San Jose seeks immigration office

February 12, 2015

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Campanario

300 dpi Gabriel Campanario illustration of hot-air balloon that looks like heart-shaped U.S. flag flying over border; can be used with stories about U.S. immigration. The Seattle Times 2011

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San Jose City Council members voted 9-2 last Tuesday to pass a motion that will establish an immigration office to provide guidance and support in preparing documents for work visas.

The decision was in response to a meeting held two weeks prior, where both documented and undocumented residents voiced support for an immigration office in San Jose. The Council plans to include the funding for the office into the fiscal budget for next year.

“The council made a great decision on this issue but I’m pretty surprised that two councilman opposed. I feel that we as a city need to be united and helpful to those who need aid in achieving goals on a personal level,” said Breanna Cambra, a San Jose resident who attended the public hearing.

The move is a step towards implementing President Barack Obama’s immigration policy that he announced Nov. 21, 2014, and an earlier decision by the Homeland Security Agency on June 15, 2012.

According to Obama, undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for more than five years, have children who are citizens, have no criminal backgrounds, and are willing to pay taxes should not have a fear of being deported.

One dissenting councilman, Johnny Khamis, stated that an established immigration office will “turn into a huge bureaucracy.” Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio said that such an office would become a “federal issue,” according to San Jose Mercury News.

The city’s Hispanic and Latino population make up 33 percent of San Jose’s total population of 998,537, according to the city’s website. “It is estimated that 53,000 people in San Jose, possibly more, are eligible for Obama’s Administrative Relief program and about five million people nationwide,” said Eunice Hernandez, an advocate for an immigration support committee.

San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, all have between 15 to 30 percent Hispanic and Latino populations. Each city already has an Office of Immigration Affairs.

“We as a city should support immigrants, documented and undocumented, who work hard in pursuit of the American Dream and who want to contribute to society by urging city council to establish an Office of Immigrant Affairs, said Hernandez, a 29-year-old San Jose State University graduate. “There are already thousands of immigrant community members contributing to the local and national economy, but they are living in the shadows in fear of deportation,” she added in comments to this reporter.

“I have family members, childhood friends and friends I met at San Jose State that are in that same situation and work authorization, along with deportation relief, is a complete life changer [for each of them],” Hernandez added.

She and other residents who attended the meeting supported the Council’s decision because they argued that there are productive members of the immigrant community who contribute to the continued development of San Jose’s economy.

The council has not announced any plans for the location of the office or how much they plan to allocate for its operation.

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