October 18, 2021 IRC meeting

October 18, 2021

In this page:


    During the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) emergency, the Immigrant Rights Commission’s regular meeting room is closed. The Commission will convene remotely. Members of the public can access the meeting and make public comment online or by phone.


    1. Call to Order and Roll Call

      Vice Chair Paz called the meeting to order at 5:33 p.m.

      Present: Vice Chair Paz, Commissioners Fujii, Gaime, Khojasteh, Mena, Obregon, Rahimi, Ruiz, Souza, Wang, Zamora (5:41 p.m.).

      Not present: Chair Kennelly (excused), Commissioners Enssani, Ricarte (excused).

      Staff present: Director Pon, Commission Clerk Shore, Administrative Programs Coordinator Alvarez, Operations and Grants Administrator Chan, Spanish Language Specialist Cosenza, Language Access Unit Supervisor Jozami, Chinese Language Specialist Li, Policy and Civic Engagement Officer Noonan, Senior Communications Specialist Richardson, Deputy Director Whipple.

      OCEIA staff provided announcements in Cantonese and Spanish about how to access interpretation services during the meeting.

    2. Ramaytush Ohlone Land Acknowledgment

      Vice Chair Paz read the land acknowledgment statement.

    3. Action Item: Adoption of findings regarding remote meetings (AB 361) (Director Pon)

      a. Adoption of findings that (1) the Commission has considered the circumstances of the state of emergency, and (2) one of the following circumstances exist: (a) the state of emergency continues to directly impact the ability of members to meet safely in person, or (b) state or local officials continue to impose or recommend measures to promote social distancing
      Director Pon provided an overview of AB 361 and the agenda item. Commissioner Rahimi motioned for the Commission to adopt the findings, seconded by Commissioner Souza. The motion was approved by all 10 Commissioners present at the time of the vote.

    4. Invited Speakers

      a. Federal immigration updates
      1. Elizabeth Taufa, Immigrant Legal Resource Center

      Elizabeth Taufa, policy attorney and strategist with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s Washington, D.C. office, provided an update on the attempt by Democrats in Congress to pass immigration reform through budget reconciliation, and the Biden administration’s new proposed rule on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She answered questions from Commissioners Souza, Gaime, and Rahimi on the process to overrule the Senate Parliamentarian or relieve her of duty, the effect parole could have on current DACA recipients, and the criteria of eligibility for parole.

      b. Update on Haitian migrants
      1. Aron B. Oqubamichael, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
      “Black immigrants, especially asylum seekers, are unfairly treated by the current administration’s anti-Black practices and policies in immigration.”

      Aron Oqubamichael of Black Alliance for Just Immigration outlined the actions the Biden Administration must take to address anti-Black racism in the immigration system. BAJI and other organizations are calling for the administration to grant humanitarian parole to Black asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border; stop deporting Haitians and other Black asylum seekers; end Title 42; end the metering system used to process asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border; and respect international human rights laws that forbid countries from sending people back to the countries they are fleeing.

      2. Adoubou Traore, African Advocacy Network (AAN)
      “Having this kind of open conversation means a lot. It means a lot to a community that has never been given the opportunity to speak.”

      Adoubou Traore, director of the African Advocacy Network (AAN’s), discussed the mistreatment of Black migrants. He provided an overview of AAN’s work with the Haitian community and their ongoing need for legal representation, language support, food, mental health care, and other services.

      3. Obnes Compere
      “The situation is not good for Haitian people. What we would like for them now is support, all kinds of support.”

      Assistant pastor Obnes Compere discussed the needs of Haitian community members and the support that churches provide. There are an estimated 2,000 Haitians in the Bay Area. Community members need assistance with interpretation, legal services, social guidance, mental health care, and other services.

      4. Pastor Willan Jean Baptiste
      “We need support, support, support from everyone who is willing to do so. We are hoping to make those people feel they are human beings and they are welcome.”

      Pastor Willan Jean Baptiste, who is originally from Haiti and has been living in the United States for almost 30 years, serves as the pastor of a congregation in San Rafael. He discussed the role churches play as gathering spaces and service providers for community members.

      Vice Chair Paz thanked the speakers and invited Commissioners to ask questions. Commissioner Zamora discussed misinformation about Haitian community members. In response to a question from Commissioner Obregon, Director Traore highlighted the need for legal representation, language support, basic needs services, and support for churches. Commissioner Obregon asked what the Commission could do to research San Francisco’s support of newcomer populations, and advocate for increased support. Vice Chair Paz noted that the resources are not sufficient. In response to a question from Vice Chair Paz, Assistant Pastor Compere highlighted the need for legal services, social services, certification for interpreters, and mental health care to cope with stress and trauma. He added that AAN needs support to hire more attorneys. Director Pon thanked AAN for their work. OCEIA provides small grants to AAN and can help train community interpreters. Director Pon suggested that the Executive Committee explore this matter at their next meeting. Commissioner Gaime volunteered to help with the community interpreters’ training.

      c. Update on Afghan assistance efforts
      1. Vicky Hartanto and Noor Ahmadi, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO)
      “We need more of these organizations who help many Afghans.” - Noor Ahmadi, client, APILO

      Vicky Hartanto, a supervising attorney with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO), provided an overview of APILO’s work and introduced her client, Noor Ahmadi. Mr. Ahmadi, who moved to the United States in 2016 with a Special Immigrant Visa, provided testimony on his family’s experience in Afghanistan and the murder of his father. He is now applying for Humanitarian Parole to bring his family to the United States.

      2. Morsal Sais, Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)
      “At the local level, we do want more support with assisting the citizens to pay for the filing fees and gather more financial support to help their families get out of Afghanistan.”

      Morsal Sais, a legal services provider with Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), presented an overview of the three categories of Afghan clients in the Bay Area. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents struggle with finding sponsors, paying filing fees, and accessing legal services in order to bring their families to the United States. Newcomers struggle with finding housing, health care, and legal resources. Afghans outside of the United States face challenges obtaining, renewing and translating documents.

      3. Saamia Haqiq, Project ANAR
      “There’s a few things we are fighting for: fee waivers… expedited processing for all filed humanitarian parole applications… and transparency and consistency in the processing.”

      Saamia Haqiq, an Afghan American organizer and coordinator with Afghan Network for Advocacy and Resources (Project ANAR), provided an overview of her organization’s work. Project ANAR pairs legal volunteers with Afghans seeking assistance applying for humanitarian parole. She expressed the need for support with advocacy, fundraising, and volunteers to address her organization’s backlog of 3,000 applicants.

      4. Joanna Cortez Hernandez, Mission Asset Fund
      “Earlier this month, MAF, in large partnership with OCEIA, did decide to use existing immigration fee assistance funding to help cover the cost of humanitarian parole for Afghan immigrants.”

      Joanna Cortez Hernandez, advocacy and engagement director with Mission Asset Fund (MAF), provided an overview of new fee assistance efforts launched by OCEIA and MAF to support Afghans applying for humanitarian parole. She asked attendees to share this resource with other organizations in the Bay Area.

    5. Public Comment

      There was no public comment.

    6. Action Item: Follow-Up actions and recommendations

      a. Motion to authorize Executive Committee to develop recommendations on this hearing
      Commissioner Obregon proposed establishing a working group to research City resources currently being allocated to newcomers. Director Pon stated that a working group could present recommendations to the Executive Committee, and noted that meetings of more than two Commissioners must be publicly noticed. Commissioner Zamora volunteered to join Commissioner Obregon. Vice Chair Paz appointed Commissioners Obregon and Zamora to the working group. Commissioner Zamora motioned to authorize the Executive Committee to develop recommendations on this hearing, seconded by Commissioner Obregon. The motion was approved by the 11 Commissioners present. Vice Chair Paz thanked the speakers, affirmed the Commission’s support for their work, and asked them to continue to keep the Commission informed.

    7. Action Item: Approval of previous minutes

      a. Approval of September 13, 2021 Full Commission Meeting Minutes
      Commissioner Zamora motioned to approve the September 13, 2021 Full Commission meeting minutes. Commissioner Gaime seconded the motion. The minutes were approved.

    8. Action Item: Adoption of Resolution on Immigrant Parent Voting (Souza, Paz, Obregon, Rahimi, Khojasteh, Kennelly)

      a. Invited Speakers
      Vice Chair Paz invited Commissioner Souza to make opening remarks. Commissioner Souza acknowledged the work of the Immigrant Parent Voting Collaborative, and discussed her resolution to support the Board of Supervisors’ proposal reauthorizing noncitizen voting in School Board elections.

      1. Annette Wong, Maribel Gonzaga, Elizabeth Cruz
      “It’s great to know that San Francisco, as a city of immigrants, is really paving the way forward when the rest of the country is trying to strip communities of color of their voting rights.” - Annette Wong, Chinese for Affirmative Action
      Annette Wong, director of programs with Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and Maribel Gonzaga and Elizabeth Cruz of Coleman Advocates, discussed the history and significance of immigrant parent voting, and voiced their support for making this right permanent. In 2016, San Francisco voters passed Proposition N, which allowed certain noncitizens to vote in School Board elections until December 31, 2022. The Board of Supervisors’ proposed ordinance, championed by Supervisors Chan and Melgar, would remove the sunset date in the Charter Amendment and allow qualifying noncitizens to vote in recall elections. Programs Director Wong also highlighted the need for additional resources for outreach, engagement, and education.

      Vice Chair Paz thanked the speakers and invited Commissioners to ask questions. Commissioners Obregon and Rahimi expressed their support for the resolution and the Immigrant Parent Voting Collaborative. Commissioner Khojasteh asked if noncitizen parents would be able to vote in the February School Board recall election. Programs Director Wong said she would look into the matter. (Note from staff: She later confirmed that noncitizen parents will be able to vote by February.) In response to a question from Commissioner Wang, Programs Director Wong noted that 103 noncitizen parents had registered to vote. Commissioners Souza, Gaime, and Obregon discussed the implementation challenges during the previous administration.

      b. Adoption of Resolution on Immigrant Parent Voting (Souza, Paz, Obregon, Rahimi, Khojasteh, Kennelly)
      Commissioner Souza motioned to adopt the resolution on immigrant parent voting, seconded by Commissioner Zamora. The motion was approved, with 10 Commissioners voting in favor of the motion, and one abstaining (Commissioner Wang). Vice Chair Paz thanked the Commissioner Souza and the invited speakers.

    9. Committee Report Back

      a. Language Access Survey and Follow-Up Actions (Executive Committee, Language Access Committee, OCEIA Staff)
      Director Pon provided an update on the language access survey. OCEIA partnered with the Language Access Network and other community organizations to distribute the survey to community members in 12 languages. OCEIA received about 2,000 responses. Director Pon thanked Commissioners, the Language Access Network, Asociación Mayab, Chinatown Community Development Center, and OCEIA staff including the Community Ambassadors.

    10. Staff Reports (Director Pon)

      a. Director’s Updates
      Director Pon provided an update on the Language Access Ordinance compliance report, and the reopening of City offices on November 1, 2021. The next Pathways to Citizenship Initiative workshop will take place on December 4, 2021, and Commissioners are encouraged to attend.

      b. Reappointment of Commissioners
      Director Pon reminded Commissioners to complete their reappointment applications and noted that the hearing will be scheduled soon.

    11. Old Business

      Commissioner Zamora asked about the timeline of in-person Commission meetings. Director Pon noted that the Commission had voted to extend remote hearings (item 3). She discussed the vacancy on the Commission, and asked Commissioners to recommend any applicants. Commissioners Zamora and Souza provided updates on AB 1259 and SB 321, which were both signed by Governor Newsom. The Commission previously released resolutions in support of both bills.

    12. New Business

      Commissioner Souza will draft a resolution in support of Supervisor Ronen’s proposal to provide paid time off for domestic workers in San Francisco, and will submit the draft to the Executive Committee.

    13. Adjournment

      Vice Chair Paz adjourned the meeting at 8:03 p.m.

    Date & Time

    Monday, October 18, 2021
    5:30 pm




    Access code: 2491 446 3383

    Last updated November 24, 2021