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Controversial Mailer In Escondido Makes Immigration A Local Issue

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The mayoral race in the city of Escondido is shaping up to be as much about undocumented immigration as about other local issues. This is not a new phenomenon for the North County city.

— Sam Abed was elected to the Escondido city council on a conservative platform in 2004, and was reelected in 2008. Now Abed, a Lebanese immigrant, is running for mayor.

Speaking at a candidate forum presented by the Escondido Democratic Club last month, Abed explained what he would do as mayor to address the city's growing undocumented population.

"Well, that's one of the most sensitive issues," said Abed, when asked about the issue by a local resident. "As a legal immigrant and a proud legal immigrant myself, I'm against illegal immigration. However, I'm not going to waste my effort and time to deal with immigration because the federal government said leave it alone."

Abed was referring to a measure he proposed in 2006, which would penalize landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. The measure was later struck down in the courts.

But Abed continues to campaign on the issue of immigration, and last week he sent out a mailer claiming his opponent isn't tough enough for the job.

The mailer features a crowd of undocumented immigrants running across a freeway, with a headline that reads: "There is only one candidate we can trust to uphold the rule of law in Escondido."

The mailer also claims that the undocumented population will cost taxpayers $118 million dollars next year.

KPBS could not reach Abed for comment on his campaign or the mailer. But in an interview for The North County Times, he said the mailer was in response to the overwhelming demand of Escondido's residents.

His opponent, Councilman Dick Daniels, disagrees. He argues that job generation is a more urgent and important issue among voters.

"We're very limited in what we can do as a city to deal with the problem of illegal immigration, and we have to recognize that," said Daniels. "We have to do the things that we can. And the things that we can do are recruiting jobs, commercial services. That's the single purpose of my candidacy."

However, Daniels says explicitly that he does not want to be seen as a candidate that would support Escondido becoming a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.

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