Launching the San Diego Rapid Response Network to Protect Immigrant Families

By Dinora Reyna

Last December, interfaith leaders and a diverse cross section of organizations launched the San Diego Rapid Response Network, an interconnected system of community leaders who are responding to immigration enforcement activities in San Diego County.

“This country has flourished with each generation of newcomers because immigrants bring with them innovation, vitality, resilience and strength,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego. “The San Diego Rapid Response Network helps to defend those values. We urge everyone to join this effort whether it’s by volunteering, monitoring immigration enforcement activities in your communities or sharing information about the Rapid Respond Network with anyone you think may be affected.”

The Rapid Response Network follows models already in place in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles. Anyone can call the 24-hour hotline at 619-536-0823 to report immigration enforcement activity, including checkpoints, raids, arrests and harassment across San Diego County. Trained volunteer dispatchers will verify reports and announce false alarms to dispel rumors. If immigration authorities detain an individual, responders will connect the family with non-profit and volunteer immigration attorneys to assist with legal representation.

The Rapid Response Network also offers regular workshops to train more leaders and educate immigrant families about their rights. So far, more than 80 community leaders have received training to become rapid responders and dispatchers.

“Each person volunteering for the Rapid Response Network has shown tremendous courage, heroism and dedication to the belief that no person deserves to live in fear of separation from their family,” said Katia Ortiz, rapid response coordinator with the San Diego Organizing Project. “Now, we have a new way to stand united and share resources that empower us to take care of each other.”

Local grassroots leaders say many of San Diego’s immigrant communities feel terrorized and afraid to call police for assistance. Last OCtober, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) declared it will quadruple workplace raids and continue to target undocumented immigrants outside courthouses. According to government figures, ICE arrests increased by 25 percent this fiscal year compared to last year.

The coalition of grassroots organizations that form the core of the San Diego Rapid Response Network includes the San Diego Organizing Project, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Employee Rights Center, Jewish Family Service of San Diego and SEIU Local 221. More than 40 organizations partner with the Rapid Response Network in a myriad of ways based on their capacity. For more information on trainings, news and events, visit the group’s Facebook page at

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