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Escondido OKs Landlord Measure

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

A fiery debate over the rights of illegal immigrants and their landlords erupted in Escondido last night. The Escondido City Council passed an ordinance that punishes landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. KPBS Radio’s Andrew Phelps reports.

Outside Escondido City Hall, the crowd was angry. The San Diego Minutemen, a group that opposes illegal immigration, brandished American flags and provocative symbols. One Minuteman carried the image of a Mexican flag with a black X across its face. That infuriated a group of Latina girls nearby.

Latino Girls: Because our, us, Mexicans, come to the United States to be able to have a better life and support our family. That’s not right that they’re crossing off our Mexican flag. That’s not right. How would they feel if we were to cross off their flag?

The city ordinance at hand seemed to disappear in the shadow of a larger debate. Throngs of Latinos gathered on one side, calling for an end to racism, and just as many people on the other side demanded action from their government to curb the influx of migrants.

The new law requires landlords to evict tenants who are not legal U.S. residents or face fines and jail time. Escondido resident John King resents the accusation that the measure is racially motivated.

King: How come my grandparents, on my mom’s side and my dad’s side -- My dad’s Mexican. My mom’s Irish. They all came legally.

Like many of the measure’s supporters, King says the United States is a nation of laws, and immigration laws need to be enforced.

The city council was split 3-to-2 on the measure, which takes effect next month. Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler voted against the measure. She said a national problem can’t be solved in Escondido. For KPBS, I’m Andrew Phelps.

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