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Costa Mesa's Dayworker Report Meets With Dissent

November 12, 1986|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

The "Unofficial Report of the Day Workers Task Force" in Costa Mesa begins with a cartoon.

In it, city police officers are in the 19th Street substation in the city's predominantly Latino section. The word has just come down from City Hall: Everyone knows ". . .they are illegal aliens. . . . We are still supposed to call them 'day workers.' "

"All-ee, All-ee in Free!" shouts an officer who is holding the "official" task force report on dayworkers, which was released Monday. In the last frame, the officer laments, "Don't ask me . . . I just work here."

The "unofficial" report, written by four dissenting members of a 12-member task force created to examine the issue of day laborers is in sharp contrast to the official document--also released Monday--prepared by the task force majority.

The two reports offer opposite approaches on how to deal with day laborers who gather on street corners looking for jobs. Some residents complain that the curbside job market creates a public nuisance. In Costa Mesa, they gather mostly at Lions Park.

The official report recommends various educational programs, better communication and promotion of cultural awareness.

The unofficial report rejects these recommendations and accuses the task force of condoning the violation of federal immigration laws and avoiding the "real issue": "the invasion of Costa Mesa by large numbers of illegal aliens."

"The main problem we had with the report is that it was not addressing the real problem," said Patrick Dolan, one of the four task force members who signed the dissenting report.

Nativo Lopez of the Santa Ana-based Hermandad Mexicana Nacional said the minority report "sounds very racially tinged."

After being read portions of the "unofficial report," Lopez said, "I've heard the same from (Immigration and Naturalization Service regional commissioner) Harold Ezell and from all the folks that are benefiting from their labor but (who) don't want to see them, live by them or have them in their schools."

"It's typical of the most backward element," Lopez said. "And it has nothing to do with the progressive tradition in the history of our country toward immigrants."

Thinks Some Racist

Outgoing Mayor Norma Hertzog said: "I think there were some people on the committee who are racist. I feel they are very hypocritical. We know they will use day laborers to meet their own needs."

Hertzog shied away from labeling the unofficial report as racist but said she would accept the majority report before accepting the dissenting one because the official document represents a "more balanced approach."

The council, which heard the reports and two additional letters by two task force members during its study session Monday, will discuss the recommendations sometime next month, Hertzog said.

In the counter-report, Dolan joined with Dawne Burt, Jeffrey R. Evans and Ava Readdy in citing a list of "negative impacts" brought about by the influx of undocumented immigrants, including:

- An increase in crime. "Heroin and prostitution where there was never a problem before," the report states.

- A decline in property values. "Illegal aliens cause blighted neighborhoods," according to the report.

- A greater potential for disease. "Typhoid, AIDS, herpes, venereal disease and many others are characteristic of illegal aliens," says the report. "Who heard of AIDS until the Haitians came?"

'Not Anti-Anyone'

"(Councilman) Dave Wheeler said the (dissenting) report smacks of racism. I prefaced the entire presentation saying it was not anti-anyone, it was not anti-Hispanic, it was not anti-Latino," Dolan said Tuesday. "I take strong offense to the racism charges."

Wheeler could not be reached Tuesday.

Councilman Donn Hall said the dissenting report got away from the group's original task--identifying problems and possible solutions to the issue of dayworkers.

"Overall, I would say there are a few statements of facts and statistics which are extrapolated by quantum leaps to further conclusions of what these statistics mean," Hall said.

Hall and Hertzog said, for example, that while some dayworkers are illegal aliens, the exact number is not known.

But Dolan said the city is refusing to admit that a majority of the day laborers in Costa Mesa are illegal aliens.

If the Costa Mesa City Council adopts the recommendations of the majority group, the dissenters wrote in their report, it will be "aiding and abetting the commission of a crime" by supporting people who are in this country illegally.

Majority's Recommendations

In the majority report, the task force recommended, among other things:

- Providing foot patrol officers in the area where workers gather.

- Promoting cultural awareness through information about city ordinances in the Spanish media.

- Possibly finding a better location for employers and laborers to meet.

- Using city newsletters, churches and social organizations to encourage communication between the community and workers.

- And possibly using videotapes to educate workers on acceptable and unacceptable social behavior.

"I lived in Mexico as a child," Hertzog said. "I used to be offended by the same behavior. It's part of the macho male to whistle at women passing by. I think that's very offensive to American women; it was offensive to me. I think we need to explain that to them, that women feel intimidated by that."

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