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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    May 2006

    CA - Escondido sued over immigrant shelter

    ACLU accuses city of discrimination over rejecting of undocumented immigrant children facility

    By Kristina Davis
    4:19 p.m.May 19, 2015Updated5:32 p.m.

    Supporters of illegal immigrant children protest the Escondido Planning Commission's decision to vote against a shelter for the children while outside the Escondido City Council Chambers in July 2014. Hayne Palmour IV

    ESCONDIDO — Allegations of racial discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment are at the center of a lawsuit filed this week against the city of Escondido over its refusal to allow a temporary residential facility for undocumented children operate in various parts of the city.

    Southwest Key Programs, a nonprofit that contracts with the federal government to house unaccompanied minors who had been arriving in the U.S. from Central America in droves, has been trying unsuccessfully to establish a facility in Escondido since February 2014. The Texas-based company accuses the city of obstructing the effort by “manipulating the land use process, amending zoning code and unjustifiably refusing to grant necessary permits,” the lawsuit states.

    The complaint, filed in San Diego federal court Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the nonprofit, is the latest action highlighting long-simmering tensions when it comes to the illegal immigration issue in Escondido, a city with a predominately Latino population.

    Local ACLU spokeswoman Anna Castro said much of the city’s discussions surrounding the project focused on concerns about the character of the neighborhood, health, crime and opinions blasting federal immigration policy.

    Those against the shelter for immigrant children, back and at right, hold their hands over their hearts during the Pledge of Allegiance before the start of the Escondido Planning Commission meeting. Hayne Palmour IV — UT San Diego

    “It seems these were feelings of discrimination and xenophobia that contributed ultimately to the denial of housing for unaccompanied children,” Castro said Tuesday.

    The city is being sued on claims of violating federal and state fair housing laws and violating the Supremacy Clause, which holds that a city cannot restrict or prohibit the operations of the federal government in its territory.

    Mayor Sam Abed, a vocal critic of illegal immigration who spoke out repeatedly against the project, said the city will be “strongly” defending its position.

    “We are very confident we have done the right thing, and everything that has been done was purely a land-use decision,” he said in an interview.

    Southwest Key reached out to the city last year in hopes of opening its third facility in San Diego County, due to increasing demand for housing for unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence and poverty of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

    The proposed facility would have housed up to 96 children, who would likely have stayed an average of 27 days while their immigration status is sorted out. Undocumented children who arrive at the U.S. border alone are allowed special rights under federal law, which calls for them to be housed in facilities such as the kind Southwest Key offers. They include access to health care, education, recreation, legal services and 24-hour supervision.

    Southwest Key first identified a site where motels used to operate but was thwarted by zoning regulations.

    Southwest Key then found the former home of a skilled nursing facility that had operated for years on Avenida del Diablo on the city’s southwest side and had recently closed. The project would also need a conditional use permit to proceed in the residential zone.

    A Planning Commission report noted the facility would likely have similar impact on the neighborhood as the nursing home did, would create about 90 new jobs and have an operating budget of up to $7 million in federal money. The report did not note any major adverse impact to the area, the lawsuit claims.

    Some residents felt strongly otherwise, with many writing in or speaking at later hearings to voice opposition to the project.

    The facility would “bring an undesirable taste to an up-and-coming town” one resident said, according to the lawsuit.

    “This is not representative of the demographic of our neighborhood,” wrote another, while others referred to the prospect as “ghettoization” and a “pipeline for illegal immigrants.”

    The number of phone calls and mail that came in about the proposed facility exceeded all other conditional use permit applications in recent history, one city official noted in a memo, according to the lawsuit.

    The Planning Commission ultimately rejected the permit, as did the City Council upon appeal, citing concerns about noise, traffic, safety and neighborhood character. Councilwoman Olga Diaz cast the lone dissenting vote.

    David Loy, legal director for the local ACLU, said the city didn’t present any reasonable evidence to deny the permit.

    “When people are talking about the demographic of the neighborhood, the character of the neighborhood, fears of crime and disease that have no basis, in fact, those words are often code for bias,” Loy said. “You see that throughout the record in this case.”

    Southwest Key is asking the court to overturn the city’s rejection, and to award for unspecified damages.
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  2. #2
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    Apr 2012
    In addition to wanting your job, they also want control of your city!!

    Americans, aren't we tired of this yet?!!

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