The World According to Hatch : Monterey Park Councilman Gets His Turn at Being Mayor

Times Staff Writer

On Barry Hatch's 1981 Datsun, a bumper sticker proclaims what he considers the most important statement he can make in a city of immigrants: "CONTROL IMMIGRATION NOW!"

For a man about to become mayor of Monterey Park, one of the most ethnically diverse suburbs in the country, that would appear to be a bold notion.

But Hatch is a bold man, so uncompromising that he sometimes shocks his own supporters. In the last decade Hatch has watched closely as immigration has convulsed and transformed his suburban hometown. Today, half the city's residents are of Asian ancestry and another third have a Latino heritage.

Many of Hatch's political ideas seem to have risen out of those changes. He espouses a moratorium on immigration for one year and supports making English the official national language. Although he is the only member of the City Council who can speak Chinese, albeit somewhat rustily, he believes there is entirely too much Chinese on the city's business and commercial signs. He drew fire recently for referring to illegal immigrants as "hordes of invaders" in a letter to candidates for national and state offices.

A vocal advocate for moratoriums on new construction, Hatch often refers to his boyhood in the 1940s and 1950s, growing up in a Monterey Park, he says, of single-family houses and wide-open spaces, free of condominiums, mini-malls and traffic.

As a high school student he worked at the Star Market on Garvey Avenue. The market has been replaced by Quang Hua Supermarket, which serves a clientele seeking the foods and products of Asia.

After Hatch assumes the part-time job of mayor, he says, he will encourage his critics to meet with him and discover that "Barry Hatch is trying to keep the greatest nation on Earth just that. No man should be tainted as a racist because he wants the sovereignty of the country ensured."

Hatch says he is not just a voice crying in the wilderness but has wide support, receiving calls and letters from residents and from around the world.

"When Barry talks, he talks for two out of three people in Monterey Park, and I'm one of them," says George Ristic, a former planning commissioner in the city of 62,877 residents.

Yet business consultant and civic leader David H. Ma said: "I view him as a divisive force. His sensitivity is not that great."

In recent interviews, Hatch spoke about why he believes America must halt all immigration for a year, just as Monterey Park has attempted to control overcrowding by enacting a temporary ban on construction. A year's moratorium is needed, he said, to let the nation fully address the illegal alien issue. He wants to organize a march along the U.S.-Mexican border and protest what he considers the shoddy control of borders, which directly affects life in Monterey Park, he said.

Also in the interviews, Hatch, who teaches social studies in Bell Gardens, discussed his own forebears who helped found Utah with Mormon leader Brigham Young. Hatch himself was a Mormon missionary to Hong Kong, where he learned to speak the Cantonese dialect.

A member of the local Lions Club, Hatch also explained why he questions the donation of 10,000 Chinese books and periodicals to the city's library by a Taiwanese man who is the international secretary of the Lions and whose daughter lives in Monterey Park.

Opponents Outraged

And he told of a private investigator who earlier this year conducted what Hatch considers a "damn rotten" series of interrogations, including one with his former wife. The councilman believes the investigation was orchestrated by people sympathetic to the unsuccessful recall election attempt last year, one year after he first was elected to the council.

In recent weeks, Hatch's public comments have again outraged his opponents. They express worry over how he might lead the city during his 9-month tenure as mayor, a position the five council members share on a rotating basis.

Hatch has defended a letter, sent on city stationery to six dozen candidates for state and national office. The letter said that drug-runners crossing the borders and illegal aliens threaten the country's existence. Hatch says, "Here comes the world into our back yard and we're all saying: 'All is well in Disneyland.' "

U.S. Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) and a former mayor of the city, complained of the letter's "unabashed bigotry." Local newspapers roundly criticized Hatch, mentioning his name in the same editorial breath as the Ku Klux Klan, political extremist Lyndon LaRouche and neo-Nazis.

Media Attention

As Monterey Park became nationally known as the first suburban Chinatown, journalists and broadcasters from throughout the country focused on Hatch because of his views on immigration.

In a profile of Hatch last month, the San Francisco-based newspaper AsiaWeek wrote that he "may rank as one of the most hated men in Chinese America." Hatch calls the statement ludicrous.

At the same time, Hatch and his defenders have complained of "Barry-bashing." Hatch supporters say their man is accused of racism because his opponents cannot accept his speaking the unadorned truth.

"I don't know of an elected official anywhere in the United States that is doing what I'm doing," Hatch says.

Barry Lee Hatch is a Monterey Park rarity. He was born there, 52 years ago. He now lives alone in the family house where he was the fifth child among five boys and a girl.

Last week, in his living room that is sparely furnished with a cream-colored sofa ensemble and a glass-topped coffee table, Hatch leafed through a stack of loosely bound books that tell the story of his family's history.

From the "Book of Remembrances," based on the Mormon belief in the importance of a family's connections to the church's early development, Hatch read the names and dates of ancestors and relatives.

U.S. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) is a distant cousin. An even more distant cousin was Brigham Young, who Hatch said, "brought the Mormons from Missouri, where they were tormented and tortured, then walked across to Salt Lake City, a wasteland, and turned it into a rose."

'We Are There'

His great-great grandfather was the Brigham Young scout who first looked into the Salt Lake Valley and then came back to report to Young: "We are there."

After reading from pedigree charts that date from the 18th Century, when his ancestors first came from Wales and England, Hatch said:

"This represents the forming of America. This represents why I resent newcomers saying: 'You've had your turn. Now we'll have ours.'

"There was no such thing as a turn. We created this nation. We are going to hold this nation. And people who come, welcome. But don't overpower us with your traditions, customs, loyalties. Don't dare overpower us," said Hatch, an advocate of English-language immersion programs and an opponent of bilingual education.

As a baby, Hatch lived on Ramona Avenue near City Hall. Just before World War II, when he was 3, his family moved to his present house on Edgley Drive.

His father was a foreman for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and his mother, after bringing up their six children, worked as a PBX operator for the railroad. Originally from Salt Lake City, they came to Monterey Park in the 1930s from Boyle Heights.

"Freedom, when it's . . . doled out like welfare, is taken lightly," Hatch said. "The thousands and millions that are coming, legally and illegally, many of them are taking this dearly fought-for freedom so lightly."

Spurred by this belief, Hatch last year helped to form American Citizens Together, which he hopes will spread nationally. Meetings in his own house, he said, have included Americans of Asian, Latino, Jewish and Anglo descent.

"Today (immigrants') ties to their motherland are much stronger than their ties to our land," he said.

Mixed Reaction

This was the message Hatch presented last October when the Federation for American Immigration Reform invited him to address their meeting in Washington, D.C. In July he shared his views in a more spontaneous way when he was in Monterey at a gathering of the California League of Cities. After hearing a discussion on how city officials might cope with immigration, Hatch, shouting from the back of the huge meeting room, responded to the call for comments. He rose to the podium and gave a brief speech that the audience greeted with boos and applause.

Hatch's belief in the importance of new immigrants learning English influenced his recent attacks against Chinese-language newspapers and his critique of a proposed donation of Chinese books to the city's library.

Hatch called the Chinese-language papers, four of which are published daily in Monterey Park and distributed locally and internationally, "the most divisive force" in the city.

"They are taking thousands of people in this community and spoon-feeding them hate and lies and innuendoes, " Hatch said.

But Simon Chen, who publishes both the English-language weekly News Digest and the Chinese-language International Daily News, disputes Hatch.

The Chinese newspapers may be spice added to the melting pot" of the city, Chen said, and the editorial staff of his newspapers are well-educated in English and Chinese.

Book Complaint

Hatch's criticism of the newspapers for not helping newly arrived Chinese learn English is similar to the complaint he makes about the proposed donation of 10,000 Chinese books to the city's library. He is not opposed, he said, to the library's present foreign-languages section, which has 8,000 volumes. But, he said, "I do say they shouldn't take away space for English-language books, and I don't think they should take a public building and inundate it with foreign-language books."

Councilwoman Judy Chu, who helped arrange the gift, said for Hatch "to be fearful of encroachment is an unnecessary worry."

The only Asian-American on the council, Chu has clashed with Hatch recently over immigration-related issues. Chu complains that Hatch is raising foreign policy questions when he should be focused on local problems.

Chu said she hopes Hatch "keeps in mind that the city is very diverse and that there are a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds."

Asian-American Backers

But Hatch does have backers among Asian-Americans.

"I'm pretty damn touchy about racial discrimination, having gone through so much," say George Yano, whose parents were born in Japan and who during World War II was confined in internment camps for Japanese and Americans of Japanese descent. Hatch is no racist, he said.

Yano, a retired accountant, worked door to door fighting Hatch's recall. "He'll make a darn good mayor. If he has a fault, he is sometimes too blunt. But he's getting better about that."

Hatch came into office partly through the support of a homeowners organization of which he is not a member, the Residents Assn. of Monterey Park. Their president, Joseph Rubin, said Hatch will "do a good job as mayor," but Rubin hopes Hatch "will focus on problems of development, which remains the overriding issue in this city, as opposed to his getting off on less vital things."

'Misrepresented Facts'

Those "less vital things" enrage his critics.

"From the first day he entered office . . . he has misrepresented facts (on immigration), which to me is irresponsible and reprehensible," says Jose Calderon, a UCLA graduate student in sociology and the president of the San Gabriel Valley chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Likewise questioning Hatch's sensitivity is Marie Purvis, an unsuccessful council candidate last April and a Chamber of Commerce board member. Purvis said that she and many other business people failed to receive the customary, formal invitation to Hatch's swearing-in Monday. "It's just another way of slamming the door on the business community," she said.

But, Hatch said, "everybody's invited. They don't need a formal invitation," adding that he only officially invited those who were actively involved in efforts to defeat the recall effort because he could not afford to send invitations to everyone.

Hatch says his principled nature stems from the Mormon values which he adheres to today as a member of the South San Gabriel Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "The values my parents imposed were fantastic. When I got into the Army, it was very easy to say: 'Yes, sir.' 'No, sir.' And to look sharp and act sharp."

When he graduated from high School in 1954, he went to East Los Angeles College. After a year, he sold his 1955 Thunderbird to help finance three years as a Mormon missionary. "I thought everybody in the world had a little house, hot water and a mom and dad."

He was sent to Hong Kong, where he found a world of poverty and leper colonies. There he befriended a family, the Tongs, whom he later assisted in their immigration to the San Gabriel Valley. One of the Tong sons came to the U. S. to study and lived in Hatch's bedroom while he still was in Hong Kong. Soon after his return from Hong Kong, Hatch was drafted into the Army in 1960 and, with a bride, went to Germany. Two years later he returned and was divorced.

For three years, he took part-time college courses at East Los Angeles College and Pasadena Community College and worked as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff, principally as a jailer. Then, for a brief time, he attended the California Highway Patrol academy, but he dropped out.

Mostly Latino Students

He went back to college at Southern Utah State, graduating in 1973 with an education degree. For five years he taught in Salt Lake City but returned home, because his father was ailing, to teach in the Montebello Unified School District. He moved in with his parents. His father died in 1980 and his mother in 1986.

About 95% of Hatch's students are Latino and many of them are poor. He has instituted two programs at the Bell Gardens Intermediate School, which he said address the special needs of his students.

He established a breakfast program by paying for food with his own money and enlisting the help of the home economics department.

In the other program, Hatch created a class after school with 30 of the school's toughest members of gangs. For a year he worked with them, refurbishing a van and then used it to take them on trips throughout the West.

Hatch, who in 1984 received a master's degree in educational counseling from the University of LaVerne, said he has spent $7,000 to $10,000 on the projects.

Hatch knows, he says, that his opponents may try to thwart him. But he says he will restore order to the council meetings which have resembled, in their rowdiness, television's "Gong Show." And he will try to prevent verbal attacks against himself and others on the council. "I can't guarantee there'll be order. But there'll be an effort on my part to be fair."

What he considers an absolutely unfair tactic against him is the probings of the private investigator into his personal life.

Last spring, he said, someone went to his former wife's home and not finding her there talked to her son. The son, who is not Hatch's child and who did not know his mother had been married previously, was upset by the questioning.

Later the investigator questioned his former wife, Hatch said, seeking information that could be used against him. Hatch says he has no idea who is after him.

"Some very devious, sinister people in our community are trying to destroy me and can't find anything wrong with me as a city councilman or a human being. That's why there is such an urgency in what I do. It's because I see the silent Americans' concerns are being overwhelmed."

He will survive all attacks, though, Hatch said, citing his experience with the recall effort. "They called me every name and charged me with everything except starting the first World War. I really don't suffer that much now when I'm attacked. I've been attacked by the best and survived."

Some people, Hatch says, tell him they wouldn't vote for him as dogcatcher. But, he says they tell him: "We do know where you stand."

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