Escondido is a city north of San Diego, California. About half of its population is Hispanic. However, as it is the case in many cities around the country, its authorities have set-out to hunt and destroy the Latino community, bringing along biases and scare tactics that include showing photos of gang members when speaking about this community and blaming them for spreading illnesses such as leprosy.
Escondido has indeed a hidden secret: its anti-Latino and anti-immigrant racism is growing in power and taking over the city in all its ugliness.
In 2006 Escondido’s councilmember Marie Waldron tried to set up border patrol in the city. Waldron and councilmember Ed Gallo together with Mayor Sam Abed have tried to pass a resolution that would make it a crime to rent houses or apartments to undocumented immigrants. The reason they gave at that time was that Latinos bring illnesses to the city, such as polio, Chagas disease and other mostly eradicated maladies.
In 2008 Escondido’s City Council spent thousands of dollars to fund a street parking study, focusing on Latino neighborhoods. Since ACLU complained after they tried passing city resolutions, they decided to ask Police Chief Jim Maher to install immigration checkpoints in those same neighborhoods. Now it is a norm for police to pick up undocumented immigrants coming home from work, arrest them on not having a driver’s license and not even check if those people are leaving children behind in a home without grown-up supervision.
Video: Immigration checkpoints within the borders of the United States
Using scare tactics to rid the city of Latinos
Carmen Miranda, an activist in Escondido, says that now when someone calls the police in their city, the officers show up with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Miranda shares an example where a woman was beaten by her boyfriend and when the officers arrived they did not ask about the case, but rather directed her to grab her shoes and without questions placed her on immigration lock-up and left four minors in the home without a parent.
“What the police are doing is following city council orders and ‘cleaning’ the city of Latinos. Documented and undocumented in Escondido will not report crimes because they cannot trust the police department,” says Miranda. And she adds things have gotten worse since President Obama took office.
“In Escondido you can get stopped only because of the color of your skin. All Latinos are treated as criminals in this city. Secure Communities is being used as an excuse for the police and ICE to stop anyone,” says Miranda.
Others have voiced they don’t feel safe in environments such as the one in Escondido.
Sergio Contreras, a retired United States Marine has voiced his opposition to this environment, as he watched in frustration the Charros of Escondido being evicted from the site they’ve used for their “charreadas” for 39 years.
“What about us being here for so long?” he said. “What about our tradition? We think it’s just people on the council working to evict people of Mexican heritage in Escondido. They want to take our heritage here and turn it into a parking lot,” Contreras said.
Will it ever get better?
Looking to the future, Miranda says that she would like the Secure Communities programs cancelled across the nation. She would also like to see more Latinos in leadership positions in her city council and in Congress, especially Latinos that represent all of the community and can champion issues that will benefit all.
As many Latinos, and even after admitting the current administration has the worst deportation record of any government in the past and voicing her concerns about abusive police practices made possible by S-Comm, Miranda says that ultimately in 2012 she will vote for President Obama because the Republicans are even worst.
I guess even in the nastiest of situations, hope and faith is something Latinos never lose. But it is standing up, as leaders in Escondido are doing, that will make that future we can only wish for right now very achievable.
But be careful if you do come to Escondido, you may catch leprosy, tuberculosis, chagas disease, pertussis, polio, or any combination of the variety of plagues blamed on Latinos. What we do recommend to anyone heading that way is to at least inoculate against a biased view of the world, because that is for sure a regional endemic killing the spirit of an otherwise beautiful city.