continued The proponents said illegal immigrants were straining the city's resources, compromising the education of children, crowding into substandard housing, and creating such demand for health services that the hospital, Palomar Medical Center, could not keep up.
When all the speakers had been heard from, Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler called for a five-minute recess. It was after 10:00 p.m., three hours since the meeting began. Following the recess, the councilmembers had their say.
Waldron went first. She said that she grew up in New York and lost 55 classmates in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. When she said that 9/11 was "caused by illegal aliens flying planes into the World Trade towers," the crowd began to jeer at her for comparing undocumented Latinos to al-Qaeda terrorists.
She decried a lack of border enforcement by the federal government and said, "We've heard a lot tonight from both sides, a lot of emotion. This is not an issue that I've taken lightly by any means. A lot of thought has gone into this.... That fence should have been built decades ago. We can't withstand the impacts as a local community because the federal government is not enforcing the laws.
"The problem," she said, "is we're so afraid of being called a racist we find ourselves going to the other extreme, being willing to tolerate everything, even lawbreaking, even safety, even the safety of our families.... This ordinance is not about race. It's about enforcing the law.
"This isn't about politics," she said. "If I don't get elected, I can always say I never backed down on principle, eight years in office. And I never will."
But some say it's all about politics. Waldron's high-profile shepherding of the measure will generate the votes to return her to office, said former councilmember and lifelong Escondido resident June Rady.
Waldron, who owns a T-shirt shop on Grand Avenue, is one of seven candidates for two open council seats. One candidate running her first race ever, Olga Diaz, has a business right around the corner on Kalmia Street, a coffeehouse called the Blue Mug.
Bill Flores, a retiree who once worked as Sheriff Bill Kolender's assistant and who revived an organization called El Grupo to battle the ordinance, is backing Diaz. "An image comes to my mind," he said, "and that image is, do you remember seeing the movie Fiddler on the Roof? Do you remember at the end when the Jewish community was approached by the Russian policeman and he said, 'You people have to go.' And Tevye said, 'Why? Why? This is our home.' And the policeman said, 'It is no longer'?
"This just isn't right," Flores went on. "It's un-American. We're not saying that crossing the border illegally is okay. We are asking how do we deal with the border issue. In the best American traditions, we deal with it in a humane, thoughtful, sensitive way. And most of them are from a country that's our neighbor."
Jeff Schwilk, a retired staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, founded the San Diego Minutemen a year ago. He counts some 300 adherents, a little more than half of them in North County.
"Escondido is being basically overrun by illegal immigrants that are just flooding into that city as a sanctuary," he said. "And something has to be done, and this is the first step toward doing it. We are about enforcing the laws of this land, which require that all people who want to immigrate here come here legally.
"We're about getting some control of the situation. It's out of control, and we can't afford to let it fester out of control like this. We'll lose all semblance of what it means to be here in America."
The vote was 3 to 2, with Waldron, Abed, and Gallo in favor. The measure was scheduled for a second reading, expected to be a pro forma procedure, on October 18. Escondido becomes the first city in California to pass such an ordinance; the second, after Hazleton, Pennsylvania, in the nation. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the Hazleton law and said it is preparing to sue the city of Escondido.