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Escondido Cracks Down on Illegal Immigrants

Officials in Escondido are trying to discourage illegal immigration by enacting ordinances that crack down on border-crossers and the residents who harbor them.

Escondido, a city with a burgeoning Latino population, is considering outlawing the pickup of day laborers along some streets and restricting overnight parking without a permit - a move aimed at discouraging multiple families from sharing homes.

The city has also been getting tougher on code violations such as garage conversions, graffiti and junk cars.

The measures mark the second campaign the city has mounted to weed out illegal immigrants. Two years ago, Escondido adopted an ordinance that punished landlords for renting to illegals, but the city backed down after a legal challenge.

The city is giving its crackdown another try after getting numerous complaints from residents about illegal immigrants crowding into Escondido's schools, hospitals and neighborhoods, said City Councilman Ed Gallo.

"If you are not here legally, you don't belong here," Gallo said. "We're talking about image and appearance. ... We are trying to change the image of Escondido."

Police have been doing their part. In two sweeps this year, police nabbed 31 illegal immigrants with criminal records who had been deported and then returned. They were turned over to federal authorities for deportation.

Police have also set up checkpoints to check for unlicensed drivers. Police Chief Jim Maher said 290 unlicensed drivers were found last year.

Experts say attempts by cities to regulate illegal immigration are rarely successful, both on legal and practical levels. Courts have struck down many such measures, including ordinances prohibiting renting to illegal immigrants, said Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California San Diego.

"It's a pipe dream for nativists, because immigrants in Escondido have invested too much getting there and starting a new life in the U.S. to be scared out of town by a bunch of new code enforcement practices," he said.

Latinos comprise 44 percent of Escondido's population.

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