Effort to fund Fresno immigration committee moves forward. But will mayor approve?

The Fresno City Council on Thursday passed a motion allocating $300,000 to the recently established Immigrant Affairs Committee, though the funding will still have to be approved by Mayor Lee Brand.

In February, the City Council voted to form the committee. However, at the time, some acknowledged the committee might have been approved because the council was not attaching any funding to the effort.

Appointments for the committee members were approved in May.

Thursday’s vote for the motion, which was introduced earlier this month, was 3 to 2, with Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria being absent, said Fresno city spokesman Mark Standriff. The original allocation proposed was $500,000.

Soria and councilman Miguel Arias sponsored the motion. However, at least one council member strongly opposes providing any funding to the committee.

Councilman Garry Bredefeld said it’s “an inappropriate use of taxpayer money” to fund the committee. He said he believes the money would be used to start a legal defense fund to hire lawyers to defend people who are here illegally.

He pointed to the San Joaquin College of Law as one entity that assists with immigration issues.

Instead, he said, the funding could be used to hire police officers and dispatchers.

Plus, the main purpose of the committee was for discussion only, Bredefeld said.

“The committee should not be funded whatsoever,” he said on Friday.

Immigrant Affairs Committee member Samuel Molina, state director with Mi Familia Vota, said he believes what prompted the motion to allocate funding to the committee is that there is a new majority of Latinos council members who really believe in supporting the immigrant community

He said “in order to see the committee succeed it’s going to require some funding.”

“I hope that the committee will use some of that funding to address the needs of the immigrant community,” he said. He added some of those uses could include creating an Immigrant Affairs Office or establishing a legal defense fund.

In June 2017, the City Council rejected a proposal to establish a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation. The proposal called for the city to include $200,000 its 2017-18 budget for its contribution for the public-private fund.

“The committee will have to do what they think it’s best to support the immigrants of the city of Fresno,” Molina said.

Standriff said Thursday’s vote was just to pass the motion, not to actually approve the funding. By passing the motion, the council approves adding the funding into the city’s overall budget.

“The mayor still has the option to veto that within 10 days after (the) council finally approves the entire budget,” he said. “That’s an important distinction. It doesn’t automatically mean that it is going to get funding.”

Standriff initially said in an email that Brand is likely to veto the motion. He later clarified Brand won’t make a decision on individual line items until all budget motions are passed.

Therefore, Standriff said he wouldn’t be able to say whether Brand would veto the funding allocation.

Molina said he was optimistic of Brand green lighting the funding.

“I’m hopeful that the mayor will support us,” he said.

Bredefeld said his expectation is that Brand will veto the funding. A body without funding can still make a difference, he said.

“I think a lot of impact occurs when people discuss issues,” he said.

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