SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego plans to hire its first manager to lead an ambitious effort to welcome immigrants and refugees and integrate them into the community through education and job assistance, the city’s Republican mayor said Monday, in sharp contrast to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
Economic growth is tied to immigrants, with one in four people in San Diego foreign-born, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at a news conference, surrounded by civic and business leaders, including former Republican mayor Jerry Sanders, who heads the Chamber of Commerce.
“San Diego is proud to be a destination for immigrants in search of an opportunity,” Faulconer said, adding that immigrants from around the globe “define who we are as a region.”
The announcement came less than a week after San Diego County decided to provide a building to shelter asylum seekers after they are released from detention.
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Other major cities, including Atlanta and Seattle, have immigrant affairs offices, while Nevada’s first Democratic governor in two decades said last month he will create a state office to welcome immigrants.
San Diego consulted with those cities and wants its plan to be among the most ambitious in the nation.
Faulconer has included $70,000 in his proposed budget for the immigrant affairs manager position.
A committee involving business owners, university researchers and humanitarian groups spent a year drafting a blueprint for the city that includes providing incentives for landlords, employers and others to help immigrants.
It was unclear how many initiatives might be adopted; whether the City Council would need to vote on every one; and whether at some point it would include helping immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
The committee has recommended ensuring housing stability by making sure immigrant tenants are protected from deportation and by preventing landlords from taking actions based on immigration status.
Asked if the plan includes immigrants in the U.S. illegally in San Diego, Faulconer said in an interview that his focus at this point is on refugees and immigrants who have green cards or citizenship, adding that the blueprint is an evolving plan.
“Immigrants have been part of the fabric of our city since our inception and they will be part of our future and so this is an intentional effort … to formalize this with one goal — integrating folks,” Faulconer said.
The blueprint calls for promoting immigrant entrepreneurship and business ownership, strengthening multicultural curriculum in K-12 education, expanding English classes, increasing civic participation by immigrants and refugees, and police training that fosters trust between law enforcement and immigrants.
It also recommends the city host events that highlight the stories of immigrants.
The conservative mayor, who won a second term in a landslide election in 2016 in a solidly Democratic city, has long separated his views from Trump and extolled the virtues of a strong cross-border relationship.
When Trump signed an executive order to erect a wall on the border, Faulconer said there already is a safe and secure border in San Diego built by the federal government. He later publicly opposed the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.
Faulconer previously said in a commentary published in The San Diego Union-Tribune that city police work to protect everyone regardless of immigration status, an apparent dig at Trump’s approach to immigration enforcement.
The comment came as Trump made his first visit to the California-Mexico border as president in 2017.