By Samuel Molina
It has been more than two years since President Donald Trump took office and began repealing the progress that had been made by immigrant advocates. This has created chaos, frustration and uncertainty in the immigrant community.
Nevertheless, voters have remained steadfast in passing local and state policies to protect and elevate the immigrant community. In fact, in March 2017 the Fresno Immigration Coalition led the fight to pass the “Safe Place” resolution with the Fresno Unified School District and just this year passed a resolution to officially establish the Immigrant Advisory Committee in the City of Fresno.
The Immigrant Advisory Committee was created to advise the City of Fresno on how to best meet and address the needs of the immigrant community. It took more than a year and a half to get the Immigrant Advisory Committee resolution on the City Council’s agenda. Advocates pushed on social media through digital campaigns, wrote op-eds, met with individual Council members and gathered more than 25 letters of support from nonprofit and community leaders to support the Immigrant Advisory Committee.
The committee comprises 15 members, with each Council member appointing two members and the mayor appointing one. The members come from various backgrounds and provide diverse perspectives on how to support the immigrant community in Fresno.
On June 20, the City of Fresno voted to allocate $300,000 to the Immigrant Advisory Committee in preparation for any recommendations from the committee that might require funding. This funding was symbolic of city solidarity with immigrant communities and the resolve to support their full integration and success. This is another step in the right direction for the City of Fresno and magnifies the importance of local elections.
Immigration is not just a federal issue. There are many things our local and state representatives can do to help our neighborhood immigrant communities. Council members Miguel Arias, Luis Chavez and Nelson Esparza voted in favor, with Paul Caprioglio and Garry Bredefeld voting against (Esmeralda Soria was absent).
This is significant progress. Only two years ago, the City Council, with Council members Clint Olivier (replaced by Esparza) and Steve Brandau (currently vacant), voted against the allocation of money to an immigrant legal defense fund.
With these recent wins, it is necessary to continue to press forward in showing the Central Valley that there is progress to be made and change can happen. And best of all, we have elected officials working with our community support of immigrants.
We must look to participate in every level of government, from our water boards, our school boards, city councils, our county boards and more. Local changes lead to federal changes. It is up to us to form the communities that we need. Whether you are underage and not yet eligible to vote or just someone who is ineligible to vote, you still have a voice in this fight, you are still a part of our community and integral part of its success.
It is important to note that the partners in the Fresno Immigration Coalition did not work alone. It took several colleagues to support this initiative and get it before the City Council. The City Council is expected to make a final vote on all budget items on June 27. Mayor Lee Brand then has 10 days to review the budget and make any vetoes he deems necessary; five votes on any item will make it “veto proof.” We hope the Mayor will support and send the message that the City of Fresno supports its immigrant community and do more to help it than what is currently taking place at the federal level.
The Immigrant Advisory Committee has yet to meet but rest assured there is much for them to address: notario fraud, English-language learning, citizenship, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, asylum seekers, immigrant integration and much more. Although the Immigrant Advisory Committee has 15 members they will still need the community to participate, offer insight and provide support. The committee meetings will be open to the public.
Members of the Immigrant Advisory Committee: Nancy Key and Hugo Morales (appointed by Soria), Manuel Cunha and Deepak Ahluwalia (Brandau), Naindeep Singh and America Hernandez (Arias), Jessica Smith Bobadilla and Maggie Thao (Caprioglio), Samuel Molina and Evelyn Gonzalez (Chavez), Guillermo Moreno and Elizabeth Heng (Bredefeld), Tom Hernandez and Margarita Rocha (Esparza) and Pao Yang (Brand).
Samuel Molina is the California state director of Mi Familia Vota and the chair of the Fresno Immigration Coalition. The Fresno Immigration Coalition was founded in 2012 by Maggie Thao and consists of tTom Hernandez, Willie Lopez, Venancio Gaona, Maggie Thao and Magdalena Gomez.