TEMECULA—About 300 people rallied Saturday in support of the Border Patrol’s recent local neighborhood immigration sweeps for undocumented immigrants.
The rally at the Border Patrol’s Temecula station was in response to a protest there last month in which immigration activists urged an end to the raids.
While Saturday’s two-hour event was supposed to be limited to praising the Border Patrol, several members of the crowd disrupted the rally by loudly criticizing Republican politicians for refusing to stop illegal immigration.
“They’ve done nothing,” one man yelled. “It’s all lip service.”
Bob Kowell, president of the Murrieta and Temecula Republican Assembly, pleaded for calm.
“We’re here to support the Border Patrol, not to have a fist fight,” said Kowell, who helped organize the rally.
After a representative from the office of Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, read a statement commending patrol agents for protecting the border, someone responded, “What’s she doing about it?”
Kowell replied sarcastically, “Let’s have another fight about it.”
That prompted a woman to counter, “Gee, you’re a girlie man,” a reference to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s statement in Ontario last week criticizing Democratic lawmakers for failing to support his budget.
The event was sponsored by Republican groups and organizations opposed to illegal immigration.
At the June 28 protest against the Border Patrol, agents dressed in riot gear were on hand in case violence broke out. Some stood on the roof of the station with video cameras.
The visible security presence was lacking at Saturday’s rally.
“They perceive us as antagonists, adversarial and confrontational, while the people there today were perceived to be loyal supporters of the Border Patrol,” said Armando Navarro, coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights, which organized last month’s protest.
Border Patrol Supervisor Sean Isham said agents were there to assist sheriff’s deputies at both events.
“Our agents were on standby in the rear parking lot,” Isham said. “It’s the same as it was last time.”
Speakers at the event criticized state lawmakers who support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and allow them to receive benefits such as education and health care. They also criticized the acceptance of the Mexican consular identification card by state and local governments.
Ed Laning, the Republican congressional candidate running against Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto, said the sweeps should be resumed and expanded.
“Joe Baca was influential in pulling the plug on the immigration sweeps,” Laning said, referring to Baca’s criticism of the way the raids were conducted. “We wouldn’t tell the CHP and the IRS not to enforce the laws in their jurisdictions.”
Another woman at the rally said Baca should be deported to Mexico, even though he was born in the United States.
“If he likes illegal aliens so much, he should go back to Mexico,” said Myrna Meyering, 71, of Redlands.
Baca was unavailable for comment.
Meyering was one of many people who expressed concern that Latino immigrants are making the white population a rapidly disappearing minority.
Latinos make up about one-third of the state’s population, at 11.6 million, and 42 percent of San Bernardino County’s 1.7 million residents. By 2030, more than half of California residents will be Latinos, most of them Mexicans, according to government estimates.
“Where I am, every time a Caucasian moves out, a Mexican moves in,” said Meyering, who was born in San Bernardino. “They’re illegals moving in. The majority can’t even speak English. Deport them all.”
Rodolfo Orozco, who was fixing sprinklers a few blocks from the rally, disagreed.
“If there weren’t any illegals, there wouldn’t be anybody to do the work,” said Orozco, 50, a Moreno Valley resident who became a U.S. citizen three years ago.
“I’m working overtime today because 80 percent of the people in my company don’t have papers and are afraid to come to work because of the raids,” Orozco said in Spanish. “If there are no more Mexicans, this country falls apart. Because of us, this country is rich.”