Pasadena City Council Says “Sí” to Immigration Reform

pasadena-immigration-358The Latino voice was heard at the City Council meeting where the resolution to support a humane and comprehensive immigration reform was adopted. Attendees, including Chief Sanchez who spoke on behalf of the undocumented immigrants who are afraid to report serious crimes, celebrated as they exited the chambers.

Joining the national conversation calling for immigration reform, Pasadena City Council passed a resolution Monday urging members of Congress, who according to Councilmember Margaret McAustin are “clearly they’re not doing their job,” to support humane and comprehensive immigration reform.

With seven members voting “sí” and one abstention by councilmember Gene Masuda, the resolution places Pasadena as a leader on this issue and bridges gaps between the city and undocumented immigrants residing in the city according to Police Chief Sanchez, who spoke during public comment in support of the resolution.

“As a professional law enforcement officer I know that there is a segment of our population that is victimized on a daily basis and yet they don’t come forward to ask for assistance from their local municipal government. Partly because they’re concerned about deportation or other ramifications of them coming forward,” Chief Sanchez said. “By supporting this resolution, the city will create a bridge and open dialogue in support of those kinds of efforts where undocumented families might be more encouraged to come forward and share their experiences with us, the Pasadena Police department so that in cases where there is predator behavior we can hold people accountable for that activity. I know that occurs on a daily basis and is not reported.”

Sanchez strongly urged the council to support the resolution because he believes it will lead to undocumented families putting their children into public school and coming forward to access resources offered by the police department and the city. Sanchez also reinforced the Pasadena Police department is not involved in deportation.

“It is not our job to do deportation, that is the federal government’s job and we leave that to them,” Sanchez said.

Several community members came to urge the council to vote in support of immigration reform because they have family members who live in constant fear of deportation.

“I am a naturalized citizen… even though my immediate family are U.S. citizens, there are still many members of my family who have been unable to get to that point. I pray everyday that my sister is able to come home to her six-year-old son and one-year-old daughter without facing deportation,“ Rosanna Del Rio said.

pasadena-immigration-356Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson initiated the resolution after she saw Pasadena resident and CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas on the news supporting the reform efforts in Washington D.C.

“I thought wouldn’t it be great for her to have something to show support from the city that she lives in… It’s an affirmation of our already existing federal legislative platform for our congress to work on comprehensive immigration reform plan. As we all know Pasadena is a city of immigrants as is the nation,” Robinson said.

Congresswoman Judy Chu’s representative Becky Chang came to voice the congresswoman’s approval of the resolution. As one of the original co-sponsors of the current immigration legislation, Chu is working hard to pass the bill that will support families.

“I strongly believe that all Americans who love this country deserve a common sense immigration process, one that includes a clear roadmap for people who aspire to be citizens… We waited three long decades to reform our immigration laws. The time to act is now, ” Becky Chang read from a letter written by Congresswoman Judy Chu.

As an immigrant from Mexico who has lived in Pasadena since his family moved to the U.S., councilmember Victor Gordo supported the resolution saying it was the American and humane thing to do to give people a real chance to compete, assimilate and become successful.

“We know that the current system has failed in every respect. The chief has raised some of the legal issues including the exploitation of immigrants and their families, Sales raised the $1.4 trillion economic issue, but I think the most important in mind is that comprehensive immigration reform is an opportunity for immigrants—our neighbors, our families, our friends—to assimilate into American society. Ultimately it’s that assimilation that creates the tapestry that is America. Failure to provide an opportunity for people to assimilate into our society really creates a second class of citizens and that’s not in our best interest as a city, a state, a country,“ Gordo said.

Councilmember Gene Masuda on the other hand believed immigration was the business of congress in Washington and not the business of the council, resulting in his abstention. Masuda stood his ground even after councilmember Steve Madison urged him to reconsider.

“Were doing exactly the right thing, were not purporting to adopt immigration policy ourselves, were not offering some sort of asylum or enforce immigration laws. Were lobbying the federal government to do their job. Were asking federal legislatures to do their job on something that’s extremely important, and it comes at a time when our country is more polarized than it has been in my lifetime,” Madison said.

pasadena-immigration-355Tempted to agree with Masuda that the council should focus on issues directly related to Pasadena only, councilmember Terry Tornek was convinced otherwise by Chief Sanchez’s comments.

“Apart from this business about adding Pasadena’s name to immigration reform having an impact, which I don’t buy, if our police chief stands up and says this is going to be of value in terms of the efforts in this community to do the kind of bridge building he’s after, and eliminate some of the terrible, unthinkable abuses that are the result of feeling you have to live your life in the shadows, the kinds of hardships that no one should be subjected to, I can’t argue with that,” Tornek said.

He did however urge the legislative policy committee to resist the temptation to indulge too much time in national issues such as healthcare, women’s reproductive rights, taxation policy, and the campaign contribution issue the council took up last month and establish a benchmark to determine which issues are brought to council.

“I want to thank especially Tornek and McAustin because it was hard for them. I can feel it that they were not on board, but I do feel very grateful for both of them. As far as Masuda, he is my councilperson and I’m going to be trying to change that councilperson. He does not belong in the city of Pasadena as a councilperson,” Yuny Parada said after the vote.

The resolution has several clauses stating why the council chose to adopt the resolution including the nation values of freedom for all, and stating the current immigration system is broken, antiquated and not meeting the challenges of the 21st century. It separates families and neglects the hard work and financial contributions immigrants make.

The statistics provide more evidence. Since 2008 more than 1.6 million immigrants have been deported, and one in every ten American children faces the threat of deportation of a parent. Los Angeles County is home to nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants and 20 percent of children in Los Angeles County have at least one undocumented parent. According to the 2010 Census, the city of Pasadena was made up of 31 percent of foreign-born persons. Also one in 10 workers in California is an undocumented immigrant, and immigrants are a vibrant, productive, and vital part of the state’s growing economy.

The White House reports that a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship would, over 10 years, boost U.S. GOP by $1.4 trillion, increase total income for all Americans by $791 billion, generate $184 billion in additional state and federal tax revenue from currently undocumented immigrants, and add about 2 million jobs to the U.S. economy.

The resolution asks for an attainable and affordable pathway to full citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, family unity to be a cornerstone of the immigration system and allow access to key essential services such as health care.

rachel young“This vote comes at right time based on resolution at least for the moment, the close down of the federal government and the call from many people of good will for the congress to get back to work and do what it was called upon to do in terms of legislating sound public policy for our great country. It might be a dream unrealized when December 31 rolls around, but there are many calls for action now, action in the immediate days and weeks ahead for comprehensive immigration reform. This is the right time for the council to exercise the leadership and potential influence Pasadena has to call for immigration reform,” Mayor Bill Bogaard said.

Rachel Young
Pasadena NOW

Monday, 4 November 2013

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