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By EPA Today Staff Writer                        Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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March 7, 2017                   
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East Palo Alto police officer speak at meetings
Audience members in the Costaño/49er Academy gym in East Palo Alto listen to law enforcement officials respond to questions regarding their immigration concerns on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Photo courtesy of Duane Goff.

The Ravenswood City School District had a community meeting at the Costaño/49er Academy to inform and reassure members of the East Palo Alto immigrant community. On Thursday, March 2, more than 200 local residents showed up to listen to representatives from national, county and city agencies to allay fears and inform the community on the processes that are followed and the policy to not assist federal ICE agents.

On hand to explain to the attendees and answer questions were Superintendent Dr. Gloria Hernandez-Goff of the Ravenswood City School District, Commander Jeff Liu of the East Palo Alto Police Department, Commander William A. Dixon of the Menlo Park Police Department, Deputy Victor Perez of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, and from Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office were her District Director Brian Perkins and staff member Estefani Morales-Zanoletti. Ms. Morales-Zanoletti is bilingual in Spanish and is focused on the issue of immigration and helping EPA residents navigate the bureaucracy.

In addition, Iliana Rodriguez, Director of the San Mateo County Human Services Agency and Luisa Buada, Chief Executive Officer of the Ravenswood Family Health Center were present to inform the attendees of the vital supportive services being provided by their individual agencies.

The law enforcement officers explained how and when they get involved with someone who has immigration issues. They agreed that the simple fact is that if a person breaks State or County laws, law enforcement will be called to address the issue. If a person is arrested and booked into jail, they will be fingerprinted. That is when ICE can become aware of the immigrant’s location and status. Attendees were advised that if they obeyed the law, it would greatly decrease the possibility that ICE would come looking for them.

District Director Brian Perkins told the audience what Congresswoman Speiers is doing to help those residents caught between an outdated immigration program and the ICE officers responsible for enforcing it. A significant aspect of her office’s support is the assignment of Ms. Morales-Zanoletti, who helps immigrant communities in Congresswoman Speier’s district by meeting in small groups or with individuals. In some cases she has been able to help constituents by bringing an immigration attorney. Ms. Morales-Zanoletti encouraged attendees to call her if they needed help with immigration issues at 650-342-0300.

Dr. Hernandez-Goff told the audience the Ravenswood School District has been especially busy assuring parents of the district's policy since the elections in November. She explained, in detail, what the District is doing to maintain confidentiality of all Ravenswood parents and students.

She said that she is planning to hold more meetings to address immigrant issues, in light of the uncertainty of what the government will be doing as regards immigration enforcement and reform. She is also planning to invite other immigrant groups to participate in future community meetings.

At the end of the meeting, the audience was told, if they needed additional information, that they should call Congresswoman Speier’s office at 650-342-0300 and ask for Ms. Morales-Zanoletti. All inquiries about future community meetings can be directed to the Ravenswood City School district at 650-329-2800.