By Doug Porter
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the city of Escondido, claiming racial discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment were responsible for its refusal to allow a temporary residential facility for undocumented children operate in various parts of the city.
Southwest Key Programs, the nonprofit that sought permits for the facilities is asking the court to overturn the city’s rejection, and to award for unspecified damages. The case has the potential to highlight the racism permeating government and the white community in the North County city.
After all, it’s not like hating on brown people is anything new to Escondido, no matter what kind of rhetorical gymnastics are used for justification.
A Quick Search Shows…
In 1990, a mural created by noted muralist Salvador Torres and local high school students, was opposed by residents. Their justification was that it had a Latino overtone that would attract gang activity.
From the Los Angeles Times (Nov 9, 1990):
The paint had barely dried when vandals splashed two 5-gallon containers of white primer on the mural the night before the artwork was to be dedicated last June….
Torres said that, while working on the mural, he and others were approached by people critical of what they perceived as the mural’s “Latino theme.”
The mural, which covers three walls of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center on Ash Street, depicts aspects of the history of Escondido and includes representations of American Indians, African-Americans, Latinos and Anglos.
In 2006, Escondido’s racism gained national attention. A city council ordinance claiming to address overcrowded housing was proposed. One councilwoman argued that the ordinance was needed to counter what she called a lack of initiative to address illegal immigration at the federal level, and that the country’s sovereignty was under attack by a wave of illegal immigrants.
From the North County Times ( Oct 5, 2006):
Escondido became the first California city to ban renting property to illegal immigrants on Wednesday, bringing to a head months of divisive arguments in the community, and possibly setting the city up for a protracted legal battle.
At the end of a contentious, late-night meeting, the measure passed by a margin of 3-2, with Council members Ed Gallo, Sam Abed and Marie Waldron —- who proposed the ban —- in support.
It took less than a two months before federal Judge John Houston signed an order permanently barring the city from enforcing the ban.
Gallo still serves as a councilman. Abed is mayor.
Operation Joint Effort
Escondido is also infamous for its drivers license checkpoints, which in addition to screening for DUI and undocumented immigrants, may (the city denied this) have served as a profit center
…in 2010, Escondido police joined efforts with ICE in an exclusive agreement known as “Operation Joint Effort.” This close association helped Escondido police use ICE during DUI checkpoints to check for immigration status.
The checkpoints net about 10 unlicensed drivers for every drunk driver; and the vast majority of unlicensed drivers are undocumented immigrants.
In the past three years, Escondido and tow companies with city contracts have pulled in $11 million in fees, citations and auctioned vehicles from checkpoints.
According to ICE, Escondido is the only city in the country to have a special agreement to notify ICE agents about illegal immigrant suspects. ICE agents have an office at the Escondido Police Department and are on standby during sobriety checkpoints.
A lawsuit filed under the auspices of the California Voting Rights Act in 2012 forced the city to switch from at-large to district city council elections.
Not in Our Neighborhood
It’s not like the city council council considered the permit request by Southwest Key Programs for temporary housing for unaccompanied minors from Central America in a vacuum.
From an op-ed in Voice and Viewpoint by Carla Stayboldt:
The pictures on the front page over the last two weeks have been polarizing to San Diego citizens and rightfully so. The first on June 25th was a group of almost all white people at a meeting of the Escondido Planning Commission that voted 7-0 against a request by the DHHS to open a 96 bed shelter that would serve unaccompanied undocumented children. A week later on July 2nd, another group of predominantly white people, carrying American flags and posters “RETURN TO SENDER”, “NO NEW ILLEGALS,” surrounded buses of 140 parent/child immigrants outside the Border Patrol Station in Murrieta, escorted by local law enforcement and the Border Patrol. That scene harkens back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s when the Freedom Riders’ buses were surrounded, riders beaten and buses burned. While these mostly white protestors couch their criticism in terms of law and proper procedure, what explains the anger and implied violence of their protests? It is that insidious, seldom acknowledged, “white privilege” that is so pervasive in our culture that we don’t even realize we’re benefiting from it; for us, it’s like breathing.
What she describes is the context surrounding the actions of the city council in Escondido. Their rejection came despite a staff report documenting that Southwest Key would bring 90 new jobs and inject $6 or 7 million per year in new revenue into the community and would not impose any significant adverse impact on the community. This is nothing short of racist hysteria, I don’t care what they want to call it.
From today’s UT-San Diego article:
Local ACLU spokeswoman Anna Castro said much of the city’s discussions surrounding the project focused on concerns about the character of the neighborhood, health, crime and opinions blasting federal immigration policy.
“It seems these were feelings of discrimination and xenophobia that contributed ultimately to the denial of housing for unaccompanied children,” Castro said Tuesday.
The city is being sued on claims of violating federal and state fair housing laws and violating the Supremacy Clause, which holds that a city cannot restrict or prohibit the operations of the federal government in its territory.
Mayor Sam Abed, a vocal critic of illegal immigration who spoke out repeatedly against the project, said the city will be “strongly” defending its position…
…The facility would “bring an undesirable taste to an up-and-coming town” one resident said, according to the lawsuit.
“This is not representative of the demographic of our neighborhood,” wrote another, while others referred to the prospect as “ghettoization” and a “pipeline for illegal immigrants.”
Escondido accurately represents what racism looks like in 21st century Southern California.
On to other news…
LA to $15: Jerry Sanders Looks Dumber and Dumber…
The San Diego Chamber of Misery’s campaign to overturn a modest increase in the minimum wage continues to look more and more short sighted.
Yesterday the Los Angeles City Council endorsed a plan raising the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Lawmakers agreed to draft an ordinance raising the $9-an-hour base wage to $15 by 2020 for as many as 800,000 workers, making L.A. the largest city in the nation to adopt a major minimum-wage hike. Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle already have approved similar increases, and raising the federal minimum wage has moved to the forefront of the Democratic Party’s agenda.
“Make no mistake,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who was instrumental in shaping the city’s plan. “Today the city of Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the nation, is leading the nation.”
I wonder if the Chamber CEO (and former mayor) Jerry Sanders is feeling smug about blowing a half million dollars on a referendum campaign that will, in the near future, make San Diego less competitive. Or is he still tied to supporting a business model that uses government assistance to underwrite labor costs for the (mostly) large corporations paying crappy wages?
State Senate Bill Addresses Wage Theft
Speaking of crappy things the Chamber does, NBC7 featured a report yesterday on wage theft in California.
Despite efforts in the legislature, the state Chamber of Commerce (of which SD is a member) has managed to block attempts in recent years to compel payment of lost wages.
Since 2010, California courts have identified more than $273 million in stolen wages in California. More than 280 San Diego companies have failed to pay at least $800,000 in wages, overtime and meal breaks, according to state records reviewed by NBC 7 Investigates…
…Even with a judgment in their favor, workers are in a difficult position. The Labor Commissioner does not track whether companies comply and no state law enforces the judgments. A worker’s only real pathway to recovering wages is to file a civil suit in court.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon has introduced S.B. 588, a bill that would allow state regulators to require businesses that have failed to pay court orders for worker wages to post a bond of $150,000. Companies that already have outstanding judgments and fail to post the bond will face property liens for unpaid wages.
A U.S. Department of Labor report in December found that between 334,000 and 372,000 workers in California were paid less than the minimum wage each week, at a cost of between $1.2 and $1.5 billion annually.
De Leon noted that among the workers who are successful in getting a court order for back pay, only 17 percent are able to collect even a portion of what they are owed. By the time workers obtain a court order, 60 percent of businesses have filed for bankruptcy, hidden their assets, or closed operations and re-emerged as a “new” entity, according to the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Labor Center.
On This Day: 1980 – In Hamburg, Germany, Joe Strummer (The Clash) was arrested for hitting a violent audience member with his guitar during a show. 1990 – The Hubble Space Telescope sent back its first photographs. 1996 – The Supreme Court struck down a Colorado measure banning laws that would protect gays from discrimination.
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