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Fresno Immigration Affairs Chair Quits, Says the Committee Isn't Valued by City Hall
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 month ago on
March 1, 2024

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Chairperson Linda Barreto says she’s stepping down because city leaders don’t support the committee.

Barreto “offended” that the committee wasn’t notified about Venezuelan migrants arriving in Fresno.

Committee vacancies make it tough to have a quorum.


Saying the city of Fresno is showing no support for its work, the chair of the Immigration Affairs and Resident Committee said she is quitting her post.

“It’s hard for me to continue to do this work as chair when I don’t feel like my voice is valued, and when I don’t feel that the city is truly interested in continuing the committee,” committee chair Linda Barreto said at Thursday’s meeting.

Barreto, director of the New American Legal Clinic at San Joaquin College of Law, had a long list of grievances. At the top of the list was the fact that the city did not inform the committee about the arrival of 16 Venezuelan asylum seekers by bus in Fresno.

Other members attempted to talk Barreto out of leaving the chair position.

She found several sympathetic voices on the committee, including Pao Yang, president and CEO of The Fresno Center.

“We are actually their champion as well. But they’re not using their champion committee to work and support them. Right. So we get that and it’s it’s very tiresome. It’s very mentally draining,” Yang said.

Problem With Asylum Seeker Notification

The asylum seekers crossed the border in El Paso, were bused to Denver by Texas officials, and then received bus tickets that landed them in Fresno in late January and early February.

Barreto said she felt blindsided.

“They don’t even care that we’re here. You had the resources in your own committee that you created, and you just didn’t even think to say, hey, any input about how we should handle this? So I felt sad, I felt frustrated, I felt offended,” Barreto told GV Wire after the meeting.

Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez helped pass legislation establishing the committee in 2019. He said the city got caught off guard as well when the migrants arrived in Fresno.

“The city got caught a little bit flat-footed. And, then what happened was that there was just a lot of help and support for the Venezuelan immigrants from churches, from the (Fresno) Mission, from organizations that specialized in these types of services. And, our job was to just facilitate that,” Chavez said.

During Thursday’s discussion, committee member Margarita Rocha, executive director of the immigrant services group Centro La Familia Advocacy Services, said her organization helped the migrants when they arrived.

When news broke of their arrival in Fresno, City Councilmember Miguel Arias held a news conference at City Hall, arranging for media interviews.

“We don’t publicize it to the entire city or community because it’s confidential stuff,” Rocha said. “Exposing people, is to me, the worst thing. I said, oh my God, these people are being exposed. They need services. They didn’t need exposure because all of us could have come to a meeting like we are right now. Talked about who they are, who provides services, and put a plan together.”

Committee member Jessica Smith Bobadilla, an immigration attorney, said exposing the asylum seekers on camera was a “major concern.”

Chavez Wants to Hear from Committee

Chavez says the purpose of the committee was to handle challenges faced by the immigrant community. For example, an early policy recommendation from the committee helped combat notary public fraud.

Another recommended implementation was providing translators at city council meetings.

Other groups are also stepping up, which may lead to the committee’s feelings, Chavez said.

“There are a number of different venues by which organizations and immigrant groups are now speaking and connecting and having input and dialog with the city of Fresno, that the immigrant affairs committee folks might be feeling like things are not as big a deal as they were,” Chavez said.

Chavez said he wants to have conversations with the committee to gauge what work they want to be involved in.

New Latino Liaison Hired

Meetings — once staffed by the office of its lead supporter, Chavez — are now organized by Mayor Jerry Dyer’s Office of Community Affairs.

The city recently hired a new Latino community liaison as part of the OCA, Nico Madrigal.

“With the appointment of a new liaison, Mayor Dyer is looking forward to working hand-in-hand with the committee,” Dyer spokesperson Sontaya Rose said.

Madrigal’s hire came nine months after Alma Martinez left her position last year. That was too long for Barreto.

“I’m glad that you’re here, and I’m grateful, but it shouldn’t have taken that long. And I think we can all agree that there’s there’s no excuse for that,” Barreto said to Madrigal at the meeting.

Pastor B.T. Lewis had been the OCA representative attending the meetings.

“What would we need to do as a committee is to formalize a strategy for being included,” Lewis said. “They have the committee, but they have no strategy for how to engage you. And you may have to help them, too, with that.”

Madrigal said he only learned of the committee when he started his job last month.

“I wasn’t aware of this committee. But, that’s going to be my job … to be the connection between this committee and all the OCA and the city of Fresno,” Madrigal said during the meeting.

Rocha said that she understood Barreto’s frustrations.

“(The committee) didn’t, in my opinion, get 100% embracement from the entire city,” Rocha said.

Can’t Sustain a Quorum

Another frustration is committee vacancies. The committee is supposed to have 15 members — it currently has 10. That makes establishing a quorum — at least eight members in attendance at a given time to conduct business — difficult. At Thursday’s meeting, one member left early, dipping attendance to seven.

Technically, the meeting should have paused when the meeting lost a quorum. Although no votes were taken, the meeting continued. It only stopped when City Clerk Todd Stermer dropped by — the meeting was held in a small conference room on the second floor of City Hall with an inadvertently locked door — and told them to stop. By that point, the meeting was wrapping up anyway.

The meetings are open to the public, and governed under the state’s open meeting law.

Barreto is unsure if she will quit the committee altogether. The board will discuss her resignation at its next meeting on March 21.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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