A longstanding nonprofit focused on protecting immigrant rights is expanding its political reach with a new sister organization — giving it the ability to raise money for and endorse political candidates on the local and national level.
Celebrating its 32 year-anniversary this week, Services Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) took root in San Jose after the Immigration Reform and Control Act was signed into law by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1986. The act made it illegal to knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and the organization formed in response to this change.
Over the last three-plus decades, the nonprofit has continued to expand, with an office in the Central Valley and services provided to San Mateo and Alameda counties as well.
From assisting families and individuals seeking asylum to renewing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status for young immigrants, the nonprofit serves 20,000 people per year, says SIREN Executive Director Maricela Gutiérrez. In today’s political climate, Gutiérrez says these services are needed now more than ever.
“Our work tripled when Trump came into office,” Gutiérrez said “That’s why we’re really focused on expanding and serving rural areas.”
SIREN currently operates as a 501c(3), which prohibits it from endorsing political candidates. But the new organization, in which Gutiérrez serves as president, carries a special c(4) designation, which allows it to speak up about the policies and candidates it favors.
The c(4) status was singled out as a goal for the organization during a 10-year vision planning exercise. “That’s one of the priorities that we identified,” Gutiérrez said. “(We wanted) a bigger role in deciding the political landscape of California.”
SIREN isn’t the only Silicon Valley nonprofit plunging into the political scene ahead of the consequential 2020 elections. The nonprofit Silicon Valley at Home also recently unveiled its SV@Home Action Fund to endorse ballot measures that align with its vision to alleviate homelessness and build affordable housing for all income levels.
The new organization — SIREN Action — officially got its start in the last couple of months and comes with a new staff and a new logo, the latter of which is set to be revealed at the 32-year celebration on Friday.
Gutiérrez says the new organization has yet to make any official decisions on what or whom it will be backing but noted that it would be officially endorsing the Schools and Communities First initiative, which aims to support education and build community through tax reform and other funding mechanisms.
“SIREN Action allows us to really have a bigger role in having a voice for immigrants and refugees,” Gutiérrez said.
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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that SV@Home Action Fund endorses ballot measures, but does not endorse or support political candidates. We regret the error.