Controversial Letter Evokes Strong Response
Amid the City Council’s approval of an agenda that included incorporating two large resource collections into the forthcoming Santa Clarita Public Library and relaxing on-time performance standards for the transit system, a two-page letter on the issue of illegal immigration dominated Tuesday’s meeting.
In a letter dated December 9, 2010, then-Mayor Laurene Weste wrote to Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), “On behalf of the Santa Clarita, California City Council, I am writing to request that the Congress of the United States enact meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform legislation to address the impacts of illegal immigration that we are seeing in our community.”
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The letter, which was copied to President Barack Obama, the 111th Congress, the 112th Congress and the other City Council members, was written on City letterhead, which showcases each of the Council members’ names on the side.
The core of the controversy seemed to stem from both perceived policy and semantics. Who actually wanted this “comprehensive immigration reform?” The citizens of Santa Clarita? The City Council? Or just then-Mayor Laurene Weste?
The letter’s creation sprung from a Council study session on immigration issues last June.
“We had a meeting. It was two hours,” said Kellar. “Towards the end of the meeting, the Mayor at the time suggested the City send letters to federal legislators regarding immigration. Where I have exception is that there was nowhere suggesting comprehensive immigration reform.”
Upon referencing a City Council guidebook and City ordinances, Kellar further expressed his dissatisfaction with the handling of the letter.
“The Council is the authority – not the Mayor,” he said. “I simply ask that we be more respectful of the rules, policies and procedures.”
Nevertheless, City Manager Ken Pulskamp said Weste’s conduct didn’t violate anything since the Council ultimately voted last year to address the federal legislature on immigration in some capacity.
“It doesn’t have to be representative of the entire City Council,” Pulskamp said. “It just has to be a majority.”
The night’s speakers, however, still felt misrepresented – angered that Weste’s letter implied their consent.
Though none claimed affiliation to an independent Tea Party group known as the SCV Patriots, which had encouraged members to participate in Tuesday’s meeting, 16 people denounced the letter.
“You are looking at an educated populous,” said Linda Payne. “You were not elected to represent us on a federal level. Your job was to talk to us.”
Some felt that the letter encouraged amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“To me it was not representative of the entire City Council so that was a lie,” said Patricia Crossley. “It also seems to indicate that the majority of the citizens of Santa Clarita are all for amnesty and we’re not.”
In her response, Weste noted the absence of the word “amnesty” from her letter, which she said was written by members of City staff pending her review.
“I do not now nor have I ever supported amnesty. It didn’t work last time and it won’t work again,” she said. “I worked with the staff; we went through the information that we received. There were three votes of the Council to move forward with doing the letter.”
The meeting adjourned in the memory of those killed in the recent Arizona shooting.