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This Orange County congressman's immigration town hall turned chaotic and led to three arrests

The majority of calls into Rep. Lou Correa's Orange County congressional office are about immigration worries and what the Trump administration's enforcement policies mean for Correa's many Latino constituents.

“There’s a lot of fear in my district,” he said.

So the freshman Democrat has held seven town halls, all focused on immigration and explaining immigrants' rights. They've been peaceful, with representatives from groups such as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Mexican Consulate invited to help Correa answer questions.

But as the crowd of about 100 people gathered at Santa Ana's Delhi Center on Tuesday evening, Correa knew this time would be different.

“We had some people there, probably a dozen of them, that immediately had signs that were not complimentary to yours truly,” he said.

Two women arguing about immigration issues had already gotten into an altercation outside the town hall. They were cited for assault and battery, and barred by police from going inside.

Correa told the crowd inside he would give a short presentation about immigration policy coming out of Washington and then have a question-and-answer session.

About a dozen people were having none of it. Some of the most tense moments came when Correa started talking about green card holders who served in the U.S. military and have since been deported.

"Ma'am, I'm trying to be courteous here," he said as a woman kept speaking over him.

“As soon as I started speaking, it became very clear they were not going to let me speak,” Correa said Wednesday. “They just got louder and louder.”

Video of the town hall posted on social media shows people in the crowd yelling "Americans first" and "Illegals have no rights."

Correa repeatedly asks them to let him speak. "Are you guys going to cooperate, or am I going to have to ask you to leave?" he said.

About 15 minutes in, as some in the crowd continued to shout and their attention turned to berating a group of counter-protesters, Correa declared the meeting over.

A handful of people circled around Correa as he tried to leave, yelling "Shame, shame" and "You guys all want welfare." One woman's voice can be heard repeatedly yelling "Coward!"

Police emptied the room amid chants of "USA." The crowd streamed into the parking lot, where confrontations quickly started between supporters of President Trump and others who appeared to be focused on Native American rights.

Videos posted on social media show men shouting at one another, their faces so close their noses are practically touching. Police officers kept trying to separate the groups.

(Warning: The video below includes language that some readers might find offensive.)

Santa Ana Police Department spokesman Anthony Bertagna said a man struck a Trump supporter on the head with a pole bearing an anti-fascism flag. He was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Bertagna said. 

The man was brought to police headquarters, and a group of about 10 people followed along to protest, he said.

Shortly after, the town hall peacefully resumed in a different room with a much smaller crowd, Correa said.

Several California members of Congress have held similar immigration-specific town halls or workshops in the last few months as questions swirl about changes to federal immigration policies and enforcement.

The purpose of the town halls is to "let people know how to follow the law, let them know their legal rights and responsibilities,” Correa said. Protesters have characterized it as teaching people who are in the country illegally how to avoid deportation and get federal benefits.

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