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Costa Mesa at War Again

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Something funny happened on my way to Costa Mesa this week. The plateau by the coast declared itself a sanctuary for intolerance and bigotry. In an effort to drive out unauthorized immigrants, and with a nod to Arizona's SB1070, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling itself the "Rule of Law City".

For those of us familiar with the City of Costa Mesa, it is easy to be in awe of its modern architecture that seems to call out "business-friendly" everywhere you turn. The city's economy is after all dependent on retail, services, commerce, and manufacturing. A large percentage of the city's workforce, lest we forget, is young and of immigrant descent.

When Father Junipero Serra first baptized the area Valley of Saint Anne and built the Spanish empire's first mission in San Juan Capistrano, Costa Mesa resembled more like a huge farm with plenty of agriculture and manure.

It was World War II that allowed Costa Mesa to grow in stature and population. Soldiers training in Santa Ana Army Base (current site of the Orange County Fairgrounds and Orange Coast College) brought their families along and made of this quaint agricultural town a blossoming enclave in central Orange County.

The City of Costa Mesa is not as diverse as the neighboring cities of Santa Ana or even Anaheim, but it is also far from lily white. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Costa Mesa is 69 percent White, 1 percent Black or African American, and 7 percent Asian. 31.75% of the population is Latino/Hispanic. The City Council remains an all white institution.

Allan Mansoor, Costa Mesa's mayor, has single-handedly pushed through an agenda set on making life a living hell for immigrants and their families. Since 2005, the mayor has begged for a 287(g) agreement with ICE but the federal government has refused. Instead, an ICE agent has been assigned to the city's jail where unauthorized immigrants (including those simply charged but not convicted of a crime) are processed and deported. In 2006, the mayor also moved to ban day laborers from seeking employment in Costa Mesa streets. A lawsuit brought on by ACLU, NDLN, and MALDEF forced the city to agree to a moratorium on the unconstitutional ordinance.

Frustrated by his limited success in pushing immigrants out of the city, Mansoor, now a candidate for California's 68th Assembly District, took a clearly political stab this week at calling for Costa Mesa to become the counter force to "sanctuary" cities throughout the United States. The so-called "Rule of Law City" decree is nothing more than a declaration of war intent on drawing a deep wedge between immigrants and non-immigrants in a city that has forgotten its history.

The city is also oblivious to the economic backlash Arizona has suffered for taking on the same issue in such a misguided fashion. The City of Costa Mesa, like the state of Arizona, has no jurisdiction over federal laws -- and yet has politicized an already delicate issue and adopted tough language and measures to indicate its displeasure with unauthorized immigrants. In the process both have muddled the water and poisoned public opinion against one of their most important consumer base.

No one knows how effective this bullying will be in driving immigrants away from Costa Mesa. Some immigrant rights advocates have called on all immigrants to "evacuate" the city and let it be on its own for a while. However, many immigrant families have called Costa Mesa their home for decades and it would seem ludicrous to leave their rightful home. Instead, I would call on other cities surrounding Costa Mesa and those doing business with the city to pressure the puppet city council to revoke this resolution and get on to the real business at hand.

Costa Mesa should be reminded that if Mansoor and the other members of the city council are so concerned about unauthorized immigration in their midst, they should be urging Representatives Christopher Cox (R), Loretta Sanchez (D), Dana Rohrabacher (R), Ken Calvert (R), Gary Miller (R), and Ed Royce (R) to support an immigration system overhaul. Instead, the hypocrisy of cities like Costa Mesa comes through with their silent acquiescence to bigotry and race-baiting coming out of the mouths of these representatives and outright antagonism to bipartisan solutions to real problems.

I for one, will take immigrant green dollars to other surrounding cities, unless Costa Mesa rescinds its racist, divisive, and offensive stance against immigrants. The city seems to thrive during war, so we will have to wait and see if history repeats itself.