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Immigration controversy comes to San Bernardino

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  • Steven L. Robinson
    Vote on Migrant Issues Is Forced Petition to curb illegal- immigrant housing and work gets enough names to require action by the San Bernardino council. By
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5 10:31 PM
      Vote on Migrant Issues Is Forced

      Petition to curb illegal- immigrant housing and work gets enough names to
      require action by the San Bernardino council.

      By Ashley Powers, Times Staff Writer

      May 5, 2006

      A petition drive to ban day-labor centers and bar illegal immigrants from
      renting apartments in San Bernardino has gathered enough signatures to force
      a City Council vote on the proposal, potentially setting off another
      political maelstrom in a Southern California city grappling with immigration

      The results come three days after hundreds of thousands of protesters took
      to streets nationwide to demonstrate the political and economic power of
      legal and illegal immigrants - and as Congress tries to bridge the political
      divide over immigration reform.

      "I'm expecting this to be a knockdown, drag-out fistfight," said Joseph
      Turner, executive director of anti-illegal immigrant group Save Our State,
      who led the petition drive. "If something like this passes in San
      Bernardino, it's going to send shock waves through the national immigration
      debate. The opposition has a lot to lose."

      Turner gathered 2,216 signatures to invoke a rarely used provision of San
      Bernardino's city charter that would force council members to vote on the
      proposal in 10 days, without any amendments. If the council rejects the
      ordinance, the measure automatically goes before voters on a citywide

      The proposal would prohibit illegal immigrants from renting or leasing
      property, holding landlords liable and subject to a minimum $1,000 fine;
      allow police to impound vehicles used to transport undocumented workers;
      require the city to deny permits, contracts and grants to employers that
      hire illegal immigrants; and require city business to be conducted in

      "This is a racist directive at the immigrant community, "said UC Riverside
      professor Armando Navarro, an immigrant-rights activist and member of the
      National Alliance for Human Rights in Riverside. "San Bernardino is going to
      become critical; this could spread" to other cities.

      San Bernardino joins a growing list of Southern California cities that have
      plunged into the controversy over immigration by adopting local measures to
      either crack down on illegal migrants or offer them refuge.

      The Costa Mesa City Council recently approved using police officers to check
      suspected felons' immigration status, making the city a flashpoint for the
      national debate over border control. Protesters swarmed City Hall, already
      bombarded with e-mails and phone calls from around the nation.

      Conversely, in Los Angeles County, the city of Maywood declared itself a
      sanctuary for illegal immigrants, making the city a target for conservative
      talk radio and Internet bloggers. The tiny desert city of Coachella in
      Riverside County passed its own migrant-haven ordinance, saying it would not
      use local police to enforce immigration law.

      In San Bernardino, where nearly half the 200,000 residents are Latino,
      voters elected Judith Valles, the country's first Latina mayor of a city
      with a population of more than 100,000, to two terms in office.

      Together, San Bernardino and Riverside counties have the 10th-largest
      concentration of illegal immigrants in the nation, with at least 215,000
      undocumented residents, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

      Crackdowns on illegal immigrants have won some political support in the
      region. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors last year unanimously
      approved screening jail inmates for their immigration status, and Riverside
      County followed suit last month. Both boards of supervisors faced little of
      the discord that marked Los Angeles County's plan to do the same.

      "The minorities are the majorities in San Bernardino, but they don't vote
      like it," said Rick Avila, a contractor and the lone Latino candidate in a
      recent mayoral race in which he finished fourth of five.

      At least three members of San Bernardino's seven-member City Council have
      praised Turner's proposal, although the city attorney has said that some of
      its provisions could be successfully challenged in court.

      "I don't know how this cannot be divisive," said Susan Lien Longville, a
      former councilwoman. "Either people have come to terms with the city's large
      immigrant population, or they feel they're the natives. There's no middle."

      Mayor Patrick J. Morris, who can veto council votes, won't take a position
      until the city does a financial analysis, a spokesman said.

      Councilman Neil Derry, who along with Chas A. Kelley and Wendy McCammack
      backs the proposal's tenets, said the council would probably kick the plan
      to voters, who Derry said would embrace it.

      "All those people protesting on the street can't vote," Derry said. "There's
      a backlash building in the country that you'll see in San Bernardino."


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