City reaches out to illegal immigrants

San Francisco has launched an $83,000 advertisement campaign to inform The City’s estimated 40,000 immigrants who are not here legally that they can use city services without fear of punishment.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, along with Supervisor Tom Ammiano, held a news conference Wednesday to announce the public outreach effort, which is being funded with dollars from The City’s Public Health and Human Services Departments.

The campaign message, which promises “safe access to public services,” will be disseminated in brochures, print and radio ads, on bus shelters, billboards and in public-service announcements on cable television.

The campaign is needed to counter the “tremendous fear” in the immigrant community spawned by federal immigration law and enforcement raids, said Newsom, who added that he hoped it would “calm people’s fears,” and to prevent people from going “underground” and not reporting crimes, keeping their children from school or seeking routine health care.

“I know we are doing the right thing, and I know it is necessary,” Newsom said.

Letting illegal immigrants know they have access to taxpayer-funded services could attract more foreigners to San Francisco and increase city costs for providing services, said Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center of Immigration, a Washington, D.C., think tank favoring tougher enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Services available to immigrants without documents proving legal residence include access to The City’s public health services and hospital, library use, recreation and park programs, “Bank on San Francisco” banking and public-school access.

Undocumented immigrants contribute to The City’s tax base in “many ways,” including payingsales tax and rent, said Sheila Hagen, The City’s recently hired immigrant rights administrator.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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