Dozens of immigration advocates cheered at the steps of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors headquarters early on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 3. Attendees waved flags and held signs reading “A JUST COUNTY BUDGET FOR ALL,” “YES ON MEHKO,” and “SUPPORT HOME COOKING”.
Immigrants Are LA (IRLA) – a coalition of immigrant organizations that work to ensure immigrants are represented and integrated into city budgets – led a short press conference to celebrate victories regarding the funding of public safety net supports, including resources that aid immigrant families and food vendors, on the heels of a scheduled board meeting later that morning.
IRLA highlighted several wins for immigrant communities in the county’s supplemental budget, such as full funding of the Stay Housed LA program at $27 million, sustained investment in the RepresentLA program, which provides legal representation for immigrant residents, and funding of the Digital Navigator Program for technical and language support to immigrants, according to an IRLA press release.
Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – an IRLA member – and the LA Street Vendor Campaign rallied the crowd and encouraged testimonies about their experiences as immigrants. Despite the positive energy of the event, speakers urged to keep fighting for further representation in the county’s budget.
“We need to make sure that we continue to push the Board of Supervisors to really do the right thing. And the right thing is to invest in our people,” said Bamby Salcedo, an activist who spoke at the press conference.
Investments would largely come from a $3.4 billion increase to the adopted county budget of $43.3 billion, which was set in June and was finally approved this month.
Luz Castro, the Policy Associate Director at Inclusive Action, a non-profit in Boyle Heights that is a leading committee for IRLA, said she thinks it’s time for Los Angeles County to step in where federal policies have been insufficient in supporting undocumented communities.
“A lot of these undocumented populations don’t have access to any federal programs and are relying on the state and local governments to be able to support them so that they’re not only surviving here, but that they’re thriving. We want them to buy houses. We want them to continue investing into our local economies and into our national economy,” Castro said.
During the meeting, the Board of Supervisors heard from several proponents of the Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKO) ordinance, which would establish fairer regulations for street vendors and provide clear safety guidelines so they can continue to cook from their home kitchens. Many supporters of the ordinance spoke during public comment and shared their experiences as immigrants who sell their cooking on the sidewalks of the Eastside and argued it would streamline their main source of income. The Board later passed the ordinance unanimously.
And Hilda Solis, the District 1 Supervisor, acknowledged the importance of supporting immigrants and their families through county-wide funding. Solis noted that the budget increment includes funding that was “sorely needed” to the Office of Immigrant Affairs.
“We’re also setting aside $150 thousand to support immigrants who are arriving from other states, because quite simply, it’s the right thing to do as we continue to figure out how and what the best path forward is to help provide for our immigrant communities and their families. Especially for low-income communities,” Solis said.
Solis –whose district includes Boyle Heights and the Eastside– also underscored her commitment to funding opportunities and resources to help further support food vendors and also bridge the digital divide in undocumented families across District 1.
“The budget is a statement of our values. It’s very important that people understand how hard our teams have been working to try to really tailor many of the things we see in the budget to send a signal and a message that indeed this board is listening to you.”