Posted on March 24, 2006

Calif. City to Enforce Immigration Law

Gillian Flaccus, AP, March 24, 2006

COSTA MESA, Calif. — A new city policy that would give police the authority to enforce federal immigration law is hurting local businesses even though it has yet to be implemented, merchants say.

The policy would ally Costa Mesa police with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, making it the first city in the nation to train its officers in federal immigration enforcement. Border security has historically been the purview of federal agencies.

The City Council approved the policy late last year, but it could take months to go into effect as federal officials decide whether to accept the policing plan for Costa Mesa, a city of about 108,000 residents near the ocean some 90 miles north of the Mexican border.

About 50 business owners gathered in front of City Hall on Thursday to voice their opposition to the policy, which would allow police to check the immigration status of suspected violent felons. They said fear among the immigrant community is keeping patrons away from businesses that cater to Hispanic customers.

Vincente Barajas, owner of La Espiga de Oro bakery, said his business declined 20 percent since the council vote. He said another of his bakeries, in nearby Fullerton, had not seen a similar dip.

“People think that just because of the way they look, you’re going to get picked up by the police and taken to jail,” Barajas said.