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Rep. Rohrabacher flies to Catalina Island, slams Mexican consulate for aiding illegal immigrants

June 3, 2010 | 12:08 pm

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) flew by helicopter to Santa Catalina Island on Thursday to personally condemn an effort by the Mexican consulate to offer identification cards to undocumented workers there.

Rohrabacher began his visit with a private, 90-minute breakfast meeting attended by Santa Catalina Island Co. officials, Los Angeles County sheriff’s authorities and Avalon Mayor Bob Kennedy to discuss the matter. By some estimates, as much as 70% of Avalon’s permanent population of 3,000 residents are Spanish-speaking Latinos.

“It was a good meeting. We had a very frank discussion about a national issue,” Rohrabacher said afterward. “This community is a microcosm of the problems in the whole country.”

“America can close its eyes and incrementally allow the country to be dominated by people who are here illegally,” added Rohrabacher, who is running for reelection in November and whose district includes the island. “Where you have illegal immigration, crime and drugs are sure to follow.”

Kennedy, standing nearby, would not go that far.

“We have been labeled a sanctuary city and that is not true,” he said. “But this is not a situation that can be handled by local officials. The problem is national.” 

The Mexican consul’s office first offered the photo identification cards to local illegal immigrant workers   two years ago, setting up shop for a day in the upscale Catalina Island Country Club restaurant. The matricula cards can be used to establish credit, open bank accounts, buy insurance and apply for government services.

The consul’s office was originally scheduled to offer the service again Thursday at the country club.

But all that changed when Rohrabacher on Wednesday informed the restaurant’s owner, the Santa Catalina Island Co., that State Department approval was necessary in order for any service to be provided by a foreign government on its property.

As a result, the company informed the consul’s office that it could no longer operate out of the country club.

The consul’s team of 12 specialists moved a few blocks away to St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church in Avalon.

But their problems were far from over.

At 10 a.m., Rohrabacher and an assistant strode into the church to personally express his concerns, raising eyebrows. Rohrabacher was greeted by Deputy Consul General Juan Carlos Mendoza Sanchez of Los Angeles in the middle of a room where Mexican specialists were typing information into laptop computers from two dozen men and women seeking their services.

But all eyes were on Rohrabacher and Sanchez, who launched into a carefully worded dialogue, expressing strongly opposing opinions.

Standing inches apart, Sanchez told Rohrabacher, “We have a lot of respect for you. At the same time, we have certain responsibilities.”

Rohrabcher responded: “I understand that. But there is a problem in our country; there are too many illegals here.”

“This is not done with any type of belligerency,” Rohrabacher added, referring to his unannounced visit.

“Everyone has their own point of view,” Sanchez said. “We are performing this activity under international law.”

“Well, that will be decided in Washington and Mexico City,” Rohrabacher said.

-- Louis Sahagun, reporting from Avalon

Photo: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) arrives for meetings in Avalon, Santa Catalina Island. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times