Two illegal aliens were appointed to city commissions in Huntington Park on Monday.
Julian Zatarain, 21, who emigrated from Sinaloa in 2007, was appointed to the Huntington Park parks and recreation commission, while Francisco Medina, 29, was appointed to the health and education commission. Zatarain had worked with the Red Cross before his appointment.
The area in which the men live has become a haven for illegal immigrants, and noted for the communities’ lack of interest in the civic process. According to the Los Angeles Times, voter turnout has dropped below 10% in some elections; one election in Bell saw only 2% of eligible voters casting a ballot while another election in South Gate only elicited 3% of voters to vote.
50% of Huntington Park’s population comes from outside the United States; over 97% of the population is Latino, according to Southern California Public Radio. Huntington Park Mayor Karina Macias told the Times, “Our population includes documented and undocumented immigrants, and I wanted to make sure everyone could participate. 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.”
Jhonny Pineda, the Huntington Park councilman who appointed the two men, added, “These two gentlemen have thousands of hours of volunteer work. They are qualified but it just turns out they are undocumented.”
But Linda Caraballo, a former councilwoman in Huntington Park, opposed the appointments, telling the Times, “There are more qualified people. How could they be policy advisors if they can’t even vote for the council members? This is just going to bring media attention, it’s going to create national debate and it is something the city of Huntington Park doesn’t need.”
Macias said city officials began considering appointing illegal immigrants two months ago, when applications became available; state law does not ban the practice.