SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Francisco and Los Angeles both have one, and now San Jose is getting its own first-ever Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Mayor Sam Liccardo had a rare lighthearted moment as the city passed its $3 billion budget Tuesday.
With the economy improving, there’s a little something for everyone — from pay raises for police officers to street repairs and now $250,000 for a brand new Office of Immigrant Affairs.
The city is starting from scratch, so there’s no staff or even a physical location.
For years, San Jose’s largest immigrant population has fended for itself, navigating a patchwork of services and nonprofits like Sacred Heart in downtown San Jose.
Anali Mendoza unknowingly hired a notario, someone who provides bogus immigration services, scamming her out of hundreds of dollars.
“I didn’t know where to go,” Mendoza said. “I reached out to people for help, but they weren’t able to tell me where I could find services I needed.”
Former Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen was among those pushing for the new office.
When she immigrated from Vietnam to America in the early 80s, she said there was no help.
“Had we had something like this, our transition to the American way of life and our acculturation to the American culture would be a lot easier,” Nguysen said
The new office would help immigrants navigate the city’s business permitting process. But beyond that, it’s not clear what else it would do.
Council member Johnny Khamis voted against the office, saying non-profits along with the Santa Clara County are already providing services. He said creating an Office of Immigrant Affairs is reinventing the wheel.
“If it was better thought out, if there was specific goals, executable goals, I might’ve given it a second thought,” he said.
Eunice Hernandez with Sacred Heart says they will work to ensure the office does not duplicate existing services and to make it a worthwhile investment.
“When they are able to access those services, it increases the quality of life,” Hernandez said. “And when immigrant families prosper, the whole city prospers.”
“We are a city of immigrants,” he said. “Almost 40 percent of our adults were born in a foreign country. And that is the secret sauce of our success, is our diversity. And we need to continue to be a place that attracts people from around the world.”