Fifteen members for Fresno’s Immigration Advisory Committee — which some consider to be long overdue — were appointed Thursday by the City Council, with prominent and familiar names on the list, including a few with conservative views.
Among them is Elizabeth Heng, who recently ran an unsuccessful bid against Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, for the 16th Congressional District. Heng, whose parents fled Cambodia following the country’s Khmer Rouge genocide, is Republican and has publicly expressed support for President Donald Trump.
Conservative radio talk show host Guillermo Moreno is also among the new appointees.
Many of the other appointed members have a long history of working with the immigrant community in Fresno, while others come from different professional walks of life.
The responsibility of the city’s Immigrant Affairs Committee will be to advise the City Council on immigration issues. The committee’s meetings will be subject to the Brown Act, and will be open to the public.
Some of the issues the committee is expected to address will include offering English as a Second Language classes and making citizenship classes more available. They will also address long wait times for international flights at the Fresno International Airport due to an inadequate number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, among other issues.
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, who represents District 1, appointed Nancy Key and Hugo Morales.
Steve Brandau, who used to represent District 2 before being elected as a Fresno County supervisor, appointed Manuel Cunha and Deepak Ahluwalia.
Councilman Miguel Arias, who represents District 3, appointed Naindeep Singh and America Hernandez.
Councilman Paul Caprioglio, who represents District 4, appointed Jessica Smith Bobadilla and Maggie Thao.
Councilman Luis Chavez, who represents District 5, appointed Samuel Molina and Evelyn Gonzalez.
Councilman Garry Bredefeld, who represents District 6, appointed Guillermo Moreno and Elizabeth Heng.
Councilman Nelson Esparza, who represents District 7, appointed Thomas Hernandez and Margarita Rocha. (NOTE: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that former Councilman Clint Olivier made the appointments.)
The Mayor’s office appointed Pao Yang.
Many on the committee — like Yang, Rocha, Molina, Singh and Morales — lead large, well-known organizations, with years of working with immigrant and ethnic communities. For example. Yang is the chief executive officer at The Fresno Center, which provides resources and services to the Southeast Asian community, such as the Hmong community.
There are also immigration attorneys on the committee.
Rocha is the executive director of Centro La Familia, which has worked with the Hispanic community for years. Molina is the California director for Mi Familia Vota, which is a national civic engagement organization.
Singh is the executive director of the Jakara Movement, which serves the Sikh community. Morales is the executive director and founder of Radio Bilingue.
America Hernandez came to the U.S. when she was a baby and has advocated for DACA (Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals) recipients.
In February, the Fresno City Council voted to form the Immigrant Affairs Committee. At the time, however, some acknowledged the committee might have been approved because the council was not attaching any funding to the effort.
The City Council in the past has turned down at least one immigration initiative that would have had required an investment from the city. 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 in its 2017-18 budget for its contribution for the public-private legal fund. That initiative had been pushed by immigration and civil rights advocates following the establishment of such legal fund in other cities.
Molina said there are no term limits to be a member of the committee, and it has yet to be determined how often the committee will meet.
“I look forward to working with my fellow committee members as we work together to address the needs of our immigrant community,” he said.