WATSONVILLE — The Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County announced Friday that it has been awarded a $731,000 grant that will allow the organization to expand its services to immigrant communities in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.
The organization made the announcement Friday morning in the community room on the top floor of the Civic Plaza.
The free services include assisting applicants who are seeking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and helping immigrants seeking naturalization and other assistance.
It will also allow for increased outreach and education, which will help the immigrant community access reliable, competent legal services, said CAB Executive Director Maria Elena De La Garza.
“Every immigrant who needs a service or has a question needs to know that we are here,” she said.
In addition, the money will allow the Santa Cruz Immigration Project (SCIP) to increase its hours, and expand its services into the Davenport Resource Service Center run by Community Bridges, and the day worker center in Live Oak.
Immigrants living in those areas previously had to travel long distances to access these services, said SCIP Project Director Paulina Moreno.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to augment our services and work collaboratively to respond to the needs of the community,” she said.
CAB works with Community Bridges, Community Information Center for Migrant Assistance, Monarch Services and Pajaro Valley Rapid Response to provide education and outreach activities and legal services to more than 3,000 residents in the tri-county area.
Watsonville Mayor Francisco Estrada praised Community Action Board, and said the grant will allow the county to help a community that has recently taken a beating from the Trump administration’s hardline approach to immigration issues.
“Most importantly, through this grant I think CAB will continue to provide our immigrant families with the greatest gift of all, and that’s giving them renewed hope,” Estrada said.
The grant will also help a community reluctant to seek help because they are concerned their immigration status will be revealed, said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Greg Caput.
“I want to make it clear that the Immigration Project is building a bridge to get through the complicated paperwork and helping people that are living in fear,” he said. “It’s a bridge rather than a wall.”
The California Department of Social Services awarded the competitive grant. Community Action Board will seek the grant again next year, Moreno said.