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Sounding Off:

Bever should learn from history

June 05, 2008|By Humberto Caspa

Years ago, while taking a political science class at a local university, a book title got stuck in my head: “Condemned to Repetition,” by Robert A Pastor.

In his book, Pastor argues how some political leaders are inclined to make the same mistakes because they aren’t willing to learn from history.

Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever is about to make the same mistake. Opening a new job center to solve the day-laborer issue is doomed to failure.

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Bever isn’t the first local politician to try this policy.

In the late 1980s, during a City Council meeting, former Councilman Orville Amburgey called on city staff to “find a strategy to eliminate those who are illegal by whatever means necessary.” His target was a number of day workers who wandered around Lions Park.

Amburgey’s policies forever changed the face of the immigration issue in Costa Mesa. Like Bever, Amburgey promoted the idea of opening a job center to clean up the “illegal aliens.”

Amburgey’s strategy called on the Immigration and Naturalization Service to work together with Costa Mesa. He apparently hoped a coordinated effort between the municipal and the federal government would tighten control in the park and discourage unwanted immigrants from moving to Costa Mesa. It didn’t work.

The job center was inaugurated Oct. 3, 1988. A gas station located on Placentia Avenue and 16th Street was remodeled and repainted to serve documented workers only.

INS Regional Commissioner Harold Ezzel led the opening ceremony.

The job center followed Amburgey’s script for a few months. In the long run, however, it fell short of reaching its original goal. Latinos continue to move to the city.

In addition, neither the city nor INS was willing to spend millions of dollars and use enough human resources to prevent unlawful workers from using the public building.

Needless to say employees at the job center were there to provide service, not to act as immigration agents.

Bever’s job center proposal will face the same problems and issues.

Thus, his plan is nothing but a political stunt within a community that is finally beginning to understand his divisive policies.

During his years in the City Council he has promoted and pursued the most radical ordinances, including outlawing kicking a soccer ball at Paularino Park. He now insists a job center would solve the day laborers issue.

He said, “The community is tired of [day-laborer gatherings], and my goal is to give our police force and our attorney the tools they need to get the upper hand on the same issue.”

To me it sounds very much like Amburgey’s policies. It didn’t work for Amburgey, and it won’t work for Bever, either.

Our community needs to get over so much polarization. Bever has a few months remaining on the council, and he should focus on alleviating social tensions instead of increasing them.

He should learn from our history.


HUMBERTO CASPA is author of the book “Terror in the Latino Barrio: The Rise of the New Right in Local Government.”

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