Booyeon Lee and Elena Gaona, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 16, 2006
Escondido — Latino residents throughout the county are mobilizing to challenge the proposal of a city ordinance that would penalize landlords for housing illegal immigrants.
More than a dozen group and community leaders from North County, including Escondido City Council candidates Olga Diaz and Carmen Miranda, gathered last night at Trinity Episcopal Church Escondido to discuss an opposition plan to the drafting of such a law, which they say is discriminatory.
“On its face, it’s illegal,” said retired assistant sheriff Bill Flores, who attended the meeting. “But it’s also tearing the community apart.”
Opposition leaders said they expect a large turnout of residents and volunteer attorneys, including some from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, to address city officials today during a 4 p.m. council meeting, the first public hearing on the issue.
Leaders told police they plan no protest, but will have their own volunteer security to prevent confrontations. Last night, the group lined up speakers to deliver a “civil” message to the City Council that the proposed law is divisive and illogical.
“We live here and we have a voice in what we want from our government,” Diaz said.
Councilwoman Marie Waldron floated the proposal last month, a few days before Hazleton, Pa., became the first city to approve a similar ordinance.
The proposed Escondido ordinance has brought a defunct Latino coalition to life. Yesterday, El Grupo sin Nombre (The Group without a Name), a network of three dozen Latino organizations founded in 1997 by the late San Marcos Councilman Vince Andrade, announced a comeback with a shorter name, “El Grupo.”
“These ordinances are clearly discriminatory against the Latino community — in fact, all minority communities,” Flores said.
“I want to thank Marie Waldron for bringing us together,” said community activist and soccer league official Danny Perez, who helped organize last night’s gathering at Trinity church.
During an interview, Perez’s phone continued to ring from Latino leaders upset about the possibility of Escondido becoming the first California city to pass an ordinance that punishes landlords for housing illegal residents.
“What makes us sad is that the people who represent us are ignorant,” Perez said. Such a law would affect the entire community, he said.
For example, his efforts to get youth off drugs will be more difficult if they are homeless, he said. And landlords will end up torn between following federal laws that say it’s illegal to discriminate and local laws that order it so, he said.
San Diego Minutemen will also be there. Gary Walker, an Escondido member of the San Diego Minutemen, said he fully expected the Latino community to mobilize in response to the proposed law because it is intended to curb the “Mexican invasion.” He conceded the ordinance would target both legal and illegal Latinos, but “profiling has to be done when you have an invasion.”
“Escondido is known, even in Mexico, as a safe haven for illegal immigrants,” he said. “This is no small problem.”