As housing costs rise and eviction moratoriums end, some public officials in Southeast L.A. are concerned that new housing units could be used to house undocumented residents.
“The homes that we’re trying to build—Are they going to be for American citizens or for immigrants or both?” asked Paramount Public Works Commissioner Gina Garcia at the March 4th, 2021 meeting of the Commission.
John King, Paramount’s Assistant Planning Director, first appeared at a loss for words, but finally responded, “It can be for legal residents or even undocumented, it's just to house people,” to which Garcia replied “Wow, OK, I'm glad you said that.”
Garcia, an appointee of first-term Council Member Vilma C. Stallings, asked her question in the midst of comments from other Commissioners, which highlighted the housing affordability crisis. Speaking in regard to the possible housing developments, Commissioner Tony Warfield (a Brenda Olmos appointee) did not speak against undocumented residents but rather said, “When I look at Paramount and I look at some of the less advantaged areas, I can’t help but believe that a lot of them will be displaced.”
Following Mr. Warfield, Public Works Director Ana Figueroa said, “All of this is just so complex, but what is really difficult to really absorb is this requirement from the state to have cities make room for these developments. They’re not really telling the cities go out and build these places, they’re just telling us we need to make room for these places.” Figueroa’s comments are in reference to California’s Housing Element, which mandates that Cities plan for space to accommodate housing growth, but which does not necessarily ensure housing affordability.
At the end of the meeting, Garcia was asked to clarify her statements, to which she replied “I was just concerned about all the undocumented—I don’t know what you’re supposed to call them—the correct name now. Crossing the border currently, and the bombardment of people. It’s like wow, now they're going to take all our housing too, whereas I think we need housing for a lot of our citizens, for like myself even for example. Like yes, I have a house. I live with my mother so one day when I get a little bit better, I would like to live in my own apartment again, have an accessible apartment, and I don’t want it, you know, to be taken by somebody who shouldn’t even be here legally.”
A Paramount resident who alerted Political Life as to the recording chose to remain anonymous, but said “I sympathize with everyone struggling with housing costs, including Commissioner Garcia. But immigration is core to our history, beginning with Garcia’s European ancestors. We shouldn’t further victimize the families that are suffering from the consequences of our foreign policy in Central America. Paramount has many undocumented families and they deserve respect from everyone, especially those serving at City Hall.”
Of course, the federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against potential housing occupants on the basis of their immigration status or country of origin.
Concerned community members may write to City Council Members, and submit a public comment to email@example.com
Mayor Peggy Lemons | firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice Mayor Brenda Olmos | email@example.com
Council Member Isabel Aguayo | IAguayo@paramountcity.com
Council Member Laurie Guillen | firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Member Vilma C. Stallings | VCuellarStallings@paramountcity.com
The next meeting of the Paramount Public Works Commission is set for April 1st, 2021. The City Council meets on April 6th, 2021.
Note. The full meeting audio was provided by the City of Paramount to Rodolfo Cortes, who wrote this article for publication. The complete audio is available for download at this link.