In a period of DACA repeals and attempts to create stricter immigration laws, Anaheim
Mayor Tom Tait said he wants his city to feel a little more welcoming to immigrants.

Tait was at the head of a measure that the city council passed at the Oct. 24 meeting
in an effort to create a system of community integration modeled after the “Welcoming
America” program.

“The idea is… a huge percentage of our city are either immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants and this is about, in a nutshell, being mindful of their needs and being empathetic to what it’s like to be an immigrant,” Tait said. “(With this resolution), maybe we could do a little better or maybe we could do a lot better.”

The resolution establishes Anaheim as a “Welcoming City,” joining more than 100 cities as a member of the Welcoming America non-profit, which according to its website seeks to create open and engaging communities for residents of all backgrounds.

Approximately 40% of Anaheim citizens are either foreign born or children of foreign
born individuals, according to Deputy City Manager Greg Garcia. The Welcoming Anaheim initiative seems to cater to many of them. Some of the potential ideas for this initiative include citywide multicultural events, providing opportunities for city employees to learn another language and providing entrepreneurial mentorship programs.

Tait said he thought passing the resolution to establish the city as a welcoming place would be a “no brainer,” but other council members disagreed. To some, Councilwoman Lucille Kring in particular, the resolution focused too heavily on immigrants instead of all residents of Anaheim. Kring also said she thought it sounded similar to a sanctuary city, and was the only council member to vote no on the resolution.

“The (proposed resolution) is infecting Anaheim City Hall with identity politics and I
cannot support this,” Kring said during the Oct. 24 council meeting. “I think it sends the wrong message and if there’s only 100 cities in the whole United States it’s not a lot of cities… this to me is a cover for a sanctuary city and I cannot support it.”

A “sanctuary city” limits cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration
authorities. A “Welcoming City” is a member of the “Welcoming America” non-profit organization that seeks to create a stronger more united community through various efforts.

Council Member Jose F. Moreno pointed out there’s a fear that has come after last year’s presidential election that has made these kinds of cities necessary to calm people’s fears. And he believes this is the case in Anaheim.

“This is about reaffirming who we want to be as a city, who we are as a city, because of a
federal rhetoric that undermines locally what we are trying to do,” Moreno said. “This rhetoric has placed a lot of folks in a state of anxiety and this is to help ease that anxiety.”

Tait said he was surprised by the objections from Kring, as well as questions and doubts from Council Member Kris Murray, and Council Member Stephen Faessel who had participated in Tait’s Mayoral Task Force at the council meeting. He said he believes that by joining this program, Anaheim can learn from others and grow as a city.

“It’s simple stuff,” Tait said. “It’s basically saying we’re going to join this group, have a
network who might say, we’ve had some ideas in Fargo, North Dakota that we’ve tried and you might be interested in seeing in Anaheim.”

As of now the budgetary impact is minimal. The approval of the resolution at the Oct. 24 council meeting simply establishes Anaheim as a “Welcoming City” and establishes its membership with the Welcoming America organization. Membership costs $200 each year, according to the Welcoming America website.

However, some of the ideas proposed for the future of the Welcoming Anaheim initiative could have potential budgetary impacts. Aspects including developing a police task force and designating a services coordinator, among others, have the potential to take time and money away from the city, which were points Kring brought up at the Oct. 24 council meeting.

Council Member Denise Barnes said she is excited that Anaheim is now a “Welcoming City,” calling it “beautiful,” and she said she hopes immigrants coming to the city will feel embraced and empowered.

“It shows that love and harmony and kindness towards someone who is just trying to find their way in life is possible,” Barnes said.

Emma Stessman is a student journalist at Chapman University participating in the Voice of OC Youth Media program.

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