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Obama immigration reforms draw varied responses

January 29, 2013 |  2:36 pm

In Escondido, a northern San Diego County working-class city known for its tough immigration enforcement efforts, residents from across the political spectrum expressed support for President Obama's immigration reforms, saying the status quo was not working.

At Del’s Barbershop, self-identified conservative Republicans got haircuts while immigrant women pushing baby strollers walked by the fluttering American flag outside. Several customers backed citizenship for youngsters brought illegally to the U.S. as children, and said a path to citizenship for others should be considered, so long as the conditions are strict.

Vincent Gazzara, 70, a retired administrator, was like several who backed citizenship for those youngsters and added that a path to citizenship for others should be considered, as long as conditions are met.

“Anyone applying for citizenship should pay a penalty," he said. “If you don’t respect our laws then you should pay the consequences.”

David Hopkins, 72, a former probation officer, said illegal immigrants should be required to take American civic and history lessons, so they learn, among other things, that “Pancho Villa was not a hero.”

“I get upset with Mexicans that don’t understand American history and the ideas of our founding fathers,” Hopkins said.

There was broad support for a Escondido’s tough enforcement program that allows federal immigration agents to team with Escondido police to identify illegal immigrants with criminal records. The city is one of the few in the country that permits federal agents to respond to traffic stops, and the program has resulted in hundreds of illegal immigrants being placed in deportation proceedings.

An illegal immigrant mother of three walking outside the barber shop said she doesn’t drive in the city because she fears getting pulled over at one of the city’s traffic checkpoints. Immigration reform is a must, said the woman, who was willing to only provide her first name, Maria.

She found common ground, though, with some of the hard-line Escondido residents who were opposed to criminals gaining citizenship. “I tell my friends that everyone should get the opportunity to apply for citizenship but there must be conditions. They can’t be pushed through really fast. They need to check people’s backgrounds thoroughly.”

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-- Richard Marosi

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