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Latinos Are Majority In Escondido, But Feel Targeted By Police

Audio

Aired 10/8/10

Residents of Escondido say local police have a measures in place that targets undocumented people. Driver's license checkpoints and gang patrols are silencing many in the community.

One of the strips in downtown Escondido where driver's license checkpoints have been set up in the last few years.
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Above: One of the strips in downtown Escondido where driver's license checkpoints have been set up in the last few years.

— In the '60s, Escondido was primarily a white and affluent suburban community. As the center of avocado production, the city experience fast economic growth and saw an influx of immigrant workers. Today, Latinos outnumber whites, and that change has made some people uncomfortable.

In 2006, the Escondido City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants, but that law was struck down in court. Soon after that, local law enforcement followed up with another controversial measure -- drivers license checkpoints.

Typically, a major street in downtown Escondido is backed up with traffic because it’s the site of a driver's license checkpoint -- a place where cars are pulled over to check for valid licenses and small infractions, like broken taillights. The checkpoint was the brainchild of Escondido Police Chief, Jim Maher. By instituting the checkpoints, Maher caught undocumented immigrants who weren't authorized to have a California driver's license.

Carter replaces Jim Maher (pictured), who left the Escondido Police Department last fall.
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Above: Carter replaces Jim Maher (pictured), who left the Escondido Police Department last fall.

"It wasn't until 2007 that some of the activist groups began to claim that the checkpoints were designed to scare Latinos," Maher said. "But Latinos are smart enough to know that if you have a license, you're treated the same as anybody else at a checkpoint."

As he speaks, Maher is seated next to Leticia Garduno, the new community liaison for the police department and a woman of Mexican descent. But Maher's critics say his department's new efforts to reach out to the Latino community won't fix the police department's reputation.

"The checkpoints, the rental ban ordinance, create an environment that sends a very clear and strong message that 'Latinos, you're not welcome here,'" said Bill Flores, a sheriff's deputy-turned-activist and an Escondido resident. "'We're going to continue with these programs until the number of Latinos goes down.' But I don't think that's gonna happen."

Maher recently agreed to continue a pilot program that puts two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on patrol with Escondido gang officers. But the American Civil Liberties Union and activists like Flores said that partnership is targeting Latinos on the street.

The ACLU said stopping people for document checks is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, unless federal law enforcement has reason to believe they're committing a crime. The ACLU also said it can lead to racial profiling.

A controversial poster by the Escondido Police Officers' Association alleging that the community is overtaken by Latino gangs.
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Above: A controversial poster by the Escondido Police Officers' Association alleging that the community is overtaken by Latino gangs.

Groups working with immigrants said the police crackdowns have instilled fear and silence in the community. Our efforts to speak to local residents about their experiences with police were unsuccessful.

Olga Diaz is the first Latino to sit on the Escondido City Council. She's emerged as a top critic of the increased policing.

"In Escondido, these are the facts: declining crime, increasing Latino population," she says. "But the sentiment being expressed by the people in positions of authority, their interpretation was that all crime was because of the undocumented. It's almost as if they didn't bother to look at the statistics that show otherwise."

Diaz said the city's crime rate fell to a 30-year low last year. But Maher said he defends the gang patrols and the checkpoints because they help to rid Escondido of criminals who also happen to be illegal immigrants.

Sitting at an Escondido coffee shop on a recent afternoon, immigration lawyer Carlos Batara explained why Escondido may have become the stage of such sentiment.

"You have an old community that was predominantly non-minority for so many years, and now you have an influx," he said. "And a lot of them not knowing better fear the influx, because they don't understand it."

Batara said he predicts as the legal and illegal immigrant populations continue to grow, other cities in Southern California may follow the lead of Escondido's tough policing practices.

Comments

Avatar for user 'PROUDAMERICAN'

PROUDAMERICAN | October 8, 2010 at 7:51 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Whenever people comment on how immigration laws are not being followed they are always called ignorant, or racist. That is a big cop-out!
All peoples in this country need to comply to the laws of this country, state and city. Unfortunately there is not enough compliance from Latinos, and unfortunately Latinos are the majority of the illegal immigrant population in Escondido. This is a big problem to people who want every person here in our country to obey the laws of our country, state, and city. The solution is simple, OBEY THE LAW. Until all laws are obeyed there will be b a need to enforce those laws, and continue to employ those who do that for a living. I commend the city of Escondido for doing just that, otherwise, why have laws or law enforcement? That would just be a waste of financial resources. Thank you Police Chief Maher, and thank you to all people who obey the laws of our nation, a nation of immigrants.

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Avatar for user 'rockenmom'

rockenmom | October 8, 2010 at 9:37 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't think anyone is calling anyone a racist in this article. The concern comes from the rights of Latino Americans being subject to illegal search and seizure. Will my children be racially profiled and subjected to an overzealous police force. All it takes is ONE incident like this to make you hyper-vigilant against it happening to your offspring.

Fact is the demographic is changing.

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Avatar for user 'rmccr51'

rmccr51 | October 8, 2010 at 9:54 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Open your eyes; of course Mexicans join gangs more than whites. Sure there ae a few white skin heads but the majority of gangs and people in prison are Mexican. Second that culture does not care that much about getting an education becasue most of them are uneducated and they just want to make a living. They don't undersand the value of education and from what I see they do not wish to assimilate into the American cultrue but push their Mexican culture on Americans. I am a teacher and I see it every day and I am not a racist but a realist.It is what it is and calling me or others who see the light racist does not change that FACT. So call away but it is still what it is and until Mexcians decide to take the best of what America has to offer and give back it will never change.

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Avatar for user 'PROUDAMERICAN'

PROUDAMERICAN | October 8, 2010 at 11:06 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Ruxa: do you live in Escondido?

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Avatar for user 'PROUDAMERICAN'

PROUDAMERICAN | October 8, 2010 at 11:12 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Batara: if other cities follow Escondido's lead, it will be great for your business! By the way what coffee shop were you sitting in? The Blue Mug...owened by Diaz?

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Avatar for user 'mikesd'

mikesd | October 8, 2010 at 11:30 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

It is insulting and ignorant to say that Mexicans do not care about education, go ask any hardworking parent in Escondido about what's important for their children and the first thing they will say is that they get an education. Of course the problem is that this kids have to attend overcrowded public schools where nobody cares about them because some people have decided that is better to waste time and money in inefficient, racist and xenophobic laws than in public education. Mexicans and other immigrants just come to the US to do the jobs that no Americans want to do, that is a fact. Recently the UFW advertised almost 1500 jobs in agriculture and in SD County not a single person replied to it, and that with the current unemployment level. The problem is simple: communities in the US are changing like they changed years ago (i.e. from English to German, or from Irish to Italian), and that is the fear that motivates all of these racist laws.
It is also depressing to read somebody who says to be a teacher making such shortsighted comments.

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Avatar for user 'oldschoolcool'

oldschoolcool | October 8, 2010 at 5:30 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

RockinMom, Latino-Americans? What a load. We are talking about ILLEGAL Aliens. Americans have zero to worry about.
Latino-Americans.... what a load of BS. You just PROFILED yourself!
Are they just American citizens or not!

Double standard hypocrite.

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Avatar for user 'mszalkie'

mszalkie | October 8, 2010 at 10:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

I listend to this story as i drove my children to school here in Escondido this morning and was not at all happy with the way Law Enforcement was portrayed in this story. The obvious slant of this story was that the non latinos in Escondido are ganging up on the poor undocumented and persecuting them without cause. The problem is these people are Breaking The LAW when they invade our country. They can't legitimately get a drivers license. Insurance for thier vehicle, I don't even want to go there.

Ive been driving for nearly 30 years. I have been stopped in checkpoints here and elsewhere (in California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois) to verify that I should be allowed to drive on the roads. In the old days the phrase "license registration and insurance" were the common request. Here in California I don't recall any one asking for insurance, in fact, I'm pretty sure some group wasted their time and money erecting road blocks to officers asking that question. The bottonm line, you make sure you have the right paperwork with you or you get to visit the court to clear things up. These measures are nothing new and law enforcement uses them because they work to keep our roads and towns safer.

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Avatar for user 'PROUDAMERICAN'

PROUDAMERICAN | October 11, 2010 at 7:40 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

"Mexicans and other immigrants just come to the US to do the jobs that no Americans want to do, that is a fact."
What a bunch of hooey!
This is a fact.
My grandparents migrated to California from Oklahoma (as did thousands, and thousands of American citizens did), during the great dustbowl. They were field workers. They couldn't get a job in California because of all the migrant workers from Mexico, China, and Philippines were willing to work for an un-survivable wage, and therefore not considered until they were willing to work under the same conditions. My best friend had a roofing company that was very successful, until he and his workers could no longer compete with the undercutting bids that were generated by companies that employ illegal aliens for a mere pittance that of what a American citizen used to make and live off of. my brother in law had the same thing happen to his company, my brother in the chicken farming industry, in Arkansas, the same darn thing. This could go on forever….
This is The United States of America, we have laws, we have people who break laws, we have people who enforce these laws. If you don’t like this, I suggest you go live in a country where there is no law and maybe you wouldn’t be offended like you are here, by the people who want a country that has and enforces law.

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Avatar for user 'local'

local | October 18, 2010 at 11:15 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

@ProudAmerican 10/11/10 7:40AM
I thought I heard there were jobs Americans didn't want:
Farm Jobs Big In San Diego, But Not Among Americans. (10/1/10 kpbs.org)


Strange even during this high unemployment.
And it sounds like that competing roofing company was breaking the law by hiring illegal workers. Maybe those American owners should be jailed for breaking the law...
Just a thought.

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Avatar for user 'rkallday'

rkallday | December 1, 2012 at 1:09 p.m. ― 1 year, 9 months ago

you guys argue like little kids...i was born and raised in escondido and from what has happened to me i can say that these cops arent here to protect or serve me, theyre here to bust me.

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