San Juan Capistrano City Council members will vote tonight on extending a lease of a city-owned property to a social services organization that has come under fire from anti-illegal-immigration activists.

The Community Health Enrichment Collaborative, or CHEC, offers services like a mentoring program for new mothers, as well as assistance in obtaining Medi-Cal and food stamps. The collaborative is administered in part through Mission Hospital and Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.

But a small, influential political action group called SJC Americans says the organization provides services to undocumented immigrants and helps foster “sanctuary city” conditions in town.

Though members of SJC Americans say their group promotes the truth, others say the group conducts a misinformation campaign to push the public and the council into policies that make life difficult for the city’s Latinos.

As I detailed yesterday, SJC Americans has set the stage for CHEC having to leave town.

Members of SJC Americans and council members say effective lobbying — both at City Hall and through a newsletter, called Capistrano Common Sense — has created a hostile political climate for CHEC since the council last approved a lease agreement with the organization in 2008.

“My assumption is that the lies they were telling — we brought a light to it, and now they can’t get away with it,” said Kim McCarthy, one of SJC Americans’ most vocal members.

CHEC was not going to pursue a lease extension at the city-owned old fire station complex, but since it is having difficulty securing another location in the city, the organization will ask for a month-by-month extension for up to six months until it finds its new office space.

City staffers have recommended that the council not approve the extension for CHEC because of plans for a kindergarten recreation center at the site.

We’ll let you know what happens tonight. Stay tuned. …


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