LA History Museum panelists offer thoughts on immigration


For Ayindé Rudolph, the solution to citizenship for the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States is creating pathways.

The Mountain View Whisman School District superintendent was one of four speakers at last week’s Los Altos History Museum-sponsored immigration panel that also included Mary Dutcher, an immigration attorney; William Lambert, Day Worker Center of Mountain View board president; and Angelica, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals representative whose last name is being withheld to protect her identity.

The panelists gave their take on how immigration has affected them and their respective community positions, and solutions they may see to the increasingly fearful political climate that has been exacerbated by recent Immigration Customs Enforcement raids.

“We can create a pathway for a model to be a citizen, but we can’t create a pathway for teachers who are coming from the Philippines,” Rudolph said of his own proposed solution. “We can’t create pathways for our workers who are doing jobs that none of us would be able to do. … It baffles me how we can figure out how to place people on the moon and yet we can’t figure out how to solve this problem.”

Living in the shadows

The problem hit closest to home for Angelica, who has been living in the area with an undocumented status. Angelica said she is fortunate to have DACA, which has allowed her to get an education and work. She currently works with other undocumented immigrant youth, guiding them through higher education and other necessary resources.

But even with a stable job and an education, there is no pathway for Angelica to become a citizen – she must continue to live in part in the shadows.

“I’m in a position of privilege because I do have DACA, so I am able to work, but I still feel like a first priority in terms of deportation,” she said. “For students who also don’t have any opportunity for a pathway to citizenship, they’re also feeling like a priority. … We say anybody can get an education, but it’s hard when you’re living in fear to just step out of your house.”

Growing fear

Lambert, who is also a former board member of the Mountain View Whisman School District, drew on his expertise from his position to look toward a regional solution.

“In Mountain View, one thing that could easily be done – and being involved in the school district for so long and (seeing) how the different communities are arranged socioeconomically and ethnically in different ways – is that we can have our city councils represent communities rather than citywide,” he suggested.

Rudolph also spoke to his involvement at the Mountain View Whisman School District, where 32.1 percent of students receive free and reduced lunch.

“I think the impact that we’ve seen is that in our district, we’re noticing that there is a palpable fear of filling out information that can actually help individuals,” he said. “We don’t see individuals filling out free and reduced lunch (applications), and we’ve even gotten to the point where kids refuse to take lunches because they’re afraid that that will label them as someone to be targeted.”

And the fear, Rudolph said, is growing. To calm that fear, all of the panelists recommended one solution: education.

“As the amount of education goes up, the level of fear goes down,” Dutcher said. “Try and find a way to meet immigrants, because I think that face-to-face meeting really helps lessen fear, as well it really humanizes.”

Angelica added that along with education, people should get involved. She mentioned the Rapid Response Network, which trains individuals to quickly respond to calls about possible ICE raids. Rapid responders can confirm that ICE is in the area, as well as counsel individuals about their rights.

The panel concluded with Rudolph suggesting that people get involved with the upcoming census as a way of calming fears in their own neighborhoods.

“In California, we are in jeopardy of losing a lot of money because every person actually counts,” he said of those who might not want to reveal themselves to census takers. “We’re going to lose billions of dollars in revenues that will come from the federal government, and we all can easily solve that (by helping) people understand that this is just a natural part of things that happen all the time and that the census doesn’t lead to anything else.”

The March 22 panel complemented the Los Altos History Museum’s current exhibition, “Traveling Stitches: Quilts Made at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View,” on display at the J. Gilbert Smith House Gallery through April 29.

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