The national immigration debate served as the main event during the Fresno city council budget motions today (June 20). A proposal to add $200,000 from the city budget to provide a legal defense fund for unauthorized immigrants drew dozens of supporters. They would leave the chambers disappointed.

District One Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria advocated for the spending, leading to a council debate. “Let’s continue working hard to ensure that (we are) a welcoming city and value the contributions of all of our immigrants. We know that this is a nation of immigrants and we value their contribution, particularly here in the Central Valley,” Soria said from the dais.

Dr. Garry Bredefeld, representing Fresno’s sixth district disagreed. “I don’t think we can choose which laws we want to follow and which we don’t. We are a nation of laws. If we get into the business of deciding which laws we follow and which we’re not, we are going to be in trouble as a country.”

Rebutting Bredefeld’s point was Oliver Baines, councilman for District Three. “I think we all know it’s a nation of laws. I don’t think anyone disputes that. I think (at) times, we forget what the history of this country is. In many cases when laws are unjust, we do things to civilly disobey them. Had that not happened, to my colleagues, I certainly would not be sitting here.” Baines is the council’s lone black member.

Supporters audibly groaned when Council President Clint Olivier read the results. The motion failed 4-2, with one abstention.

Afterward, supporters gathered in the City Hall lobby to console each other and vent their frustrations like Father Joaquin Arriaga of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. “The only illegal person in the United States is Donald Trump. The only undocumented person in the United States is Donald Trump. The only alien in the United States is Donald Trump,” Arriaga said.

This woman voiced in Spanish what others felt: disappointment in Councilman Luis Chavez, who registered an abstention vote.

Sukaina Hussain of Faith in the Valley felt the frustration about Chavez. “I know that some of his community members and constituents were hoping he would step up and (be in) favor of this as well. I think some of the disappointment is around that,” she told GV Wire.

Officially, Soria and Baines voted in favor. Bredefeld, Olivier, Steve Brandau and Paul Caprioglio voted no. Chavez abstained.

In a written statement clarifying his choice to stay neutral in this vote, Chavez explained:

“I abstained because there was no clear criteria on who was eligible for these funds. I couldn’t support taxpayer funds going to drug traffickers, gang members, or violent offenders.

If it had been written with specific guidelines, I would’ve been open to supporting it.”

This story has been updated to include Councilman Chavez’s comment.


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Contact David Taub

Phone: 559-492-4037 / e-mail

This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.

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