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San Bernardino City Council Turns Down Racist Petition

by Leslie Radford Wednesday, May. 17, 2006 at 2:37 PM

In a too-close vote, the San Bernardino City Council voted against the Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance, and turned it over to the voters.

San Bernardino City ...
sb_council_chambers.jpg, image/jpeg, 553x404

SAN BERNARDINO, May 16, 2006--The San Bernardino City Council today barely rejected the San Bernardino Illegal Immigration Act Ordinance, forcing it to a popular vote within the next ninety days.  Outside City Council chambers, packed with 150 petition detractors and a handful of supports, some 120 more people rallied to urge the petition not be ratified. A dozen police lined the back wall of council chambers and forty more kept a watchful eye on the ralliers outside, while national and local media swarmed both locations.

Because the Ordinance was proposed by petition, the City Charter requires that, if the City Council rejects it, it be put before the voters in a special election before September 22. The City Council approved a special election but did not set a date.

Inside the chambers, the Council heard hours of testimony, almost universally denouncing the proposal. In spite of explanations about the mean-spirited, Fascist, genocidal, and racist impact of the motion, three white Council members, Neil Derry, Chas Kelley, and Wendy McCammack, supported the petition in a 4-3 vote.  Dennis Baxter, also white, joined Esther Estrada, Gordon McGinnis, and Rikke Johnson in voting against it.

Chants of ¡Trabajo, sí! Migra, no! resounding on the plaza outside were too distant to be heard inside the council room. Instead, a MALDEF representative promised the council a court challenge before the motion went before the voters. Armando Navarro, representing the National Alliance of Human Rights, promised, “We have raised thousands, and we will do it again.” Another speaker charged that the petition would bring on “balkanization” and “genocide.”

Council discussion was both relatively brief and surprisingly acrimonious. McGinnis said that “it is unfortunate that our city is the catalyst for what should be a federal issue.” Then he went after Joseph Turner, the instigator of the bill and head of Save Our State, an anti-immigrant website. McGinnis continued, “Mr. Turner is a youngster, not old enough to put this forward. He (Turner) says he was educated in our schools; then our schools need help.” He went on to say Turner was arrogant, and “smiling for the cameras.” McGinnis turned to the question of his own ethnicity, which he identified as a “Heinz 57” mix of African, Swiss, and Blackfoot.

Council member Kelley urged the council to endorse the resolution to save the city the cost of the special election required by its defeat and to avoid “divisions in the community.” Referring to McGinnis’ comment, Kelley added, “We are not a tossed salad, we are a melting pot.” Then he slammed at McGinnis, “We are not Heinz 57.” He urged the city make itself a test case, quoting Robert Kennedy, ''If not here, where? If not now, when?''

Council member McCammack defended her support for the proposal: “I hurt for those families who came to the U.S. illegally, but I hurt more for those who wait in refugee camps to come over.”

Rikke Johnson had sat silently and attentively. He began, “I grew up in Alabama where you know who the racists are—they wear white sheets. Here in California, they’re more sophisticated—they wear suits and have websites.” He added a quote from Bertrand Russell: “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct,” before he went on. “Their answer is to lash out in anger while conveniently wrapping themselves in the U.S. He objected to the proposal on three grounds: that “racism is covertly woven into the fabric of this initiative,” that it is a federal issue, and that the cost of enforcement will reduce other city services and might force layoffs. He finished with another quote from Kennedy: “Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity.”

Council member Baxter took public offense that Turner had referred to Baxter’s Ward 2 as a “ghetto.” “We have hard working people who will vote against this,” Baxter asserted. He added, “Mr. Turner, your fifteen minutes of fame is over.”>

Mayor Patrick Morris, who had not previously taken a position, challenged the Constitutionality of the motion on grounds of the Supremacy Clause and the First Amendment. Then he proclaimed, “This initiative is in no wise part of my vision. I believe the voters are wise. They will understand.”

When word reached the protestors outside, a cheer went up from the crowd, along with chants of “¡No somos criminales!"  State Representative Joe Baca assured the crowd of his support and promised a forum on July 1. Navarro addressed the crowd with the commitment of NAHR to fight with San Bernardinans.  Claiming this as an “historical moment for us as a community,” he promised voter registration drives, and organization from within and from outside the community. “This is our Mongomery!” he proclaimed.On behalf of San Bernardinans, he reserved the right to consider a recall election for the council members who supported the petition. And he had a message for Turner: “You’re a racist, a bigot. We will move aggressively, we’ll create a march like never before in this town. A rainbow march.” Standing next to King’s statue, he added, “We will march to Martin Luther King’s creed.”

For the voters’ consideration: apartheid. A summary of the San Bernardino Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance:

Racist assumptions:

“Illegal immigration leads to higher crime rates, contributes to overcrowded classrooms and failing schools, subjects our hospitals to fiscal hardship and legal residents to substandard quality of care, and destroys our neighborhoods and diminishes our overall quality of life.”

On intimidating immigrant labor:

  • The City may not sponsor day labor centers.  Private day labor centers must operate as employment agencies and do background checks on laborers.
  • Anyone who transports a day laborer without papers, knowingly or unknowingly, is subject to the confiscation of their vehicle.  Including the babysitter.
  • Any business that has ever hired an undocumented person, knowingly or unknowingly, anywhere in the United States, will be refused a business permit.  Burger King and Target probably go on this list, along with numerous local businesses.
  • Any hiring of a day laborer, regardless of immigration status, must be reported to the City Clerk.  So if you watch your ailing father and your mom offers you to take yourself and a friend to dinner, mom has to report it.

On denying access to property:

  • Allowing a person without valid papers to rent or use property invokes a 00 fine.  Again, there is no exception for lack of knowledge.
  • Property owners must file all leases, regardless of the immigration status of the lessee, with City Hall.

On erecting language barriers:

  • All City documents and signs will be in English-only.  So the Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance will be the first ordinance that some immigrants won’t be able to read.

On private and public enforcement:

  • By declaring undocumented immigrants a “nuisance,” anyone who finds the nuisance “specially injurious” can “by removing, or, if necessary, destroying” the nuisance under state law (CA Civil Code Section 3495).  That includes removing and destroying housekeepers, gardeners, and movers.
  • Any citizen living in San Bernardino--but not a resident, with or without papers-- can sue the City for enforcement.
  • The City of San Bernardino must defend every (inevitable) challenge to the Act up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 12 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
THANK YOU LESLIE THANK YOU LESLIE Wednesday, May. 17, 2006 at 6:54 PM
Tuner Admits He's a Nazi? Watchale Wednesday, May. 17, 2006 at 11:23 PM
Black Brown Alliance *K* Thursday, May. 18, 2006 at 1:03 AM
I am aware of Joesph Turner David C. Owens Saturday, Jun. 03, 2006 at 12:34 PM
Illegal George Monday, Jun. 12, 2006 at 5:55 PM
Ask Yourself Chacon Tuesday, Jun. 13, 2006 at 11:24 AM
Illegal Abe Tuesday, Jun. 13, 2006 at 8:21 PM
Invasion? jonny quest Wednesday, Jun. 14, 2006 at 8:14 AM
It's Okay Ken Thursday, Jun. 15, 2006 at 7:42 AM

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