There were three of them: a school teacher, a local business leader and the head of a Costa Mesa nonprofit.
They were Ed Fawcett, president and chief executive of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, who was speaking out as a private citizen; Crissy Brooks, the executive director of the Mika Community Development Corp., a Christian-based nonprofit that reaches out to building up low-income communities in Costa Mesa, and a kindergarten teacher who works at a public school on the city's Westside, but asked that we not use her name.
These Newport-Mesa citizens from different walks of life came knocking on our door a few weeks ago. The three wanted to meet the Daily Pilot's editorial board as a group to articulate their thoughts and feelings about a topic that is a common thread in their lives as well as those of just about anybody living in Costa Mesa, California or other states straddling the U.S.-Mexico border: illegal immigration.
But the three didn't come to us to talk about the politics of this hot-button local, state, regional and national issue, or to rail against people who cross into the U.S. without proper papers. That is not to say that the three were here to condone illegal immigration. They made that clear to us. We don't condone it either. Yet we agree with their point of view and applaud Fawcett, Brooks and the teacher for their courage in coming to us to express their collective views.
They stopped by because they seemed genuinely concerned that the divisiveness around the immigration debate could tear at the seams of communities like Costa Mesa, where undocumented immigrants — like it or not — interweave the fabric of the local economy and society.
Illegal immigration is a highly complex issue, and U.S. immigration policy needs to be overhauled to reflect this complexity and to create "workable solutions," as Brooks put it.
For his part, Fawcett said that California and its economy cannot survive without immigrants, whether they're here licitly or not. He noted that immigrant and migrant labor forces always have been a part of the Golden State's history, dating back to when Chinese laborers came here to build the railroads.
Yet, perhaps the most powerful message from the three came from the soft-spoken teacher. She drove home the point simply by telling us about a personal experience that illustrates how the issue of immigration affects everybody.
She told us the story of a little boy in her class whose father had been forcibly separated from him and deported back to Mexico after being netted in a police sweep last fall in Costa Mesa targeting a group of day laborers.
"I think that, educationally speaking, he's suffered from it," the teacher said about her student. "This is just one case, but I know that there are many like it. My expertise is education, but as a mom and as a human being it's hard to see."
That's a point to remember: Immigrants or not, we are all human, and humanity is something that has been missing from much of this debate.