San Francisco Rapid Response Network Honored with Immigrant Leadership Award

The San Francisco Rapid Response Network, which is in part coordinated by the Justice & Diversity Center’s (JDC) immigration team, was honored at the 2018 Immigrant Leadership Awards on Monday, June 11. The event, held at San Francisco City Hall, was part of June’s Immigrant Heritage Month celebrations and hosted by the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission and the San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA).

From left, JDC’s Avantika Shastri, BASF/JDC’s Carole Conn, and June Williams, Bay Area District Director for Sen. Kamala Harris at the 2018 Immigrant Leadership Awards

The San Francisco Rapid Response Network was honored with the Grassroots Leader award. The Network consists of 21 organizations from two community-based collaboratives in San Francisco: the Immigrant Legal and Education Network (SFILEN) and the Immigrant Legal Defense Collaborative (SFILDC). Together, the network partners have instituted a novel and effective system to respond quickly to immigration enforcement actions through a 24-hour hotline, raid verification, and activation of attorneys to represent detained immigrants. The SF Network is one of the few rapid response networks in the country and serves as a model regionally and nationally.

As the legal lead and coordinator for the SFILDC, JDC has played a critical role in developing this model, training the attorneys and continuing to coordinate the legal services provided by the 15 SFILDC partners in the Network. .

SFILEN program director Marisela Esparza, accepting the award on behalf of the Network, highlighted the hotline’s capacity to field calls in over 240 languages and described it as “a tool of resilience and action” to break the silence and fear that surround immigration enforcement actions.

Quoting writer and civil rights leader Audre Lorde, Esparza emphasized the value of the Network as a silence-breaking tool: “We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

The San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission honored many other local immigrant leaders and champions of immigrant communities during the event: The Golden Gate Restaurant Association was honored as Industry Leader for its support of the Sanctuary Restaurant movement. Honorees in other categories included Lawyers in the Library; Citi Community Development, who was honored as Corporate Leader; Eskender Aseged, Radio Africa & Kitchen; Lisa Kiswani, Arab Resource & Organizing Center; Ingrid Rojas Contreras; Attorney Carl Larsen Santos of La Raza Community Resource Center (one of the SFILDC partners); and Theo Rigby, iNation Media. In addition, the family of late Mayor Ed Lee received special recognition for continuing their commitment “to an inclusive and just world for all.” Mayor Lee was a strong supporter and champion of immigrants, and launched the inaugural Immigrant Leadership Awards in 2017.

Learn more about JDC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Programs.