Mayor Resurrects Office to Assist Immigrants Regardless of Status

Kerry Cavanaugh, LA Daily News, May 24, 2006

Angering groups backing a crackdown on illegal immigration, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will revive a city office that helps new arrivals to Los Angeles get municipal services and participate in civic life without regard to their legal status.

The mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs has been inactive for a year but the Villaraigosa administration, noting more than 40 percent of the city’s residents are foreign-born, said the service is needed to inform immigrants about city laws and how City Hall works.

“It’s a service not just to immigrants but the rest of the community,” said Thomas Saenz, counsel to Villaraigosa. “We’re making sure we have common community connections and common understanding of civic life.”

The office was created in 2004 by then-Mayor James Hahn and approved by the City Council, using $125,000 in federal funds. Political consultant and Planned Parenthood executive Nora E. Vargas was hired to head the office but left within a year.

Hahn didn’t seek funding in the 2005 budget and the office disappeared.

But Villaraigosa, who defeated Hahn last year, now intends to jump-start the operation, using staffers from his office and the city’s Human Relations Commission. A start-up date has not been set.

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