Huntington Park is the first city in California to appoint two illegal immigrants as commissioners, a councilman said Monday.
Councilman Jhonny Pineda appointed Francisco Medina to the health and education commission and Julian Zatarain to the parks and recreation commission, a local CBS affiliate reported.
“Huntington Park is a city of opportunity and a city of hope for all individuals regardless of socioeconomic status, race, creed, or in this case, citizenship,” Mr. Pineda, 32, said in a statement. “Both these gentlemen have accomplished a great deal for the city. For that, on behalf of the city council, mayor, and our city, I want to say thank you to them both and I am confident they will do an excellent job on their commission posts.”
The advisory positions Mr. Medina and Mr. Zatarain would fill are unpaid, and the men would not have a direct hand in policymaking, CBS reported.
Mayor Karina Macias also expressed her support for the appointments.
“Our population includes documented and undocumented immigrants, and I wanted to make sure everyone could participate,” she said, the Los Angeles Times reported. “If we’re going to talk about transparency, being open and having a community that’s involved, then the conversation also has to include undocumented immigrants. I’m hoping other cities are looking at what we’re doing here.”
Mr. Pineda said he cleared the appointments with the city attorney, and both appointees passed a LifeScan background check.
The council’s decision was met with harsh criticism from residents during a meeting Monday night.
“A lot of residents who I spoke to don’t want this to happen,” said Linda Caraballo, a former council member, KPCC reported. “I think it is exploitation. Why is it that an undocumented illegal person is told you can take a position but we are not going to pay you? That is wrong.”
Mr. Medina attended the meeting but refused to debate the issue.
“I’m not going to say anything,” he said, CBS reported. “I’m just happy for the fortune that I have, and I’m going to do my best to represent every single resident in Huntington Park, regardless if you’re undocumented, regardless if you are a citizen. We’re just going to be working for everyone.”