SVCF’s support for programs serving immigrants is more important than ever

Manuel Santamaria
Manuel Santamaria

Since 2009, one of SVCF’s highest institutional priorities has been helping thousands of immigrants in our region to gain access to citizenship and legal services, and to better economic opportunities through English language acquisition.

By supporting community colleges, adult schools and nonprofits, SVCF has helped more than 11,500 students improve their English skills. Every year, approximately 70 percent of students in the courses we funded increased their English language abilities. In addition, approximately half of the students who completed English courses pursued higher-level courses. This means immigrants were better equipped to enter the workforce and take advantage of opportunities that could potentially lead to higher wages. We also increased the capacity of 15 of the largest legal services providers in our region, enabling them to assist more than 40,000 immigrants in their pursuit of citizenship and community engagement.

We are proud of these accomplishments – but we know there is much more to do. On Nov. 14, less than a week after the presidential election, SVCF convened more than 90 leaders from local government, school districts and immigrant-serving organizations. These leaders expressed a collective urgency to address the growing anxiety and fear of deportation among immigrants living in our region. We also heard about the growing number of reports of children in our schools who are scared their families will be torn apart.

Why investing in immigration issues makes sense

SVCF believes in sustaining a community of inclusivity and acceptance. After all, in Silicon Valley more than one-third of the 2.5 million residents of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are immigrants, almost two thirds of those younger than 18 are children of immigrants – and nearly half of our workforce is foreign-born.  These immigrants add to our economy and cultural life and – regardless of immigration status – they are woven into the fabric of our communities.

In the “What’s at Stake for the State” report by the Center of the Study of Immigrant Integration, the authors write that California’s and Silicon Valley’s futures are tied to immigrants’ success. Their report asserts that if the state’s more than 2.6 million undocumented individuals were to be authorized and become citizens, the change would inject an annual boost of more than $4.5 billion into the California economy.  Similarly, a National Foundation for American Policy study shows that immigrants started more than half of U.S- startup companies valued at $1billion or more, including companies in Silicon Valley like Palantir Technologies, Zenefits, Uber, Google, and Yahoo, to name a few.

Clearly, immigration will remain a topic of national debate. And as we hear how programs such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – which helps young, undocumented immigrants receive provisional two-year work permits – are now threatened with termination, SVCF believes its work to support immigrants is more important than ever. Our region’s continued prosperity and quality of life depend on our ability to create communities that honor shared values of family, hard work and opportunity for all. SVCF is committed to supporting those communities and to working with partners who share our commitment.