This month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted the county’s final $46.7 billion budget. On October 3, the board held a hearing to present the budget for the 2023–24 fiscal year. The budget aims to reflect the priorities of the Board of Supervisors and fund the county’s emergency response to homelessness, improving conditions within the jail system, mental health services and a wide range of public safety needs.
But despite the billion-dollar budget, there’s one immigrant rights coalition that believes the immigrant community and its needs are not rightfully represented in the final county budget. Immigrants Are LA (IRLA) has continuously advocated for the LA County Board of Supervisors budget to allocate expenditures that reflect the needs of the county’s immigrant population.
Immigrants Are LA (IRLA)
IRLA is a coalition made up of more than 100 grassroots immigrant organizations focused on building a just and equitable socioeconomic future for the approximately 3.5 million immigrants living in LA, and the majority of them are Latinos. In addition, IRLA has been working to make sure immigrants are a visible, integral and permanent part of the county’s budget process.
As county officials presented their budget breakdown on October 3, IRLA, immigrants and allies held a press conference to address what they believe should be budget priorities and to discuss what they see as victories in the final allocations.
Aliya Yousufi, Senior Policy Coordinator at the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), a member organization of IRLA, said that she is proud of the coalition’s work. “We are here today as part of IRLA to commemorate the coming out of the supplemental budget, which is the final face of LA County’s budget process,” she said. “As well as to highlight the positive things that have come out of the budget for immigrants and also elevate the work that needs to be done on the priorities we have: housing, digital equity and legal services.”
LA County Budget
The county’s $46.7 billion reflects $3.4 billion increase since the proposed budget, which was released earlier in June. The budget allocated for new county positions, some including 167 positions in the Department of Mental Health to support encampment resolutions and other services and 123 new positions in the Department of Children and Family Services to reduce adoption caseloads for social workers and provide support to caregivers, foster children and families.
The 2023–2024 budget also allocates for homelessness, one of LA’s most pressing and controversial issues. The budget reserves $29.8 million to support interim housing and triage programs and related services for people experiencing homelessness; $30.2 million to support Pathway Home, which aims to resolve encampments countywide, including recreational vehicle or RV’s encampments; $7 million to assist young adults formerly in foster care or in the probation system; and $5 million to support and expand Stay Housed LA, which offers free legal services to county residents facing eviction.
The county also allocated $5.2 million to provide supportive services and nutrition to older residents to address the changing needs of the growing population of people who are 60 and older.
The county also designated funds for immigrant-related programs and costs. For instance, $3.9 million is scheduled to provide cash assistance for immigrants and refugee employment programs. An additional $200,000 will be put aside for consultant services that will ultimately help the Office of Immigrant Affairs develop a countywide language access policy, as stated on the county’s website.
Bamby Salcedo, a transgender Latina activist and President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, an IRLA co-chair organization, said investing in Latinos is necessary to create more equitable socioeconomic lives for immigrants. The TransLatin@ Coalition works with many Latina immigrants. “We have a purpose. Our purpose is to ensure that we advocate for the specific needs of our people. Immigrants deserve to have the resources we need to be integrated into the tapestry of our society, so we can continue to move forward.”
A budget that represents immigrants’ needs
Despite their undocumented immigration status, IRLA believed the county needed to adopt a budget that honors the contributions of immigrant communities to the local, state and national economies. Rudy Espinoza, director of Inclusive Action for the City, who also serves as an IRLA co-chair organization, said the LA County’s budget should be reflective of the large population of immigrants. “Today, we continue to work with our elected supervisors to ensure that the 3.5 million immigrants in Los Angeles County—of which more than 7 percent are of undocumented status—can go beyond surviving to get resources to help them thrive and contribute more fully to our communities,” he said.
In March, IRLA presented 10 budget priorities to the board of supervisors, composed of Hilda Solis, Holly J. Mitchell, Lindsey P. Horvath, Janice Hahn, and Kathryn Barger. IRLA’s budget proposal tackled housing, legal services, and internet access, which, according to the coalition, are immigrant-related issues that need the most support.
“We can’t just sit on the sidelines and think that things will happen magically. We need to make sure that we continue to push for the board of supervisors to do the right thing, and the right thing is to invest in our people,” Salcedo said. “The LA County budget is more than $40 billion, and all we are asking is like taking a hair out of a cat.”
IRLA wins and ongoing requests
Through their continued advocacy and collaboration efforts with the LA County Board of Supervisors, many of the things IRLA’s pushed for in their budget proposal were adopted by the LA County Board of Supervisors.
Today, IRLA and their allies can be attributed to the county’s decision to have full funding of the Stay Housed LA program at $27 million and a commitment to sustain funding through 2024 and beyond. Another of IRLA’s victories, reflected on the budget, was the sustained investment of $1 million for the RepresentLA program, which provides legal representation and deportation defense as well as affirmative immigration legal services for disabled immigrants in or at risk of homelessness.
When it comes to supporting immigrants learning and accessing the internet, IRLA was able to help land $10.4 million for personal computers and other devices, as well as technical assistance, for aging and/or disabled immigrants.
Despite the political and socioeconomic wins, there is still a list of IRLA’s budget requests that the coalition continues to push for. One of them is a request for LA County leaders to create a flexible housing program to provide rental subsidies for undocumented immigrants. IRLA also wants the board of supervisors to establish a pilot program for a rental deposit lending program to give low-income families interest-free loans with reasonable repayment terms when buying a home.
Francisco Moreno, executive director of Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas, also an IRLA co-chair organization, said the fight to allocate the appropriate funds for the immigrant community does not end after the passage and approval of this fiscal year’s budget.
“In this budget cycle, we have worked tirelessly with our members to build the skills necessary to advocate for their right to be included in the L.A. county budget,” Moreno said. “With the announcement of this year’s budget, we celebrate the wins and recommit to ensuring the full integration of the immigrant community in the Los Angeles County budget process in the years to come.”
To read the full Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, LA County’s $46.7 billion budget (2023–24), you can visit here.
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