Local News The Press

Appointment of non-citizens stirs controversy in Huntington Park

HUNTINGTON PARK — About 50 speakers clashed for two and a half hours before the City Council Sept. 8 both for and against the council’s recent appointment of two non-citizens to serve on advisory commissions.

Supporters praised the council for its “courageous” act while detractors accused the council of breaking the law.

Assistant City Manager Edgar Cisneros said the two commissioners, Francisco Medina and Julian Zatarain, have been formally sworn in to the Health and Education Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, respectively.

Unlike other commissioners, they will not receive stipends for attending meetings because of their status.

They were appointed Aug. 3 by Councilman Jhonny Pineda. He was supported by Vice Mayor Gabriela Ortiz and Councilwoman Marilyn Sanabria, also elected last March; and Mayor Karina Macias, who supported the election of the three.

Councilman Valentin Amezquita dissented.

During the meeting, Amezquita came down from the council dais to the speaker’s podium and said “Citizenship is a privilege, not a right. This is a state of law. If we allow little things like this to take place, it could lead to anarchy. At some point there will be a lawsuit.

“We don’t want to create drama,” Amezquita added. “I’m here to get the job [of city government] done. We have a lot of other things to face.”

Speakers supporting the commission appointments said non-citizens should have a say in their government.

“I was never prouder to live in Huntington Park,” said one of the high school students supporting the action.

Attorney Patrick F. Valdez said no law was broken by the appointment. “It is not a criminal act for an undocumented person to be in the United States. It’s a civil matter.”

That was disputed by members of a regional group called We the People Rising.

Many members were non-Latino and did not live in Huntington Park. But one member, Raul Rodriguez, said, “Valentin is the only council member who knows what he is doing.” He blamed Democrats, from Congress members to the president, for “destroying our country.”

“I was born here. God Bless President Donald Trump,” he declared.

“This country has laws which are important. You should enforce federal laws, not break them,” said Francisco Rivera, a Huntington Park resident.

Della Stevens of We the People Rising, took issue with Valdez, stating that under a 1976 resolution, “federal law prohibits appointing undocumented immigrants. Everything about this appointment is illegal.”

Another People Rising member, Jenell Temple, said “We ask you to rescind your action and put America first. Do your research. This city needs to be closed down.”

Temple said she is also a member of Blacks for Equal Justice Task Force. She was one of two African-American women protesting the appointments.

Frequent council critic Rudolfo Cruz said the appointments were a smoke screen to hide what is really going on concerning taxes and a proposal to sell city land on Rita Avenue, now used for parking.

The sale was discussed by the council in closed session. Details were not immediately available.