News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Escondido eats crow

Last year Escondido, California joined the ranks of municipalities across the United States eager to display their nativist talons by enacting legislation to penalize landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. Interestingly, the civic leaders in this white-controlled SoCal city chose to ignore employers of undocumented workers, leading to the suspicion that Escondido’s leaders are willing to accept the cheap labor of undocumented workers in their city…as long as they live elsewhere. In any case, Escondido is now eating crow for its short-sighted ordinance.

After a successful lawsuit against the legislation led by the ACLU and a host of other organizations, Escondido’s law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. But Escondido’s black-feather meal did not end there. The city was also required to pay the group’s legal bill of about $100,000.

The alleged causes cited by most municipalities that have passed local anti-immigrant laws are invariably the same: crime, over-crowded housing, littering, noise, parking on lawns, even keeping chickens. Yet there are already local laws on the books that ban all these acts. So why target immigrants? In most cases, it helps local politicians harvest support and votes from the highly-vocal xenophobe chorus.

How much has the presence of undocumented workers actually cost Escondido? One thing is certain. The city’s taxpayers will now shoulder an additional burden of $100,000 for their attempt to turn prejudice into law.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez