The Press

Huntington Park targeted by anti-immigrant group

HUNTINGTON PARK — A second organization concerned about illegal immigration is targeting the city.

American Children First filed an a initiative “to defund the sanctuary city of Huntington Park,” after a June 19 press conference at City Hall, said its executive director, Joseph Turner, who founded the organization.

“Huntington Park is not a sanctuary city and never was,” Police Chief Cosme Lozano told a reporter after some speakers called for the city to declare itself a sanctuary city during public comments at the June 20 council meeting.

American Children First joins We The People Rising, which since August 2015 has protested at almost every council meeting the appointment of two non-citizens to advisory commissions by Councilman Jhonny Pineda.

Pineda appointed Francisco Medina to the city’s Health and Education Commission and Julian Zatarain to the Parks and Recreation Commission 22 months ago. He acknowledged that both worked on his election campaign in March 2015.

We the People Rising have said council members are violating the U.S. Constitution and breaking the law.

Huntington Park City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said June 20 he received the election initiative June 19 but had not had a chance to review it and compile a ballot proposition.

He did not say when he would do it and said he wasn’t sure how many votes were needed for its passage. It would depend on voter turnout percentage at the last city election, he said.

The American Children First plan is to convince residents to vote down the city’s utility tax, giving residents a tax break, but also forcing the city to reduce police, fire, recreation and public works services.

“The measure is identical to the one we filed in Cudahy [June 12] where we seek to repeal Cudahy’s 4 percent utility user tax,” Turner said.

Deputy City Clerk Richard Ybarra said the Cudahy City Council received the petition and said “the people will decide.”

The Huntington Park utility user tax generates more than $6 million a year and accounts for more than 20 percent of the city’s general revenue fund, Turner said in a news release.

“I will take that money away from you,” Turner told the Huntington Park City Council June 20.

That tax is 9.25 percent a month on telecommunications equipment, 9.75 percent on water, natural gas and electricity and 9 percent on pre-paid telephones, a city finance staffer said.

Like We the People Rising, American Children First says it welcomes immigrants who become citizens. The organization rails against crime allegedly caused by immigrants as well as accusing them of taking American jobs and posing terrorist threats.

The group also seeks to ban children of illegal immigrants from attending public schools.

Members of the two groups and City Council supporters clashed in the Huntington Park City Hall lobby June 6.

At the meeting later, We the People Rising member Arthur Schaper was arrested after he allegedly refused to halt loud rhetoric during the council meeting. Schaper, a blogger from Torrance who records all his actions with the council, said June 20 he will file suit.

“If the [loss of the] utility tax doesn’t break you, my lawsuit will,” he said in a loud voice, calling council members and the police department criminals and saying “Jeff Sessions is on the way,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s attorney general who has advocated a hard line on illegal immigration.

Robin Hividsten of Claremont, head of We the People Rising, said Schaper was falsely accused of disrupting the meeting and actually did not comment from the audience June 20.

But a man sitting near Schaper June 6 said the blogger was indeed guilty and appeared to be asking to be arrested, possibly giving him an excuse to sue.

Members of the two groups and those defending the city spoke for about an hour with more than 20 people taking the podium. Some screamed at the council, accusing it of harboring criminals, while others cautioned residents not to listen to “the outsiders who want to tell our city what do.”

Some members alleged that illegal immigrants are treated better than citizens in health care, jobs and government aid, but Alex Sanchez said non-citizens receive no health care and government aid.

“If you want jobs, see me. I have a lot of them,” he added.

Lozano took issue with a woman who said the Huntington Park crime rate was 64 percent higher than the national average, saying upon examination the woman was found to be using 2012 figures.

Fearing problems, 12 police officers were on hand June 20 with orders to let audience members in one by one, to allow no one to loiter in the lobby and to prohibit admission once the 128 seats in the council chambers and 30 seats in the “overflow room” were filled.

However, the crowd was smaller than expected and did not fill the council chambers.