Our Neighbors, Living In Fear


“Despite being a nation of immigrants, America has always been ambivalent about immigration,” said Santa Barbara Foundation CEO Ron Gallo as he welcomed representatives from 20 grantee organizations that provide services to immigrant communities. “That it’s a recurring struggle doesn’t mean everything’s going to necessarily turn out okay. It means that it is our turn and our responsibility to fight for an American narrative of hope and inclusion. For the foundation this begins with mobilizing collective wisdom – that’s you.”

With immigrants making up nearly a quarter of Santa Barbara County’s population, new immigration enforcement priorities and expanded detention and deportation policies are causing social, economic, and health impacts throughout the county, affecting families, communities, and employers. On the Central Coast, immigrants make up almost one third of our workforce and contribute 27 percent of our GDP.

According to many frontline service providers, such as Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People and Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara, it is apparent that Santa Barbara County’s immigrant communities are under duress.

Widespread fear and instability have resulted in a decrease in individuals and families accessing education, health, and other safety net services; a drop in crime reporting, including for sexual assault and domestic violence; and an increase in abuse by landlords, employers and others seeking to capitalize on people’s fears. Sadly, numerous participants also reported increased schoolyard bullying based on race.

Organized as a learning session in lieu of a final report submission, the convening was both a real-time information exchange and an opportunity to forge future collaborations. Attendees shared their information and experience on five immigrant community challenge areas:

Attendees included representatives from the following SBF Funded Partners:

Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara
Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Maria Valley
Carpinteria Children’s Project
Channel Islands YMCA
Child Abuse Listening and Mediation
Community Action Commission
Council of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (CADA)
Cuyama Valley Family Resource Center
Domestic Violence Solutions
Family Service Agency
Future Leaders of America
Girls Inc. of Santa Barbara
Isla Vista Youth Project
Just Communities Central Coast
New Beginnings
Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics
Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People
The Fund for Santa Barbara
Youth Interactive

In an effort to share information and collectively learn what is happening in the community, prior gatherings hosted by The Fund for Santa Barbara and Legal Aid Foundation have included nonprofit and government community service providers, law enforcement, local immigrant rights advocates, and immigration legal service providers.

When something affects a quarter of our population, the ripples touch everyone. One family represented at the meeting described how their attempts to do things right – to remedy one family member’s legal status – turned into an ongoing nightmare of detention, deportation, and desperation as the family was torn apart and financially devastated.

While immigration is indeed a complex and controversial subject in the US, Santa Barbara Foundation Community Investment Officer Guille Gil-Reynoso sees nothing controversial in supporting organizations that support immigrant communities. “There aren’t many luxuries in the nonprofit world, but we do have the luxury of erring on the side of compassion – we need to feed hungry children. We need to help people get medical care. We need to ease suffering and fear. Our mission is about people and communities.”

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