Experts: 'Rule' solves nothing

Daily Pilot

Many conservatives may side with the Costa Mesa mayor's strong stance against illegal immigrants, but his resolution to make this a "Rule of Law " city should have little impact on the local economy or overall quality of life, academic and business experts said.

"It's symbolic because it's not materially improving people's lives in Costa Mesa," said Stephen Lee, professor of administrative and immigration laws at the UC Irvine School of Law. "If it's not materially improving the lives of people in Costa Mesa, it's important to ask the question of, 'Whose lives is it benefiting?'"

Council critics have said the person benefiting from it all might just be Mayor Allan Mansoor, a Republican Assembly candidate.

Though Mansoor has said he was not influenced by Arizona's new anti-immigration law or his run for Assembly, Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce President Ed Fawcett said when it comes to politics, coincidences are nonexistent.

"Arizona's legislation brought the conversation back onto the front pages," said Fawcett, who was speaking on behalf of himself, not the chamber. "Anyone campaigning for an office higher than that of the city level can insert him or herself onto those front pages by taking one position or another on immigration reform. It does nothing to resolve the issue. It only raises one's public profile."

Fawcett added that it doesn't help or hurt Costa Mesa's businesses one way or another.

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a longtime Costa Mesa resident, agrees.

"San Francisco is a sanctuary city, but it doesn't stop people from going to San Francisco," he said. "This kind of stuff comes up just around this time every two or four years. For me, I think a lot of people that are reading the paper would look at this and say, 'I wonder how many days it is until the primaries?'"

But Lee said resolutions such as Costa Mesa and the law in Arizona can be excluding.

"The reality is that authorized immigrants and citizens who 'look like' unauthorized immigrants will also feel 'incentivized' to avoid such jurisdictions for fear that they will be mistaken as unauthorized immigrants," he said. "Will they be deported? No. But there's an increased likelihood that they will be subject to questioning and harassment, which may be enough of a deterrent to visiting Arizona and perhaps cities like Costa Mesa."

The cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco have decided to boycott business in Arizona. The Sacramento City Council is scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday.

Former Mayor Sandy Genis said Mansoor's "Rule of Law" might even stand in the way of Costa Mesa's plans to buy of the Orange County Fairgrounds.

"From what I understand, whatever happens, there has to be a legislative action to enable the sale to occur," she said. "If the Legislature is unfavorable toward Costa Mesa, that might be problematic. It would be a shame to put the city in an awkward position because of that."

Both chambers of the state Legislature are controlled by large Democratic majorities. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who called for the sale of the fairgrounds and other state properties, is a Republican with moderate positions on immigration.

Costa Mesa Councilman Eric Bever joined Mansoor in voting in favor of the city's hard line against immigration. He said it's unfair to dismiss the efforts of those who respected the immigration process, stood in lines and paid their dues to come here legally.

"What the resolution means is, it's simply a counterpoint to the idea of a sanctuary city," Bever said. "Los Angeles and San Francisco declared themselves sanctuary cities, and this is a counterpoint."

Bever also acknowledges that the resolution doesn't do anything from a "functional" standpoint for Costa Mesa, but it's a matter of taking a position, he said.

Lee said he's not unsympathetic to the Rule-of-Law rationale, but as much as America is a country of laws, it is also a country of people with common sense.

"Certainly, there's a sense that it's a system that's gone out of control," he said. "It's not as if people come here and don't contribute themselves. They receive the benefits of being in the U.S., but they are also contributing members of the community."

The dilemma with laws such as Arizona's and resolutions such as Costa Mesa's is that the policy debate can sometimes forget the people affected by laws and resolutions.

"This is a political issue, and it's easy to take a position on something when you start detaching the faces of the people," Fawcett said. "None of this stuff going on is solution-oriented. Costa Mesa doesn't solve it. Arizona doesn't solve it."

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