By Raymond R. Beltrán
National City residents and activists from various groups attended National City’s City Council meeting Tuesday evening, December 2, to “express outrage” at the National City Police Department’s (NCPD) lack of accountability in relation to the JC Penney case, where two shoppers, Alejandro Galeana and Narfelix Arzeta, were racially profiled and illegally reported to the Border Patrol by Officer Steve Shepard.
“It is intolerable in National City, a city of such diversity, that police officers are conducting business with the Border Patrol when the Clear Act has not been passed,” says Christian Ramirez of the American Friends Service Committee. “Racial profiling will not be present in National City for [the sake] of all residents. It’s quite evident that the Noyola family’s rights were violated.”
Local radio talk show host, Enrique Morones, approached the council to report the many phone calls he receives from San Diego residents at his radio station in search of written policies regarding the laws on the police’s acceptance or rejection of the matrícula consulares. He highlighted the fact that local police don’t have the adequate training in dealing with immigration issues and asked that Officer Shepard be reprimanded appropriately for his actions.
As Director R. Mitchel Beauchamp of the Governing Board at the Sweetwater Authority Administration cut up his JC Penney credit card in front of council members, vowing never to be a patron of the store again, he explained how aggravated he becomes with Border Patrol agents that “terrorize [the] community, undocumented or not.”
“What happened that day [Nov. 14] seems to be the norm here in National City,” said 30-year San Diego resident, Norma Cazares. She implored that National City’s City Council execute a full investigation on what happened the evening the two JC Penney shoppers were deported and that the council join the California Police Officers Association in combating the Clear Act, which grants local and state police the authority to handle immigration issues.
In response to the community’s concerns behind these issues, Mayor Nick Inzunza proposed four motions, which were passed unanimously by council members:
1. The City of National City officially oppose the Clear Act and the authority it grants local police over immigration issues, passed and seconded by Councilman Ron Morrison.
2. National City Community and Police Relations Committee (Police Review Board) is to conduct a public forum in regards to the JC Penney incident, passed and seconded by Vice Mayor Frank Parra.
3. NCPD must accept Mexico-issued matrículas consulares as valid forms of identification as well as mandatory immigration relations training, passed and seconded by Councilman Luis Natividad.
4. Request that the NCPD and Chief of Police conduct an investigation on the JC Penney store incident and “treat it as a felony investigation, and if allowed to confirm [who identified the suspects, let it be] an official document of the city, so that all parties are held liable”, passed and seconded by Coucilman Ron Morrison.
Councilman Luis Natividad, who’s received hate messages from community residents since publicly denouncing Officer Shepard’s actions, proposed additional motions to National City’s 053 policy, which pertains to the city’s immigration procedures:
1. To completely eradicate the “insulting” term alien when referring to undocumented people in the United States, and replace it with person(s).
2. In implementing these motions into action, NCPD and Chief of Police must consult with neighboring communities “for assistance when going through these policies.”
3. “Until Policy 053 is reviewed, the NCPD recognize the value of diversity in the community it serves. Its purpose is to protect all persons, regardless of immigration status. The primary responsibility for the enforcement of immigration law is [that of] the U.S. Border Patrol and the Immigration Naturalization Service [INS], and therefore, NCPD shall not make any efforts to look into violations of civil immigration laws.” (National City City Council Minutes and Agendas recorded on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2003).
“I want the courts to decide whether or not [a suspect] is undocumented or not,” said Councilman Natividad at the Tuesday night meeting.
Because of the official motion to accept matrícula consulares, Councilman Ron Morrison pleaded with those present to inform anyone who doesn’t carry a matrícula card, to apply for one and have it at all times.