Hatch’s Letter to Candidates Draws Fire in Monterey Park

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Times Staff Writer

Mayor Pro Tem Barry L. Hatch drew severe criticism this week for writing a letter on city stationery in which he complained about America’s immigration problems to six dozen candidates for state and federal offices, including George Bush and Michael S. Dukakis.

In his letter, Hatch cited the “hordes of invaders” who he said threaten the nation’s existence by illegally coming into the country. Hatch called for “closing (of) our borders, removing illegal aliens and controlling the abuse of visas.”

Hatch’s letter of July 28, published earlier this month in a local weekly newspaper, the News Digest, became the subject of angry debate during Monday night’s City Council meeting. During the meeting, speakers cited the ethnic diversity of the community. Three-quarters of the city’s 62,800 residents claim either Asian or Latino ancestry, and many are recent arrivals in this country.


Hatch was criticized on two fronts: the content of his letter and his use of city stationery.

Censure Requested

Jose Calderon, president of the San Gabriel chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, called for an apology from Hatch and is asking for the council to censure him. Councilwoman Judy Chu criticized Hatch’s use of city stationery to express what she calls a “private political opinion” and said she wants the council to clarify its policies on the issue at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Hatch in an interview on Tuesday rejected calls for an apology and said he would not pay back the “$25 to $30” in municipal funds that may have been spent to prepare and mail the letters. “I don’t think I was out of line,” Hatch said. “I feel it’s my responsibility to bring this matter to the public’s awareness.”

Indeed, he said Monterey Park is “right in the thoroughfare of this illegal immigration.”

In his letter, Hatch told officials: “You are ignoring the most serious threat the United States has ever faced. The runaway invasion of this sovereign nation by illegal aliens, drug runners, terrorists and criminals is rapidly placing in jeopardy the safety and quality of life of our citizens.”

During the time allotted for public comment Monday night, nine speakers criticized Hatch, and only one spoke on his behalf.

“Who is the ‘we’? It certainly isn’t me,” Alice Ballesteros said, criticizing Hatch’s use of the word we throughout his letter.

Letter of Disagreement

Expressing her dismay, Marjorie Kemmerer said Hatch “insinuates that those who do not agree with him . . . are not patriotic.”


Her husband, Harry Kemmerer, read a copy of a letter he is sending to state and federal officials. In the one that is going to Dukakis, Kemmerer said: “We strongly object to some of the opinions expressed by Mr. Hatch’s letter and so do many of our friends.” Kemmerer cited the inscription on the Statue of Liberty of “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Geraldine Zapata of a local group known as the Hispanic Roundtable suggested that if her ancestors, the Oglala Lakota Sioux, had an immigration policy, then perhaps South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming would not have been overrun by “hordes of invaders.”

Francis Hong said: “It is time that we stop (blaming) and labeling. It is time we should all work together.”

In responding, Hatch thanked the audience of about 80 city officials and residents.

Discussed ‘Sacred Cow’

“I’m grateful for something very important that happened this evening. We discussed a sacred cow in this country. We discussed illegal aliens,” Hatch said. “I’m not talking about legal immigrants. God bless the legal immigrants.

“And nothing against the illegal aliens, too. Bless those poor souls. They’re coming from countries where there is tyranny and nothing to eat. . . .”

But he said: “Our elected officials are not addressing the hordes of illegal aliens that are coming into this country.


“This is what I am looking for,” Hatch continued. “Someone to take the time and address this grave issue. We need to find out where this country is headed. Is it going to be directed by the millions of illegals who are demanding our resources from our schools . . . or are we going to be in charge of our destiny?”

At one point, Mayor Christopher F. Houseman threatened to clear the chambers when shouting erupted after Hatch finished speaking. “There’s no reason for everybody to be screaming and yelling in their seats,” he said.