The power of community
Redwood City creates a strong community in light of immigration struggles
February 5, 2020
While Latinx immigration has been a significant discussion across the U.S., one town in Northern California fosters a welcoming community.
In Redwood City, immigrants find a safe haven. The town offers many resources, and people can find a home in a new country.
“It has been a hub for most of our immigrant families that have come either legally or illegally to the country,” said Moises Lopez, a resident and group facilitator in Redwood City.
According to a 2017 tabulation by the Pew Research Center, 26% of U.S. Hispanics live in California. Furthermore, 38.8% of Redwood City residents are Latinx, according to a 2010 U.S. census survey. Because of this, the community has had to accommodate its diverse population.
Leaving the past
For a long time, Latin America has struggled with underlying issues. Poverty, food shortages, and gang violence have been widespread due to inflation and corrupt governments.
The problems in Latin America have led people to make their way into the United States. However, the U.S. has taken actions to prevent this transition.
In 2016, Donald Trump was elected as the U.S. president. One of his main goals was to build a wall on the southern U.S. border to prevent immigrants from migrating to the U.S. from Latin America. He has also initiated more violent methods to prevent illegal immigration, such as spreading tear gas around the southern border to prevent people from entering the country.
“Here’s the bottom line: nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally,” Trump said when speaking of the tear gas incident.
Trump also wanted to crack down on the undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.; this caused immigration fears for many.
“I have noticed that people are more scared to come out and are more cautious … There are always lots of rumors when something is going on,” said Thomas Garcia, a longtime Redwood City resident.
Throughout 2019, Trump initiated raids to deport undocumented immigrants, feeding into this fear.
“There was a lot of almost hysteria when all of a sudden a raid or something would happen,” said Stephanie Kaufman, a local family therapist.
Taking in the future
While this chaos weakened the spirits of many, stable communities used the situation to strengthen their bonds. Redwood City was one of these stable communities that made it their mission to stick together and support one another.
“We’re always striving to improve what’s not working. At the same time, we are embracing change, embracing new families that arise,” Lopez said.
Redwood City is considered a “Welcoming City,” meaning that it has joined the Welcoming America network. Cities in this network are open to all people, including immigrants and refugees.
The story of Redwood City is one of many happening across the nation. A couple of other Welcoming America cities include Houston, Texas, and Boise, Idaho.
Immigrants can also find services through the Redwood City website. It includes a section for immigrant resources, where one could find resources for finding jobs, legal services, social services, and food. Redwood City also advertises its services outside of the internet.
“[Community members] even put flyers [to bring awareness on immigration] in my restaurant so people can ask questions or take a flyer freely if they are scared,” Garcia said.
One of the schools in the city, Adelante Selby, is bilingual and follows a Spanish immersion program where the school teaches some classes in English and some in Spanish. Additionally, one of the local public middle schools, Kennedy Middle School, offers a similar program. Lopez feels strongly that the bilingual programs allow the diverse population to connect and interact.
“It has provided an opportunity for us to continue bringing up our biculturalism and helps us stay rooted in our Hispanic heritage,” Lopez said.
Anne Lynch has been a resident of Redwood City for 20 years and is a parent to kids who have graduated from Adelante Selby. The school holds a festival every holiday season that she and her kids often attend.
“It is this celebration of the holidays. It was always so awesome to go to that and see the two cultures together. The native and non-native Spanish speakers coming together for a full celebration,” Lynch said.
Ultimately, the community has united against immigration fears. Most of the immigrants have likely come to the U.S. with similar stories to tell. However, their individuality has led to the creation of a diverse community.
“[The immigrants] are all in a very similar situation. Basically, they are here because whatever was happening in their home countries made them feel that they had to find either a safer or better life in the U.S.,” Kaufman said. “The common drive was overcoming and leaving something that was not working for you … A lot of them have a very similar story of what they are looking for, and they definitely come together around that.”