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
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:
“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.”
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.
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.
- 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
On private and
- 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.