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The World According to Hatch : Monterey Park Councilman Gets His Turn at Being Mayor

October 09, 1988|BERKLEY HUDSON | Times Staff Writer

On Barry Hatch's 1981 Datsun, a bumper sticker proclaims what he considers the most important statement he can make in a city of immigrants: "CONTROL IMMIGRATION NOW!"

For a man about to become mayor of Monterey Park, one of the most ethnically diverse suburbs in the country, that would appear to be a bold notion.

But Hatch is a bold man, so uncompromising that he sometimes shocks his own supporters. In the last decade Hatch has watched closely as immigration has convulsed and transformed his suburban hometown. Today, half the city's residents are of Asian ancestry and another third have a Latino heritage.

Many of Hatch's political ideas seem to have risen out of those changes. He espouses a moratorium on immigration for one year and supports making English the official national language. Although he is the only member of the City Council who can speak Chinese, albeit somewhat rustily, he believes there is entirely too much Chinese on the city's business and commercial signs. He drew fire recently for referring to illegal immigrants as "hordes of invaders" in a letter to candidates for national and state offices.

A vocal advocate for moratoriums on new construction, Hatch often refers to his boyhood in the 1940s and 1950s, growing up in a Monterey Park, he says, of single-family houses and wide-open spaces, free of condominiums, mini-malls and traffic.

As a high school student he worked at the Star Market on Garvey Avenue. The market has been replaced by Quang Hua Supermarket, which serves a clientele seeking the foods and products of Asia.

After Hatch assumes the part-time job of mayor, he says, he will encourage his critics to meet with him and discover that "Barry Hatch is trying to keep the greatest nation on Earth just that. No man should be tainted as a racist because he wants the sovereignty of the country ensured."

Hatch says he is not just a voice crying in the wilderness but has wide support, receiving calls and letters from residents and from around the world.

"When Barry talks, he talks for two out of three people in Monterey Park, and I'm one of them," says George Ristic, a former planning commissioner in the city of 62,877 residents.

Yet business consultant and civic leader David H. Ma said: "I view him as a divisive force. His sensitivity is not that great."

In recent interviews, Hatch spoke about why he believes America must halt all immigration for a year, just as Monterey Park has attempted to control overcrowding by enacting a temporary ban on construction. A year's moratorium is needed, he said, to let the nation fully address the illegal alien issue. He wants to organize a march along the U.S.-Mexican border and protest what he considers the shoddy control of borders, which directly affects life in Monterey Park, he said.

Also in the interviews, Hatch, who teaches social studies in Bell Gardens, discussed his own forebears who helped found Utah with Mormon leader Brigham Young. Hatch himself was a Mormon missionary to Hong Kong, where he learned to speak the Cantonese dialect.

A member of the local Lions Club, Hatch also explained why he questions the donation of 10,000 Chinese books and periodicals to the city's library by a Taiwanese man who is the international secretary of the Lions and whose daughter lives in Monterey Park.

Opponents Outraged

And he told of a private investigator who earlier this year conducted what Hatch considers a "damn rotten" series of interrogations, including one with his former wife. The councilman believes the investigation was orchestrated by people sympathetic to the unsuccessful recall election attempt last year, one year after he first was elected to the council.

In recent weeks, Hatch's public comments have again outraged his opponents. They express worry over how he might lead the city during his 9-month tenure as mayor, a position the five council members share on a rotating basis.

Hatch has defended a letter, sent on city stationery to six dozen candidates for state and national office. The letter said that drug-runners crossing the borders and illegal aliens threaten the country's existence. Hatch says, "Here comes the world into our back yard and we're all saying: 'All is well in Disneyland.' "

U.S. Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) and a former mayor of the city, complained of the letter's "unabashed bigotry." Local newspapers roundly criticized Hatch, mentioning his name in the same editorial breath as the Ku Klux Klan, political extremist Lyndon LaRouche and neo-Nazis.

Media Attention

As Monterey Park became nationally known as the first suburban Chinatown, journalists and broadcasters from throughout the country focused on Hatch because of his views on immigration.

In a profile of Hatch last month, the San Francisco-based newspaper AsiaWeek wrote that he "may rank as one of the most hated men in Chinese America." Hatch calls the statement ludicrous.

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