Days before facing his biggest electoral challenge in recent memory, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido sought to build on his relationship with the Vietnamese-American community by taking a stand against official visits from communist Vietnam.
Standing on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, Pulido proposed that the city adopt an ordinance discouraging official delegations from Vietnam.
The Vietnam War “is still alive today, because the struggle is alive today. And the pain is alive today,” Pulido said. “And when there’s a visitor from communist Vietnam that comes here, it hurts our community.”
“We have to be in solidarity and say we stand for freedom. We stand for human rights everywhere in the world without exception,” the mayor said.
Pulido’s critics, meanwhile, cast doubt on his intentions, suggesting the move was a last-minute tactic to gain votes.
“Miguel has had two decades to propose such an ordinance but chose five days before an election,” said Councilman David Benavides, the leading challenger against Pulido. “If this was truly something that was of concern or interest to him, you would have thought that he would have taken action” years ago.
Councilwoman Michelle Martinez said the mayor “should be advocating for this out in the community all the time, not just when he’s up for reelection.”
“The Vietnamese community should not be fooled by this,” she said.
Pulido was joined by several Vietnamese-American community leaders, who praised the mayor in front of Vietnamese-language news media.
Garden Grove Planning Commissioner Joe Dovinh said he gives Pulido a “resounding” endorsement in his re-election to a 10th term.
“I do hope that we will keep Mayor Puldio here in our city, who has been very friendly to us, very supportive of everything the Vietnamese-Americans want to achieve in this city,” Dovinh told reporters.
The ordinance would require Vietnamese delegations to tell the city in advance about their plans and prohibit the city from providing security, said Dovinh. It would mirror existing laws adopted by Westminster and Garden Grove in 2004.
Orange County’s Little Saigon, considered the largest community of Vietnamese people outside Vietnam, extends into parts of western Santa Ana.
About 8.4 percent of Santa Ana’s voting-age population is of Vietnamese descent, according to the most recent census figures. The city was home to 19,000 adults of Vietnamese descent, out of a total voting-age population of about 225,000.
A Pulido supporter said the ordinance had nothing to do with the election.
“I think the mayor is pretty well-liked by Vietnamese-American community members here in Santa Ana,” said Ken Nguyen, the city’s ambassador to the Vietnamese community.
The ordinance is set to come before the Santa Ana City Council on Nov. 19.