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Huntington Beach City Council stands with Texas in border dispute on split vote

U.S. Army troops install concertina wire near the banks of the Rio Grande along the U.S. border with Mexico in Texas.
U.S. Army troops install coils of concertina wire near the banks of the Rio Grande along the U.S. border with Mexico in Brownsville, Texas, on Nov. 13, 2018.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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Some in the crowd at Tuesday night’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting yelled out “Yee haw!” after the final vote.

Others, with disgust, yelled out “Shame.”

Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns’ agenda item, a statement displaying solidarity with Texas in its ongoing border dispute predictably passed 4-3. Burns was joined in support by Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark and council members Tony Strickland and Casey McKeon.

Council members Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton voted against.

Burns’ statement quotes Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who said on Jan. 24 the federal government has “broken the compact between the United States and the states.” Huntington Beach stands with Abbott in publicly condemning President Joe Biden, per Burns, for not allowing Texas to take over immigration enforcement.

Members of the Huntington Beach City Council discuss Mayor Pro Tem PAt Burns' agenda item at Tuesday night's meeting.
Members of the Huntington Beach City Council discuss Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns’ agenda item at Tuesday night’s meeting.
(Matt Szabo)
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On Jan. 22, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Border Patrol could take down razor wire Texas set up along portions of the border with Mexico, which led to Abbott pushing back and making the above statement.

Burns’ statement compares Texas’ situation with Huntington Beach’s battle with the state of California over housing mandates.

“The border issue in Texas does concern Huntington Beach, as it does the rest of America,” Burns said. “I want to tell Texas, ‘Stand strong, and we’re with you.’ As far as [Gov. Gavin] Newsom and Biden and their administrations, I wish they’d work as hard for us as they do against the people of the United States of America. Their policies are destroying our state and country.”

Strickland said illegal immigration costs Huntington Beach in terms of infrastructure, drugs, including fentanyl, and crime.

“The people want action on this issue,” Strickland said.

Alexander Gomez and U.S. Army troops install coils of wire along the border in Brownsville, Texas, on Nov. 13, 2018.
Alexander Gomez and U.S. Army troops install coils of concertina wire near the banks of the Rio Grande along the U.S. border with Mexico in Brownsville, Texas, on Nov. 13, 2018.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Many residents attending the meeting, however, said it was inappropriate and unneeded for Surf City to dip its toe into national affairs.

Moser agreed, saying the City Council should not even be talking about Texas.

“This is a very important issue, and that means you should call the members of the House and encourage them to pass the bipartisan bill that’s on the floor,” she said. “We, however, on this council, on this dais ... should be rolling up our sleeves and getting to work for our community. Instead, we are here with some of our council members, putting on our costume again for some bad political performance art. It’s not appropriate. It’s not the business of our city and it’s divisive.”

Moser listed issues like public safety, infrastructure and homelessness, as well as conducting a search for a new city manager, as things the panel should be prioritizing.

The City Council also received a letter from the Harbor Institute for Immigrant & Economic Justice strongly rebuking Burns’ item.

“The insinuation that our immigrant and refugee community members and neighbors embody ‘the destruction of the United States’ is not only offensive and false, but also advances no tangible improvements to the lives of Huntington Beach’s residents,” wrote Mai Nguyen Do, research and policy manager for the Harbor Institute for Immigrant & Economic Justice, in the letter. “Using the council dais as a bully pulpit to spew vitriolic rhetoric does nothing to house those without roofs over their heads, ensure workers can afford rent or improve shared community spaces for everyone to enjoy.”

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