City Council Approves Legal Defense Fund for Undocumented Immigrants, Refugees

SACRAMENTO -- Nadia Ikhtiari is happy to detail the ingredients she feels make her native Afghan food special.

"We cut and then we marinate it with the spices, and the onion or garlic," she says with a smile, pointing aft her finished chicken kabobs.

Then she turns to a tray brimming with eggplant.

"We call it banjan or borani banjan," she said.

As the former therapist and refugee shares these dishes for the first time in her new country, in her new job cooking at the Statehouse Cafe, her boss says refugees like her and undocumented immigrants are part of the recipe that makes Sacramento successful.

"I think we deserve to give everyone a chance," said executive chef Dan Watterson.

That's why he and the mayor are solidly behind the city's new plan to dedicate $300,000 general fund dollars to help Ikhtiari and others defend themselves in court if their legal status is challenged under President Trump's strict immigration policies.

"These undocumented immigrants generate cumulatively about $30 million worth of property and sales tax revenue" said Mayor Steinberg.

That, just one reason why the mayor says the city's population of about 50,000 illegal immigrants deserves to have city money spent on them this way.

More than 50 speakers voiced their support for what the council approved.

"Administrations come and go, but pain and suffering is life-long," said one woman about the what she sees as the devastation of deportation.

The mayor had this answer to another concern about the plan:

"This is not about protecting people who have been accused of or who have committed serious crime," said Steinberg.

That means human traffickers, drug dealers and domestic abusers are among those who would not qualify for the help.

Still some are critical.

"When you come to America, you violate the law. You are a criminal then," said Mac Worthy.

Now officially, the city of Sacramento doesn't see things that way.

"They are Sacramentans and today's resolution is saying that regardless of their legal status," said Councilman Eric Guerra.

The contract for the operation of the fund should be drafted in the next few weeks.

Program specifics and it's addition to upcoming budget discussions should be mapped out for council members by May 23rd.