Though the circumstances are very different, Santa Rosa community activist Omar Medina, 38, a co-founder of the Courthouse Square event, sees a parallel between 9/11 and the North Bay fires. “The fires took me back to our very first year in 2001. The Day of the Dead offered an opportunity for people to grieve in one sense, for everything that had happened, and to create community and an opportunity for people to come together and talk about loss,” Medina said.
“This is another opportunity to look back at what we’ve lost and at how we should remember it and try to make something positive out of it,” he added.
While it’s only the latest example of fear in immigrant communities over the future under Trump, the FEMA debate comes at an especially sensitive time, as many attempt to deal with the impact of the wildfires on their lives.
“There isn’t that trust,” said Omar Medina, a treasurer with the North Bay Organizing Project, one of the organizations that helped create the Undocufund, a special disaster fund for fire victims who are undocumented residents.
Omar Medina, of the North Bay Organizing Project, has been struggling to line up help for the many undocumented immigrants who work in the region. He said that under federal law families with children who are US residents may qualify for FEMA help even if the parents are undocumented. But many workers are afraid to apply because a clause in the FEMA paperwork says the information may be passed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead some are leaving town.
“We’re seeing people already moving out of the community,” he said, adding that, on Thursday, 170 workers showed up at an event organized by the Mexican consulate in Santa Rosa to aid Mexican citizens affected by the fires. “My biggest fear for my community is losing our diversity.”