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Immigrant Rights Commission
Minutes of Meeting on April 11, 2005
A meeting of the Immigrant Rights Commission (IRC) was held on Monday, April 11, 2005 at City Hall Hearing room 416.
I. Roll Call:
Members Present The meeting was called to order on 5:15 p.m., Commissioners Escobedo, Jones, Haile, Kaff, Lau, Nguyen, Melara, Ow, Specktor, Tran were present. Commissioner Tran arrived at 5:40 p.m. & Commissioner Melara arrived at 5:50 p.m. Commission Jones & Tran left at 6:30 p.m.
Members Absent Commissioner Alexander, Lee & Ng was absent excused.
Others Present Dang Pham, Executive Director & Winny Loi, Secretary. Mr. Pham left at 6 p.m.
1. David Still is the District Director of the US Citizenship & Immigration Services they are an agency under the Dept. of Homeland Security. The San Francisco district office of the USCIS runs from Bakersfield & Monterey County to the Oregon boarder. Processing time for naturalization takes an applicant 6 months from application to ceremony. In 1999 there were 200,000 pending applications in the district, now there are 40,000.
Their website USCIS.gov provides the public with information. The new InfoPass system works really well to providing services to the public. People do not need to get up early in the morning & stand in line for many hours to get assistance. Currently, people make an appointment on the USCIS.gov & the average is a total of 30-60 minutes per each customer. Every two weeks they naturalize about 1,400 new citizens. They come from 95 –105 countries. During the fist three months of the calendar year 2005, a total of 8, 336 applicants were naturalized. The top 5 countries are China with 21%, Philippines with 16%, Mexico with 9.3%, India with 5.9%, Vietnam with 5.3%.
Rosemarie Fan works for Office of Citizenship Outreach and assists in arranging regular meetings with community agencies and AILA. 90% of the people who come in to take the test past the first time. People who spend time to attend citizen class do pass.
Only a very small percentage that gets to take the test in their own language, if they meet the age requirement, meet residents requirements, or under a disability wavier. The history and government questions that applicants need to study have been the same for the past 10 years. They are also tested on their ability to read, speak & write English. They are also tested on the knowledge & government of the United States.
The Asylum Office is located in a separate building & under a separate jurisdiction. They make asylum determination within 120 days of receipt. If the officer does not believe the case is warranted, then it is referred to an immigration judge. It can go on the judge’s calendar for 6 or 9 months. If the judge turns it down, it can be appealed in the immigrations appeals, if they turn it down, it can be appealed in Federal court. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter for the asylum claim.
2. Donna Levitt with Office of Labor Standards & Enforcement: The Chair of the Commission was on a radio show a few weeks ago & gotten calls about not getting paid the minimum wage or not get paid at all. Ms. Levitt came to give an overview of the office. Currently if you were making $5.15 an hour working a 40-hour week, many would fall way below the poverty guidelines. The State recognizes that the Federal Minimum Wage not nearly a livable wage & many states have set their own. In CA the Minimum Wage is $6.75 an hour. In SF the voters passed the minimum wage ordinance in Nov. 2003, which became the 1st City to implement the minimum wage. It took effect on Feb. 2004. Studies that were commissioned by the BOS, before the minimum wage past, showed that over 22,000 workers, mostly minority workers were earning less than $8.50 an hour would receive an increase in pay. The studies projected that 38,000 SF residents would spend at least 45 million dollars of their wage increase within the city which would benefit local businesses & generate increase sales tax to the City. A recent United Way study find that a full time job would need to pay $23 an hour to support a family of 4 in SF. Their minimum wage ordinance is a small step is to lift the low wageworkers out of poverty & allow them to be less reliant on public assistance. Every year, the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement mail out a poster to all the businesses. This poster is in English, Chinese, Spanish, Tagalong, Russian, and Vietnamese. If the business has 10 or more employees, they must pay $8.62 an hour, less than 10 employees or non-profits is $7.75 an hour for this year. Next year everyone will be at $8.62 rate as adjusted by the consumer price index. The SF ordinance applies to any employee who works 2 hours or more within the geographical boundaries in SF. It is unlawful for employers to retaliate against workers for filing a complaint or assisting others rights under the ordinance, or taking adverse action towards a person within 90 days of the person exercise of their rights under the minimum wage ordinance. After a hearing, the OLSE is empowered to enforce it, they may order back pay, reinstatement on a job for retaliation, or the city can revoke a business registration certificate or permits. Anyone can go to the website to get basic information about the ordinance & frequently asked questions: wwwsfgov.org/olse. There are claim forms in English, Spanish & Chinese. Their office not only enforces the minimum wage ordinance, they enforce the City’s living wage ordinance known as MCO (minimum compensation ordinance) and that is a higher rate the is required to be paid by city service contracts. The health care accountability ordinance reinforces prevailing wages on construction contracts. They have 8 contract compliance officers, 3 are dedicated to the minimum wage enforcement, 1 is bilingual in Spanish, and they are in the process of highering one in Cantonese. Winny has been working for their office 2 hours a day assisting. She’s been steering in some inquiries that came to the IRC office. She also accompanies their office on garment factory inspections where she was very knowledgeable & get workers to feel comfortable talking which was very helpful. They do education & outreach. They have also testified at the Small Business Commission, they have done public service announcements. There have been notices in the ethnic media; they also work with community-based organizations. They have a cooperative relationship with the State Division of Labor Standard Enforcement. Most advocacy groups prefer to deal with the OLSE, because they are not as bureaucratic, they don’t set up an immediate conference where the worker needs to confront their employer. They will listen to the workers story & represent the workers & keep them confidential to the greatest extent as possible.
3. Prithika Balakrishnan & Kelly Dugan staff members of the Local 2 Hotel Employee & Restaurant Employees Union: Ms. Balakrishnan & Dugan gave an update on the status of 14 hotels & also asked the commission to endorse the boycott. Local 2 is the largest private sector union in SF. They have 13,000 members in SF & San Mateo County that are in the hotel & restaurant industry. They represent 85% of the hotel workers in SF. Most of the workers are immigrants. Their contract expired in August & was in negotiations since July. The 14 hotels represent about 4,000 workers. On Oct 4th, hotels went on strike for 2 weeks. The strike ended because of the support from the community. There was a 60-day period that there will be no strike & no lockout period. Individual supervisors have supported this boycott. They have a written Boycott endorsement statement for the Immigrant Rights Commission to support. These are a few supporters who supported the boycott endorsement: Democratic Central Committee, Asian Law Caucus, Harvey Milk Club, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, half of the Board of Supervisors, Assemblymen Yee & various clergy members who supported this boycott. Here are a couple of items that they are asking for: they would like a 50-cent increase per an hour for non-tipped & 30 cent increase for tipped employees. The employer wants to transfer more of the cost of Health insurance to the employee. Pension increases the eligibility & certain classification of employees; this would make it impossible to keep their benefits throughout the year. Commissioner Escobedo added an amendment to the boycott endorsement: Immigrant worker are particularly impacted by this labor dispute in San Francisco. It is in the best interest of the immigrant community and all of the individuals and families who live and work in the Bay Area to support the workers of the fourteen hotels who are engaged in this labor dispute. Commissioner Escobedo made a motion to adopt this boycott endorsement, which was second by Commissioner Ow.
IV. Muni Complaint: Annette Williams & Joe Speaks- Commissioner Escobedo had a few questions on the response letter. There is currently one transitional employee in the office. There are temporary employees who are bilingual. The commission would like a copy of the list & also a copy of the memo. BART is the lead agency that is doing the translations because it’s a regional wide program. Muni has an obligation to translate the discount card forms & brochures in Spanish & Chinese. Muni is pushing BART to get this translate.
Joe Speaks with MTA- Submitted the late compliance plan to the Commission. They lost their Spanish internal translator in their communications department. They do contract out the materials to translation agencies. They do have a Spanish part timer on the passenger services line. They have held on to the internal Chinese translator. The Program & Access will draft an appropriate response. This will be placed on the agenda to determine if they are incompliance.
V. Bylaws: continue for next meeting.
VI. Directors Report:
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration: This year the Mayor plans to have a ceremony to proclaim Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on May 2nd here in City Hall. There will be a reception to follow. Mr. Pham informed Darlene Chiu that the Immigrant Rights Commission wants to join the Mayor and the City in this celebration. He will follow up with Darlene & keep everyone informed of the development.
Meeting: On March 29th, he joined with Bill Lee to meet with Will Sanchez, the newly appointed Special Counsel and Sarah DeCosse, Senior Trail Attorney of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigrant-Related Unfair Employment Practices of the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss related issues about the discrimination in the area of employment for the immigrants. He will assist the City as much as he can to reach out to the immigrant residents here in San Francisco.
On March 31st, Bill Lee & Mr. Pham met with Wallie Doerge, Diana Bean of the Office of the Visa Services & Glen Keiser of the Office of Children Issues of the US Department of State in Washington, DC. They discuss important issues related to the visa in light of the post Sept. 11 & Patriot Act. This meeting is a new effort of the State Department to do outreach to the local governments about the visa issues.
Activities: On March 21st, Mr. Pham attended a community forum with Mr. Michael Marine, US Ambassador to Vietnam. During the forum, Mr. Marine talked about trade, economic developments, public health, human rights & exchange culture programs in Vietnam & the US efforts to enhance the relationship between two countries.
Day Labor Program Contract: The contract still needs to get approval from the Office of Contract Administration. After approval, the check will be issued to La Raza Central Legal.
II. Approval of minutes for March 14th: Commissioner Haile moved to approve the minutes & second by Commissioner Ow. The Commission unanimously adopted the minutes.
Adjournment: The Commission meeting was adjourned at 7:00 p.m.