Board of Supervisors to Consider New Office of Immigrant Affairs
Fletcher said the make-up of the board in his initial years in office, responding to other immigration-related issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic all pushed back his plans for the office, but he said he’s ready to move forward now. He thinks he has the three votes needed to approve the office’s creation, and with Vargas’s election, he can partner with the county’s first immigrant supervisor. Fletcher also said the pandemic forced the county to improve its connections and outreach to immigrant and refugee communities, especially when it came to vaccine access.
Shortly after Fletcher was elected, the region was faced with a crisis in which ICE began releasing asylum-seeking families into San Diego streets without resources or shelter. A coalition of service providers stepped in to try and provide temporary shelter to families and help them find transportation to their destinations elsewhere in the country. The county also stepped in, and eventually provided its old family courthouse downtown as a shelter space.
“That took so much energy,” Fletcher said.
“Then we essentially had the policy written, but I was faced with the reality that I didn’t have three votes. I kept thinking we should do it anyway.”
Then COVID-19 hit and “sucked the oxygen out of the room for so many things,” he said.
The office would fall under the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. Creating the office will involve both reassigning existing staff and hiring some additional positions.
In their letter to the board, Fletcher and Vargas asked the county’s chief administrative officer to include $2 million in the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 for the creation of the office and to report to the board within 90 days with a proposed plan for the office.
Fletcher and Vargas outlined some of the duties the office should handle. They include putting together an annual report for the board, containing demographics of the county’s immigrant and refugee communities and highlighting gaps in services and providing suggestions for improvement. The office would also reach out to immigrant and refugee communities in multiple languages to connect them with existing resources and provide information on housing, workers’ rights, fraud protection and more. The office would serve as a link for referrals between the public defender office and the county’s Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program, which provides funding for legal representation for detained immigrants facing deportation. READ MORE