“Liberty and Justice for All” – these are words we don’t always associate with this administration’s immigration policy. But Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Immigration Attorney Ali Saidi informed and inspired a large crowd in El Sobrante on January 27 about “Immigration Realities” and the new, innovative Stand Together CoCo immigrant rapid-response program. Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond hosted the talk, which was attended by local political leaders, community members, and representatives of progressive groups including Indivisible East Bay and CA-11 Team United.

Saidi outlined Stand Together CoCo, which will officially begin on March 1 and will provide wide-ranging education and support services and some legal consultation and services. Among these services:

  • Paid community responders will staff a 24/7 hotline to verify and provide accurate information about immigration-related activities reported in the community.
  • Team members will be dispatched when necessary to respond to reports of ICE raids.
  • Legal observers will document and collect data.
  • Community Supporters will provide immediate support to families and individuals who have been targeted or detained.
  • When possible, lawyers will meet with detainees (at present, there is funding for only three lawyers).

The program will also hold education and support events all over the county, including Know Your Rights, legal consultation and services, workshops for people detained in the West County Detention Facility, clinical consultations, and training for trainers/leadership development.

The audience was eager to hear how it could help, and Saidi provided a Volunteer Interest Form with a variety of ways community members can step up to support  immigrant neighbors and friends. The volunteer program, which is being administered primarily by Catholic Charities of the East Bay, is looking for people interested in conducting Know Your Rights presentations or helping with outreach to spread the word about immigrant rights and the hotline; presenters to assist at community meetings; supporters who can accompany people to ICE appointments or help them find resources; and more.

If you want to volunteer to help, please fill out the online volunteer application. Have questions? You can email Joseline Gonzalez Soriano, Stand Together CoCo’s Interim Coordinator, for information. More info will be posted soon on the Catholic Charities’ website.

You can also help by spreading the word about Stand Together CoCo and other rapid response networks. See this list of networks in California to report ICE activity and enforcement. To report ICE action in Contra Costa before March 1, contact Alameda County’s rapid response program, ACILEP, at 510-241-4011.  

Saidi, whose family moved from Tehran, Iran, to Los Angeles when he was five years old, recalled that he didn’t really understand the Pledge of Allegiance when he said it in school for the first time, but he liked the sound of the final words: “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Saidi encouraged the audience to work for “liberty and justice for all,” and emphasized that the words are not a description of what America is but of what it might be – and that “pledge” means committing to putting in the work to reach the goal. We at Indivisible East Bay could not agree more.

Photograph of Ali Saidi by Judy Weatherly,  Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond 
Judith Tannenbaum contributed to this article. Judith is a writer and teacher. Her books include Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.

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