Businesses: Orange County city's immigration policy
By Gillian Flaccus
3:48 p.m. March 23, 2006
COSTA MESA – Business owners in this upscale Orange
County city gathered Thursday to voice their
opposition to a new city policy that would give police
the authority to enforce federal immigration law.
The policy, which was narrowly approved by the City
Council late last year, allies Costa Mesa police with
the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau.
It would make Costa Mesa the first city in the nation
to train its police force in federal immigration
Police would only be able to check the immigration
status of violent career felons. And it probably will
not take effect for at least several months as local
and federal official hammer out the details.
Business owners, however, said the fear and
uncertainty in the immigrant community had caused
losses of up to 35 percent for those who cater to
Hispanic customers and has provoked protests outside
businesses around town.
Vincente Barajas, owner of a bakery called La Espiga
de Oro, said his business had declined 20 percent
since the council vote. He said another of his
bakeries, in nearby Fullerton, had not seen a similar
“People think that just because of the way they look,
you're going to get picked up by the police and taken
to jail,” he said. “Even people from out of the city
are afraid to come in and support us.”
A diverse group of nearly 50 business owners gathered
in front of City Hall and said they would actively
work against Mayor Allan Mansoor's re-election in
November. The policy was misguided and had been
“thrust upon” the city by Mansoor, whose goal is to
“clean up the Westside,” said Chris Blank, an attorney
who was present as a small-business owner.
Hispanic immigrants live throughout the city, but are
concentrated in neighborhoods to the west. Most of the
business owners involved in the protest operate there.
“What we have here is something that is nothing more
than grandstanding and symbolism and it is
symbolically scaring people,” said Blank. “What we
need is a national immigration policy. We don't need a
cowboy sitting in the mayor's seat in Costa Mesa
saying, 'I'm going to round them all up and send them
The Chamber of Commerce also opposes the policy, said
Ed Fawcett, the chamber's president.
Mansoor didn't return calls from The Associated Press.
In the past, he has said the policy targets only the
worst criminals and will make the city safer. The
policy is designed to piggyback on a similar policy
being pursued by the Orange County Sheriff's
Police Capt. Ron Smith said Thursday that his
department has tried to remain neutral in the
controversy and had no choice but to follow the City
Council's lead. He said about 30 out of 163 officers
would receive the federal immigration training when
the policy goes into effect.
Smith said he believed immigrants' fear came about
because Mansoor had originally proposed a much broader
policy that would have allowed police to check the
immigration status of those arrested for less than an
“Now nobody understands what's going on. What I'm
trying to do is put the facts out there,” he said. “My
officers tell me ... there is tangible fear here.”
Some residents said they supported Mansoor's stance.
Ed Franks, a retiree who owned a sporting goods stores
in Costa Mesa, said he has watched the number of
Hispanic residents in Orange County increase
dramatically in his 45 years there. He said he favored
removing immigrants who were breaking the law.
“They're breaking the law, period. I don't know what
to tell you; it's black and white,” he said. “What's
irritating to me is that everybody keeps pointing to
the United State of America. Nobody goes to Mexico and
says, 'What are you doing about this?'”