A newly formed group of anti-illegal immigration protesters has begun rallying at a popular hiring site in the central part of the city with the intent of curbing the hiring of illegal immigrants and decreasing problems they say the immigrants cause.
Escondido resident David Cline formed the Escondido Minutemen Brigade——an offshoot of the San Diego Minutemen, a prominent anti-illegal immigration group——in December, and has since regularly gathered with supporters at a hiring site along Quince Street between Mission and Washington avenues to wave American flags, hand out fliers and answer questions from passers-by.
The Escondido Minutemen work in association with the San Diego Minutemen, a group that in the last year has protested at day-labor sites and promoted legislation that targets illegal immigration. However, Cline said the new group operates separately in response to problems that occur specifically in Escondido.
“We want to move illegals out of Escondido,” said Cline, 60, adding that his group hopes to halt hiring at the Quince Street location and then move on to other sites. Once the group accomplishes that goal, he said, he hopes to help others start up Minutemen groups in their areas.
At the protest Wednesday, Cline and his wife set up their Escondido Minutemen post, including three large American flags, drawing questioning looks from some of the day laborers and angry words from several of them. “Stop illegal aliens who murder police and civilians,” one sign said.
“We’re not so much against the illegals as the people who hire them,” Cline said at the rally. “We’re not targeting any of them. We’re targeting the people who hire them. It’s illegal to hire them.”
Still, the protests so far have been mostly peaceful, Escondido police Sgt. John Russo said after Wednesday’s gathering.
“They (the Minutemen) call us ahead of time and overall it’s been real mild,” Russo said. Officers are not assigned to monitor the protests, he said, but they are made aware of the times they take place.
Cline, a former auto service manager who is now working to become a flight instructor, said he first became involved with the Minutemen six months ago because of what he described as a decline in the quality of life for those who live in the city.
“Wherever you go in Escondido, you see illegals,” Cline said. “I’ve seen crime increase in Escondido dramatically. . .. After a while, enough is enough.”
Al Rench, a 60-year-old Escondido resident and local Minutemen member, said he sees what he describes as more illegal immigrants in his city than in other North County cities.
“We feel cheated, we feel we’re supporting them,” he said.
Rench said he is particularly concerned about young Latino women he sees walking around with their children, who he believes are “anchor babies,” a derisive term used to describe children born to illegal immigrant parents.
Cline said his concern is that continued illegal immigration will tip economic scales, forcing middle-income residents to leave the area, which would “turn it into another Tijuana.”
“Most people won’t want it, they’ll leave,” Cline said. “The average income will drop dramatically. . .. It won’t be the Southern California we know today if amnesty starts.”
Cline said he started the Escondido group because the larger Minutemen group was growing so big that Jeff Schwilk, the Oceanside resident that leads the group, “was getting overwhelmed.”
Schwilk, who said his group includes about 375 people countywide, said that several other cities, including Encinitas, Vista, Oceanside and San Diego, have formed subgroups under the broader San Diego Minutemen organization.