On September 25th 2016 the pan Valley institute held an education forum in Caruthers. The topics for the day included AB60, DACA and DAPA update, Prop 47, and Ice out of Fresno campaign. Caruthers is part of Fresno County and counts with about 3,000 residents, it is a very small town would probably be appropriate to say that “if you blink you’ll miss it”. I don’t often travel to the small towns in the valley but when I visited Caruthers I realized that towns like Caruthers, that are often too isolated for people to wonder in have developed their own culture, and it’s amazing to see how the sense of community is built.
I should start by explaining what brought us into Caruthers to begin with. Back in 2004 the Pan Valley institute was contacted by community members about how they- majority Latino farmworkers- were being unjustly targeted by Fresno sheriff’s department. They claimed that they would get pulled over for no reason and since many of them did not have a driver’s license their vehicles would be towed away and held in impound for 30 days. During that campaign called “Safety Matters” Pan Valley in partnership with the ACLU held community forums, and press conferences were people we able to express their concerns and show evidence of what they were seeing in their community. Eventually, the sheriff’s department was able to work with the community and dramatically decreased the impounding of vehicles.
Now, back to today, community members once again reached out to Pan Valley with concern for the lack of information on driver’s licenses for everyone under Assembly Bill 60. They felt that the community in Caruthers wasn’t getting the information they needed to apply for Drivers licenses. The Pan Valley responded with an education forum this past weekend. We gathered at the catholic church that was kind enough to open their doors for the forum to happen. Once the forum began it was evident that the community members were right in their concern as people had many questions regarding AB60, as well as DACA/DAPA. I also realized that many people didn’t know about the ice out of Fresno campaign and they didn’t know that there are ICE agents at the county jail. It was very nice to see people asking questions and sharing their concerns. I think that educational forums are very important because in places like the central valley, where everything is spread out over long distances, reliable information is vital in day to day life.