Anti-illegal immigration activist Eileen Garcia got what she believes is proof that Laguna Beach has become a “sanctuary city” for illegals Tuesday when attorneys on both sides of Garcia’s suit against Laguna Beach mutually submitted a list of facts to the Orange County Superior Court.
One item in the lengthy list of 48 facts includes text of a bulletin handed out to day laborers by the Laguna Beach Police Department in 1993 when the center was established. The bulletin was printed in Spanish and English and encouraged workers to use the site instead of soliciting work on the street.
“We want to help you find work so that you can stay here or send money to your loved ones back home,” the document stated.
Another item quotes City Manager Ken Frank saying that when the center began, there was an “unspoken arrangement that we would not be calling in the [Immigration and Naturalization Service]... they’re cooperating by going to a location that’s less of a problem and we’re cooperating by not calling INS.”
(INS refers to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which has since been replaced by ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
Garcia sees this as an admission by the city that many of the workers using the center are undocumented immigrants.
“It all adds up to saying that Laguna Beach is a sanctuary,” Garcia said. “You don’t call INS on legal residents, so why would the INS even be brought up unless Ken Frank thought there was some reason to think they are illegal.”
Garcia contends that, if the city is aware that illegals are served at the center, the city is breaking the law.
Bob Owen, the Rutan & Tucker attorney representing Laguna Beach in the case, says these are far from admissions of illegal activity on the part of the city.
“There’s no law that says what we’re doing is illegal,” Owen said.
The list also includes a tally of the city grants given to the South County Cross Cultural Council, the nonprofit group that operates the center on a day-to-day basis. Garcia’s lawsuit demands that the city stop using taxpayer money for the Day Labor Site.
Owen defends the use of city funds, saying they are for the benefit of the community as well as the workers.
The city provides a place for workers to go in order to keep a safe environment for workers, employers and city residents alike.
Owen contends that, furthermore, the city has never done anything to specifically help illegal immigrants because the site is open for anyone to use — legal or not.
Owen compared the city’s contribution to the center to Laguna’s free summer trolley program — a free program that’s open to the public.
Conservative law group Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Garcia, an anti-immigration activist, and her husband, George Riviere, in October 2006.
The suit aims to shut down the Laguna Beach day labor center, which the plaintiffs say aids illegal immigrants in getting jobs with the help of Laguna taxpayer funds.
The city’s stance is that while it has spent city money on improvements to the site and has given grants — $166,500 since 1999 — to the South County Cross Cultural Council that operates the service, the expenditures don’t break the law.
If Judicial Watch succeeds in shuttering the Laguna Beach day labor center, it could provide precedent for closing similar centers across the United States, Owen said.
“If they’re right, then nowhere in the country can there be a Day Labor Site,” Owen said. “Ever.”
The case will go before Judge Gregory Munoz for oral arguments Nov. 16.