AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council voted Thursday afternoon to start the process to create an Office of Immigrant Affairs after they visited the border last week.
According to city documents, there are 57,000 people in Austin who are eligible for citizenship but are not citizens.
One goal of this office would be to help them become citizens. Now that it has passed council, the city manager will look at what other cities do and incorporate the best of those ideas here in Austin.
Jorge Lopez was held in a detention facility in Texas after he came here illegally from Honduras. Now he has a work permit but says it would have been easier if he had understood the process better.
He says an Office of Immigrant Affairs would be good for other immigrants who’ve lived here for years and helped build the city.
After the majority of the council toured the now infamous tent city in Tornillo, Councilwoman Delia Garza says they wanted to do more at home. She’s the sponsor of the would-be ordinance.
“For families here to be able to have a place to go, where they feel safe,” said Garza.
Andy Hogue, spokesperson for the Travis County Republican Party says if used properly, in their view, the office would be something positive and a way to get immigrants legal jobs.
“You don’t need entitlement funding. You don’t need social services. These are how you get the good jobs. Here’s where you get the training. Let’s go get you the good jobs,” said Hogue.
But he says it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars if the office would encourage illegal immigration or allow people to stay undocumented.
“Those are issues that will need to be addressed in this citizenship clinic,” said Hogue.
Hogue says the local Republican Party would oppose the office if it would be used to fight policies from the Trump administration or the state of Texas.
After the president’s family separation controversy, City Council members say this office would be used to help keep families together.
“Austin has leaders that will stand up and fight for them. The immoral and un-American Trump policies do not reflect who Austin is and the values in our community,” said Garza at a press conference early Thursday.
The city of Dallas already has an Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs. There, staff members distribute education information about first responders, organizes recreational activities for immigrant children and offers free large-scale naturalization and citizenship workshops.