks who are ‘creative hard workers’ whose efforts have benefitted many high tech firms located here. A very diverse immigrant population exists in this county, which is one of the main reasons why Silicon Valley is the creative innovative center of the American/global economy. Many of these undocumented individuals entered America via Canada, the Carribean Islands, and directly from Europe, Asia, or South America. Yet mainstream media consistently presents the undocumented immigrant news as if only Mexicans, Central or South America were the major source of immigrants. That is not so.”
IRIS was established 18 years ago by the Board of Supervisors, County of Santa Clara. It was created to assist those immigrants who make up one-third of the current population of the County of Santa Clara. And their children are beginning to make up the second one-third of the local population.
This group impacts the local school system (education) and the health care systems. And those skilled workers, who are recruited by local commercial interests, are janitors, high-tech skilled workers, farm workers, and health care service workers whose visas expire, and therefore these become part ot the ‘undocumented statistics’ which many erroneously consider to be 100% Mexican or Latino.
“Our nation’s population is an immigrant population’ whose work product and services benefit the local commercial establishments,” said Castellanos.
The unaccompanied children who surrender to the border patrol is a phenomenon which has been going on for years, but only recently at very high numbers. The current 57,000 is projected to become 90,000 in the next few years. Understand that those from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatamala are refugees trying to escape Cartels and gangs in these areas where past American foreign policy destabilized the local society and its governance. And many are kids whose adult parents came to America to work and left their kids in the care of other family members.
Bob Bravo, a retired correctional officer, said, “It is ridiculous to ask a 10 year old child to provide information which establishes that child as a refugee. Those kids do not have the information nor reasoning capability to represent themeslves properly before a court judge. And neither do those lawyers who are being recruited to represent those kids as their clients. Those kids are not capable of being criminals.”
“Many come here to work because America has been involved in Mexico, Central America and South America with foreign policies which destabilize their governments or their economy. So basically, we have created this current humanitarian challenge. One way to deal with the illegal drug trade which the Cartels operate is to have domestic programs which reduce the market for illegal drugs,” said Gloria Torres.
An extensive discussion followed wherein at least seven individuals related their personal childhood story of being brought to America without “papers”. Many just tagged along as small children with the adults who had obtained legal entry documents.
The discussion revealed that the challenges of dealing with immigrants impacts local schools (education system), health & medical care services; social and mental health services; the local work force; and as a result the local economy. Many entrepreneurs exploit the undocumented worker and do their best to ensure that the immigration issues are not resolved.
Maria Cruz said, “Do not forget that our U.S. Congress has done nothing to resolve this complex situation. Many proposals made by specific congress members are simply political propaganda. They are not aware of the human misery.”