Immigration-reform foes protest

Chants of "USA!" and "Wake up, America!" joined the sound of honking horns Tuesday morning as foes of immigration reform rallied in downtown Huntington Beach.

More than 20 people held signs that read "Support Homeless Vets," "Stop Illegal Immigration" and "Hire Americans" at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway in front of Jack's Surfboards.

"That open-door policy that the United States has, it's pathetic and sad," said Vaughn Becht, president of the Garden Grove-based California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which takes issue with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"If they would actually protect our sovereign borders, we wouldn't have the problem that we have today regarding the loss of jobs. The main purpose of the government is to protect their sovereign borders, and you think they're doing a good job? I don't think so."

Becht had been advocating for American workers for years and hoped that the rally would spark politicians to take action, such as closing the borders.

"If they would do that, that would lessen the problem tremendously," Becht said. "Now whether they're going to do that or not, you have to keep their feet to the fire to do what they're supposed to do. Taking care of business here in the United States, not worrying about the rest of the world and their problems."

The group later marched to the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) on Main, which was closed because of the partial federal government shutdown.

A few anti-immigration advocates knocked repeatedly on the door of his empty office.

"I knocked loud enough that it should've awakened the dead," Garden Grove-based activist Michael Hitchens said.

They were there to hand the congressman an envelope containing signed petitions asking him to support Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) and his letter asking House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to not schedule a vote on sweeping immigration-related legislation.

"Homelessness is on the rise, veterans live in poverty, and we want our Congress members to focus on those issues, not individuals who are in our country illegally," said Robin Hvidston, executive director of advocacy group We the People Rising.

Meanwhile, as the rally downtown ended around noon, a pro-immigration reform gathering at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was underway. According to CNN, 200 supporters were arrested, including six House Democrats, for allegedly blocking traffic and refusing to disperse.

Hvidston had spent a portion of the morning talking to 20-year-old Daniel Bravo, a pro-immigration advocate who volunteers with the Orange County Congregation Community Organization, which works with low-income families.

"A lot of the [rallies] that we do, we have like one or two people that come to us and come screaming at us," said Bravo, who lives in Costa Mesa. "So it was nice that she did act in a friendly manner, but the fact of the matter is that there are people that are passionate about this and don't agree."

Bravo helped organize a pro-immigration reform rally Saturday in Irvine, where about 500 people congregated and marched to the office of Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine).

"We had a great turnout of constituents there to come out and support," he said. "It was very diverse, where people from different walks of life are coming together for this issue."

Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a special driver's license.

"Citizenship is one step closer to that goal, because people won't be treated like second-class citizens," said Bravo, who came to this country as a child. "They'll have the rights that everyone else enjoys."

Bravo, who moved to Orange County when he was 4, said it has been a challenge advocating for immigration reform in an area where many residents are conservative.

"We're moving from immigrant-friendly neighborhoods, like Santa Ana and Anaheim, to show that [the support] isn't just in certain areas," he said. "It's everywhere where people are in support of this and people are really pushing for this."

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