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[Omar] Medina first ran for school board in 2004 while a Sonoma State University student, and then again in 2014. . . . Medina moved to Sonoma County in 1988 and graduated from the first class at Elsie Allen in 1997. He [served as President of] the North Bay Organizing Project for two years, and now works as the program coordinator of UndocuFund, which provides financial assistance to undocumented families impacted by the October wildfires. A passion for community work and the new district elections system prompted him to give it another go “for democracy’s sake,” he said. “I think moving to district elections will definitely increase diversity,” said Medina, whose parents are Mexican immigrants. “For so long, most of the representation was from the east side.”
[Omar] Medina, along with community organizers like Raizes Collective founder Isabel Lopez and Alegria de La Cruz, chief deputy county counsel for Sonoma County, spent the critical days of the wildfires providing accurate details in Spanish on the fire locations and the evacuation orders, countering misinformation that was creating confusion and panic among the immigrant community. When the smoke cleared, and the community toll became visible, their focus shifted to getting families disaster relief.
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.”
Omar Medina, also with the North Bay Organizing Project, said he’s concerned about landlords jacking up rents, and high housing demand placing greater pressure on tenants in lower-income neighborhoods to move. “All these people that are displaced are going to need a place to live while their homes get rebuilt,” Medina said. “We’re worried about people with more resources displacing the more low-income and middle-class people as they look for rentals.”
Omar Medina, treasurer for the North Bay Organizing Project, said the efforts of conscientious landlords such as Gerber are commendable. But Medina asks, “How long are the rent freezes going to be for, a few months? This is something that is more than likely going to take more than a few months to recover from. “We anticipate that prices are going to continue to rise in a free market,” Medina said. “There are no protections.”
Law enforcement officials will be asking for some form of identification in some areas when roads are opened to allow evacuees back to their homes. Santa Rosa activist Omar Medina said evacuees won’t have to show a government ID card. They may just be able to show a utility bill with an address on it.