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By Sharifa Wilson                                Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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March 13, 2019                          EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon




Pacific Islanders attend a workshop
Photo courtesy of Sharifa Wilson 
Over 100 participants from the Pacific Islander community are shown at a ommunity-wide immigration workshop in East Palo Alto in February 2019.


Pacific Islanders make up almost 10% of the community and have immigration issues that are similar to those of many other immigrants in our local communities.

East Palo Alto has been home to the Pacific Islander community for many years. The diversity can be seen every day, on almost every block, at every community gathering and in classrooms throughout the city. Samoans, Tongans and Fijians are the largest groups and they make up nearly 10% of the community.  The nonprofit organization One East Palo Alto recognized the need to provide support to these  families and it a formed a team to address this issue. A Pacific Islander Know Your Rights Initiative (PIKYRI) was launched in 2017.

A major accomplishment of PIKYRI was the convening of two community-wide immigration workshops focused on Know Your Rights” and “ Visas and Citizenship Resources”. Over 100 Pacific Islanders (PI) attended these forums, and they were provided general information regarding current administration immigration policy.

They also learned of their constitutional rights and the state and local protections that are currently in place. Speakers included Congresswoman Jackie Speier, California Assemblyman Marc Berman, and San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum as well as local representatives from police departments and schools.

Afternoon sessions offered culturally specific individual and small group meetings with attorneys from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA) and International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA).  

With funds from the CZI Community Fund, a Pacific Islander Resource & Referral Center opened in East Palo Alto this February. The center is located at 903 Weeks Street – and operated by the Multicultural Counseling & Educational Services of the Bay Area (MCESBA). The center will serve as a hub for members of the Pacific Islander community and is designed to provide bilingual advocacy, immigration and case management services to immigrant constituents . Services will be provided Tuesday 1:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m. and Thursday 1:30 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. The center is reachable by phone at 650-630-0692.

The Resource & Referral Center will coordinate an “Immigration Forum” in April. The forum will be held on Saturday, April 6 from  1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Ravenswood Middle School, which is located at 2450 Ralmar Ave, in East Palo Alto.

The forum will focus on citizenship and visa renewals and provide an opportunity for consultations with immigration attorneys.  These consultation sessions are valuable in increasing an understanding of strategies that can be used by families to adjust their immigration status.  This free event is  open to any one, who is  interested in learning more about how to permanently address their immigration issues.

The author of this article, Sharifa Wilson, can be contacted by email at epatoday@epatoday.org