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Sunday, July 11, 2004

PE.com | Immigrant sweeps top meeting agenda

PE.com | Inland Southern California | Inland News
ONTARIO: The event organizer warns parti-cipants not to back down against Border Patrol.
10:19 PM PDT on Saturday, July 10, 2004
By TIM GRENDA / The Press-Enterprise

Angered but at the same time empowered by their response to recent Border Patrol sweeps of Inland undocumented immigrants, about 50 Latino activists from around the state gathered Saturday in Ontario to discuss ways to further combat what they see as controversial government tactics.

Activists representing a wide range of social, religious and political groups urged one another to remain vigilant in the wake of the government sweeps, which were conducted in June but have since been suspended.

"We're at a critical stage," said event organizer Armando Navarro, a longtime Inland activist and ethnic studies professor at UCR.

"There has been a lessening of the raids, but that is not for us to take comfort."

In June, Temecula-based Border Patrol agents conducted a series of sweeps in Ontario and the surrounding areas looking for undocumented Latino residents.

Hundreds of people were arrested, some taken into custody at their homes or standing outside Latino supermarkets, Navarro said.

The raids sparked widespread protests from Latino activists - and support from some political circles - and have since stopped, but Navarro warned his fellow activists against becoming complacent.

"You must build to a crescendo," said Navarro, a former trumpet player, using a musical analogy to describe how social protests must build in intensity to reach a peak at just the right time in order to be most effective.

"If things don't pick up in the coming days and weeks, we're going to lose it," he said.

Dozens of activists from San Diego and Orange counties, Las Vegas, and Central California attended Saturday's brainstorming session at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish hall, which Navarro and others dubbed an "emergency meeting."

Mary Jacka, a community activist from Santa Maria, said fear and confusion about the Border Patrol raids in Southern California reached her Central California town, prompting her to form a group to meet with police and dispel rumors that are rampant in her Latino community.

"We are working to calm the community and get a handle on what's going on," Jacka told her fellow activists.

Several attorneys also attended the session to offer their support in providing free legal assistance to activist groups as a result of the Border Patrol sweeps.

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