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Protests Fail to Change Council's Immigration Stand

June 12, 1986|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

MONTEREY PARK — Despite emotional and sometimes angry protests from residents, political groups and human relations experts, the City Council has refused to back down from its controversial resolution urging strict enforcement of immigration laws and calling for the adoption of English as the nation's official language.

Opponents of the resolution, led by the Coalition for Harmony in Monterey Park, derided the measure as a racist attack on Asians and Latinos and threatened to start a recall effort against the council.

Although some residents defended the council's action during nearly four hours of debate on the issue Monday night, most of the audience of 300 cheered the opposition.

Speakers Urge Repeal

Representatives of the county Human Relations Commission, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the New Democratic Movement, the Asian Pacific Democratic Club, the Mexican-American Political Assn. and a Latino student group at UCLA joined two former mayors and several city commissioners in urging repeal of the resolution, adopted by the council June 3.

Before the council meeting, about 100 people marched in front of City Hall, chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho! The resolution's got to go!" while holding up signs with such messages as "Racist Resolution Is Not the Solution" and "Work for Harmony, Not Inequality."

The resolution, introduced by Councilman Barry Hatch and supported by council members Cam Briglio and Pat Reichenberger, denounces cities that provide sanctuary for refugees who have entered this country illegally, instructs the Police Department to cooperate with immigration authorities, urges Congress to control the nation's borders and endorses legislation to make English the official language of the United States.

The resolution is a policy statement that urges action by federal authorities but does not compel any additional action by the city government.

Restatement of Policy

Councilmen said the directive urging police to cooperate with immigration authorities merely restates existing policy and is not intended to turn policemen into immigration agents.

Mayor G. Monty Manibog and Councilman Chris Houseman voted to rescind the resolution but were outvoted by Hatch, Briglio and Reichenberger.

Michael Eng, one of four co-chairmen of the Coalition for Harmony in Monterey Park, said that recall of the council is one of several possible actions to be discussed at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Mondayat the Bruggemeyer Memorial Library.

However, according to the city clerk, state election law does not permit a recall effort until a council member has been in office 90 days. Hatch and Reichenberger were elected April 8. Briglio is near the midpoint in his four-year term.

Alliance Created

R. C. Hollingsworth, another of the coalition's co-chairmen, said reaction to the passage of the resolution has created an alliance of Latinos, Asians and others who intend to watch the council closely.

A recall effort is unlikely now, he said, but "we hope to get people to put pressure on the council to behave themselves."

The coalition has accused the council of targeting immigrants, particularly Asians and Latinos, and of fostering "divisiveness, disharmony and distrust among the people of the community."

A surge of Asian immigration in the past decade has changed the racial composition of the city, now estimated at 40% Asian, 37% Latino, 22% Anglo and 1% black.

Denies Racist Motives

The council members supporting the resolution denied that it was racially inspired, and even the two council members who oppose the resolution cautioned against inferring racial motives.

Hatch said he proposed the resolution to call attention to the burden imposed on this country by uncontrolled immigration. He said that 4 million people are entering this country illegally every year and, that the annual cost to taxpayers nationwide is $35 billion.

He denied that his concern was racially motivated.

"I love every man, woman and child on Earth," Hatch said. "I am concerned about everyone."

Worried About Fragmentation

Hatch has based his support for making English the official language over concern about fragmenting the nation into ethnic groups separated by language barriers.

Hatch co-sponsored an initiative petition last year to make English the city's official language, but the effort failed because of a legal defect in the petition.

Reichenberger, who joined the initiative campaign primarily because of concern over business signs written entirely in Chinese, said the sign problem has lessened.

However, she said she still supports the English-language proposal and does not believe that it interferes with anyone's rights.

Speaks Italian at Home

The council toughened its sign ordinance earlier this year to require the inclusion of English. Reichenberger denied that her support of the English-language movement was racially motivated, saying, "I have never judged a person by his color."

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