"Good, Calm Dialogue" on Immigration

In 2005, the mayor proposed training police to enforce federal immigration laws

By Paul Anderson and Jonathan Lloyd
|  Thursday, Apr 29, 2010  |  Updated 2:08 PM PDT
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NACO, SONORA - APRIL 4: A volunteer from the Minuteman Project stands near an American flag placed in the barbed wire fence which divides the U.S./Mexican border April 4, 2005 near Noco, Sonora Mexico. More than a thousand volunteers from the Minuteman Project are expected to fan out across a 23 mile stretch of the Arizona border to search for Illegal aliens who are making the trek into the United States from Mexico during April. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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The last time Costa Mesa's mayor took up immigration issues in the city it ignited debates that culminated in a  First Amendment lawsuit.

So Mayor Allan Mansoor is giving it another try. This time, he wants to have a "good, calm dialogue" about the issue as he advocated Wednesday for another crackdown.

Mansoor offered few details, focusing on broader plans for new policies that would involve local enforcement of federal immigration laws. His goal is  to foster discussions about how city officials can, for example, check the immigration status of workers in Costa Mesa businesses and how police officers can tighten up standards for checking the identification of drivers cited for  minor offenses, such as speeding.

When Mansoor proposed training Costa Mesa police to enforce federal  immigration laws in 2005, it led to stormy City Council meetings with  protesters picketing outside City Hall and angry exchanges inside.

The controversy was ultimately defused when U.S. Immigration and Customs  Enforcement agreed to put an agent in the city jail to check the immigration  status of detainees.

Those tempestuous City Council meetings came to a head on Jan. 3, 2006,  when activist Benito Acosta, who goes by Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, was arrested. Tezcatlipoca, with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union, sued  the city, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated, but a jury last  December rejected the lawsuit.

"These are very difficult issues, but that does not mean we should look the other way," Mansoor said at a City Hall news conference. "These issues  need to be addressed, and part of that is making the public aware of what the  problems are."

Acosta, who monitored the mayor's news conference, said, "I  think talk is cheap. We'll have to wait to see more."

Mansoor said he wants the council to approve a resolution declaring  Costa Mesa a "Rule of Law" city.

"We have complete respect and support for legal immigration and welcome  all who come here legally," Mansoor said. "At the same time, I am here to  state that Costa Mesa is not a sanctuary city and is, in fact, a 'rule-of-law' city when it comes to upholding our immigration laws, and I will be asking the  council to make that official... If other cities can declare themselves  sanctuary cities, we can declare our city a rule-of-law city."

On Thursday, the Orange County/Long Beach Anti-Defamation League's office released a statement.

"The mayor’s targeting of undocumented workers is fostering an atmosphere of hostility," said Kevin O’Grady, Orange County/Long Beach Regional Director, in the release. "Any action on the mayor’s proposal will further divide local law enforcement and the communities they serve. We have already seen members of the Latino and immigrant communities – citizens and non-citizens alike – who are reluctant to report crimes or serve as witnesses. 

"Further targeting of these communities will only increase the level of vitriol directed at them, and engender fear within them.  At a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric is growing in this nation, ADL urges the mayor to reconsider his draconian proposals.”

Mansoor denied that he timed his announcement to come on the heels of  Arizona's recently approved immigration crackdown law, or as he seeks the  Republican nomination for the 68th District Assembly seat in the June primary.

Mansoor said he wanted to propose policy reforms for a long time, but  the Acosta-ACLU lawsuit and other issues recently took a great deal of his  time.
 

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