Immigrant Defense Task Force
During the devastating Tubbs/Nuns fires in 2017, all warnings and alerts were issued only in English, even though 25% of Sonoma County's residents speak Spanish or an Indigenous language. The Sheriff's press conferences and updates were only in English. Hundreds of families whose first language was not English escaped to the Sonoma coast, fleeing the firestorm, without any information about evacuations or resources or places to go.
In the immediate aftermath of the fires, immigrant and Latino leaders drew attention to the life-threatening exclusion of Spanish-speaking and Indigenous language-speaking people from fire alerts, emergency services, and other fire relief. As immigrant people and allies, we knew our very survival depended on transforming emergency services to be culturally responsive and available to every resident of Sonoma County as we brace for future climate change-fueled disasters – fires, floods and global pandemics. So we came together to form the Immigrant Defense Taskforce (IDTF, or in Spanish, Equipo en Defensa de los Inmigrantes).
Since 2017, we have won significant progress toward achieving language justice during disaster response by Sonoma County. Along with other community members and organizations, IDTF contributed to winning these changes in the County's response:
County services and resources are now available to any County resident, regardless of immigration status.
All alerts and warnings are now broadcast in Spanish as well as English.
Fire safety trainings and evacuation information are now required to be conducted in the native language of farmworkers.
All County public meetings, press conferences, website, and official announcements are now interpreted or translated into Spanish. They are also recorded and archived the same as English recordings.
Armed law enforcement officers were removed from the evacuation shelters and local assistance centers.
As a result of the advocacy of immigrant and undocumented people, the Office of Equity was formed in 2021. All County departments are formally assessing of language access and their agency's resources, and participating in a County-wide evaluation of community engagement practices.
If you have questions or want to get involved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry will be directed to one of our Immigrant Defense Task Force leaders.
Current Campaign: Language Justice in Schools
The Immigrant Defense Task Force is now investigating inequality and access to language justice in Sonoma County public schools. We are working with immigrant parents and students to create and distribute a Know Your Rights in Education toolkit. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that ALL Sonoma County public schools are fully implementing California state law – translating all written materials into the native language of a student's parents, providing adult interpreters for teacher-parent conferences and school meetings, and ensuring that English language learners are correctly reclassified. Along with immigrant and undocumented parents and students, we will design and advocate for model language justice policies that can be implemented throughout the county.
– Daysi Carreño, co-chair and coordinator of NBOP’s Immigrant Defense Task Force (IDTF)
"My own experience brought me to IDTF. I never want anyone else to go through what I went through during the wildfire crisis. To have a complete lack of information, a lack of help, and a lack of clear emergency or evacuation instructions in their own language. That’s what motivates me to help people."
Language Justice in Disaster Response
The County's systemic failure to safeguard immigrant and undocumented people was exposed in every conversation we had with people seeking assistance from UndocuFund and other community organizations. IDTF confronted that failure by developing a series of specific recommendations that would critical to the survival of immigrant and undocumented people in future disasters. We tailored our campaigns to directly engage Sonoma County elected officials and County staff in overhauling their emergency operations framework to more adequately address the needs of immigrant communities – especially in times of disasters. We united with 15 community organizations to present these recommendations, many of which were subsequently incorporated into the County's Resiliency and Recovery Framework (issued in December 2018).
2019 Disaster Response Report Card
During the Kincade Fire in 2019, IDTF made an on-the-ground assessment of how the County applied our 2017 recommendations about their disaster response. This report card clearly shows the gaps still existing between what the County says it will do and what it actually does. The report card outlines policy recommendations and enforcement measures for a more equitable and just recovery during disasters.
COVID-19: Urgent Recommendations
Hundreds of people died from COVID-19 in Sonoma County during 2021 and 2022. At the beginning of the pandemic, the infection rate in the Latino community was nine times the rate of that among non-Latino people. IDTF members urged the County to make specific changes concerning the translation and distribution of information about COVID-19, the vaccines, and testing and vaccination sites. Some of our recommendations (insert link to documents) were adopted: information about testing centers was translated into Spanish, along with assurances that people's personal health information was not being shared with ICE.
Language Justice and the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Plan
In 2019, a state law took effect requiring California counties to integrate cultural competence into their disaster response plans, engaging their communities in revisions of their Emergency Operations Plans. Though the state law suggested forming a community advisory board, Sonoma County reached out to IDTF as well as health promotoras (educators) from numerous community organizations to review the EOP and recommend changes. When all of our recommendations were not included in the EOP, we requested that the County add them as an Appendix for future reference. The County refused.