October 6, 2006

Sanctuary Status Leaves National City With Bloated Bill

Some immigration advocates express distaste for mayor

By Raymond R. Beltran

For the second Saturday in a row, city resources and streets were shut down to make way for the influx of an estimated 400 immigration protestors on both sides of the spectrum, Minutemen outnumbered by pro-immigrant advocates three to one.

National City Mayor Nick Inzunza stepped out of the Civic Center doors to a welcoming crowd and the distant opposition, hugged Border Angels advocate Enrique Morones, and declared the community a sanctuary for immigrants.

While Inzunza reiterates that the label only “memorializes” laws that have already been adopted, matricula consulares and bilingual council meetings in place, the only outcome prevalent is a city shut down two weekends in a row and a city to foot the bill.

Some residents want to know how much this ‘memorial’ has cost them.

$37,000 for Sept 23 alone was absorbed from various city departments for mostly overtime personnel, including police and public works employees, who set up barricades and helped close streets, according to National City Police Captain Manuel Rodriguez. He stated the estimate for Sept 30 hasn’t been made yet.

Fire department officials were on hand with paramedics, along with 130 police officers total. Visiting departments came from all ten San Diego agencies, Carlsbad, La Mesa, El Cajon, and Coronado, to name a few.

“Other city’s can choose to charge us [for personnel],” stated Rodriguez. He says that San Diego County’s departments usually work on a ‘mutual aid’ agreement where various city’s respond to overwhelming incidents like “fire departments do during huge fires.” Whether they will charge National City remains to be seen.

“Altogether it was a calm protest, no incidents, no arrests,” says Rodriguez.

MTS bus schedules were also rerouted during the hullabaloo, and libraries and parks were closed to the public.

A “symbolic declaration” was how most pro-immigration attendees labeled the event that attracted international attention.

Elva Salinas, organizer of Human Rights group Si Se Puede says, “I honestly believe that if the Minutemen were allowed to just continue their work without any type of confrontation, this country would go back to the days of slavery. We don’t want to go backwards. This is democracy at its best.”

Tina Jillings drove from Vista to attend the first rally, Sept 23, in protest of the anti-Latino messages being spread by the Minutemen. “[Their] position is that every Latino, every Mexican, is an illegal immigrant. That’s a wrong perception and they’ve spread that racism and bigotry and that rhetoric across the country.” Jillings is currently a candidate for Vista City Council and co-founder of the human rights group Coalition for Justice, Peace, and Dignity.

Although many Chicano organizations and community activists backed the sanctuary city idea, they also openly protested the mayor’s sincerity as an advocate for immigrant rights, having been dubbed a ‘slumlord’ in Mexican neighborhoods throughout National City in December last year.

“I’m glad he didn’t come out here and show his face because I’m not here for him,” said Barrio Logan resident Isaac Zamora who attended the recent immigration rally.

“Anyone can do it [make a proclamation], and why haven’t they done it?” says the mayor in defense of sanctuary status. “I have a moral obligation to say something.”

With rallies over and National City’s policies unfettered, Councilwoman Rosalie Zarate says the incident has done more to divide the community than anything.

“I would like it to disappear,” she stated. “I don’t want to see our city divided. It’s more of an issue for Carlsbad and northern communities, not us.”

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