Mayor Mansoor's Immigration Press Conference
As promised, I did attend Mayor Allan Mansoor's campaign event, er, press conference at City Hall this morning. It's taken me a little while to post this because I actually stayed for the entire event, including the one-on-one question and answer period with the press that followed his formal presentation. One wag in town, a guy who fancies himself a journalist, arrived late, stayed for about 10 minutes and then left early - burning rubber out of the parking lot so he could rush home and post a blog entry that said nothing. He apparently didn't want to be noticed because he came in disguise, not wearing his trademark black shirt for a change - maybe it was in the wash. But, he was seen in "his" seat - in the far, right, back corner of the auditorium.
The meeting was sparsely attended. The working press outnumbered residents and other visitors about 2-1. Although I sat near the front so couldn't keep close track of the comings and goings, my occasional peeks over my shoulder revealed that, in addition to the brief stay by the guy normally in black, among those in the small audience were Councilwoman Katrina Foley, Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger - both made brief appearances - and Benito Acosta, he of recent lawsuit fame. There were around 10 members of the working press - print, radio and television - and a couple of us bloggers, too. I think there might have been 25 people in the auditorium at the peak of attendance. It was a pretty skimpy turnout for an issue with, as we've seen in years past, the potential to generate heated passions.
LASTED ABOUT 45 MINUTES - WILL BE AVAILABLE ON VIDEO
Mansoor arrived late to the press conference, which was promised to begin "promptly" at 10:00. It did get started at around 10:15 and lasted about 45 minutes. CMTV taped the proceedings and I've been told that it will be available for viewing via streaming video at the city web site tomorrow morning. You can click on the "archived video" link on the city home page to locate it after 8:00 a.m.
WHY THE PRESS CONFERENCE?
So, what was this all about? I'll try to boil it down as much as possible. The mayor is concerned about illegal alien criminals in our city and wants to discuss new programs to address them.
FOUR ITEMS TO DISCUSS IN STUDY SESSION
Mansoor outlined four items he wants to pursue with the city staff and his peers on the council.
1- Requiring the use of E-Verify for all city contractors and the people they employ.
2 - Requiring the use of E-Verify for all businesses applying for a business license in our city to be sure that all businesses and their employees are legally able to work in our country.
3 - He "wants to have policy discussions regarding asking all who are taken into custody by the police during the normal course of their duties ask them not only their nation of origin but if they are here illegally as we have a legal right to ask that question and to notify ICE and document that this is followed up so that if they are released and commit another crime the city has at least done it's part to notify ICE." Did you follow that one? It was a direct quotation...
4 - "Have discussions toward a more clear policy on how we handle foreign nationals with a strong emphasis on proper pro-active training".
COSTA MESA NOT A "SANCTUARY CITY"
He went on to state that, "Costa Mesa is not a sanctuary and is, in fact, a "rule of law" city when it comes to upholding our immigration laws and I will ask the council to commit to make it official."
WHY NOW, MR. MAYOR?It seems our former deputy sheriff/mayor has conveniently chosen this time - a few weeks before the primary election in June - because "it's been on my mind a long time and it needs to be addressed". When the press pushed him about the timing he denied that the election had anything to do with it. When pushed further he admitted that all the turmoil in the city recently - the budget, fairgrounds purchase, ACLU lawsuit for day laborers, etc., caused him to delay presenting these issues for discussion.
I DON'T BELIEVE HIM
From my standpoint, I don't believe that for a minute. I think he is running for Assembly and is facing a strong opponent from the Vietnamese community in the primary early in June and possibly again in November so he needs an issue to hang his campaign on. As has been the case in the past, that issue is immigration, even though the resolution of immigration problems are the purview of the Federal Government, not cities. This is precisely what he did four years ago when he and Wendy Leece rode to victory on the backs of the Latino population of Costa Mesa.
MATRICULA CONSULAR AS VALID ID?
In response to a question from the media he brought up the issue of the validity of the Matricula Consular - the identification cards provided by foreign consulates to citizens of their countries. Here we're talking about Mexican citizens. This form of identification is controversial and Mansoor wants to have the city take a position on the validity or lack thereof of those instruments when "criminals" are stopped for traffic infractions and the like. He feels that anyone here legally should have a valid driver's license or passport or visa. He stated that anyone holding a Matricula Consular is probably here illegally and should be deported.
TOSSING STATISTICS LIKE POPCORN
Mansoor threw around statistics about the criminals deported by ICE in 2009 but he didn't provide anything to compare them to - if ICE had not been in the jail in Costa Mesa, for example. When the press challenged him on the issue of his promise that his ICE plan would be directed at "dangerous felons", when more than half those he's taking credit for were for lesser crimes, he dodged the issue.
MY QUESTION TO THE MAYORI did have a chance to ask Mansoor a question - the final one during the formal part of the program. I asked him, "Mr. Mayor, when you first proposed your ICE plan that issue polarized our community. This council chamber was packed meeting after meeting there were people from both sides of the issue yelling back and forth at each other. The arrest of Benito Acosta was probably the most incendiary moment. By bringing this up now are you anticipating similar kind of response from the community? Do you expect, when this is brought forward to the council for discussion in front of the public are you expecting a similar kind of reaction from the community and, if so, how do you plan to handle it?" His response was weak. He said, "I think it was unfortunate that people came to disrupt our council meeting. I want put forward calm dialogues, Mr. West, that's my goal. I think we should be responsible. I don't think we should shy away from these issues. So, it's my goal to have calm discussions on these issues. I think that's the responsible, appropriate way to handle that. I think it's wrong and irresponsible to not address these issues as well. We all know these are important concerns and, as elected officials, I think we need to address them." I thought it was nice that he addressed me by name - the only time he did all morning. :-)
HERE WE GO AGAIN!
Mayor Mansoor has ripped the scab off an issue that has festered in our city for five years. By bringing it up now he guarantees himself another term in the spotlight of national television as he makes a bid for Van Tran's 68th Assembly seat. He couldn't buy this kind of media coverage! As he spoke and answered questions I found myself thinking that this has a very familiar ring to it. If this process goes as it appears he wants it to - a request to place the issues on a study session agenda, then later to be considered by the council in open session - I can foresee more packed meetings with vocal proponents and opponents batting the issues back and forth in the same kind of atmosphere we saw in the past. Heck, we've already had Minuteman Jim Gilchrist post a comment on this site today and the ball is barely rolling! I fully expect to see Barbara Coe stumble into our council meeting in the near future.
CUDDLING UP TO THE CCIR TONIGHT
Speaking of which, tonight Mansoor will toddle off to a fund raiser hosted by that self-same Barbara Coe and her minions at the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR) meeting at which his praises as the "savior of California" will almost certainly be sung. What's that old phrase, "You are known by the company you keep?" Well, somebody should have reminded Mansoor of that fact.
A LONG, HOT SUMMER AHEAD
I've got a feeling that it's going to be a long, long summer and that Mansoor's campaign is going to be something very interesting to watch. By proposing policies that will bring down the hammer on Costa Mesa Latinos he guarantees a busy time for the Costa Mesa Police Department until November.