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LULAC wants organization investigated

LAWS: It questions whether the California Coalition for Immigration Reform is a hate group.

May 19, 2000


The Orange County Register

A Hispanic civil-rights group is calling for an investigation into whether an anti-immigration organization is a hate group because of its actions in support of Arizona ranchers who detain undocumented immigrants.

The Orange County chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is asking the District Attorney's Office to investigate the California Coalition for Immigration Reform and its leader, Barbara Coe.

Public-opinion polls in recent years have shown a decline in anger over immigrants and illegal immigration. And several prominent public figures, including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, have spoken out favorably about immigrant workers.

But this clash is evidence of the deep-seated tensions that still exist over immigration.

Coe, of Huntington Beach, and other coalition members were in Douglas, Ariz., last weekend to support ranchers who have been detaining undocumented immigrants and turning them over to the Border Patrol.

Coe on Thursday confirmed telling a newspaper at a rally that government policies have forced ranchers to "defend our borders and defend themselves from the illegal alien savages who kill their livestock and slit their watchdogs' throats ... burglarize their homes and threaten the physical safety of their loved ones."

LULAC spokeswoman Josie Montoya said Coe's statements are furthering a climate of fear and violence.

Montoya said Douglas-area residents have told her that they "are afraid to leave their houses for fear of being mistaken as illegal immigrants."

Generally, a hate group is defined as a group whose criminal actions target a specific group based on its ethnicity, race, or national origin, among other things, said Orange County hate-crimes prosecutor Carolyn Carlisle-Raines.

"If you have a group of illegal aliens in the Arizona-California border, it's safe to assume they're likely going to be Mexican, and it's not too much of a stretch to think that would fall under the hate-crime statute," Carlisle-Raines said.

Coe's group bills itself as a crusader against the "immigration invasion" and has had clashes with LULAC. Even the FBI has investigated her group, Coe said, at the prompting of other Hispanic civil-rights groups.

"I'm sick and tired of seditious hate groups trying to intimidate me," Coe said.