NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 23, 2006

At a time when communities across the nation are considering efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, one small city south of downtown Los Angeles is charting a different course, says Hector Becerra, of the Los Angeles Times.

In Maywood -- where 96 percent of the residents are Latino and more than half are foreign-born -- the City Council has vowed to make the municipality a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants, and over the last few months it has set out to prove it, says Becerra:

  • It eliminated the Police Department's traffic division after complaints that officers unfairly targeted illegal immigrants, and made it more difficult to tow cars whose owners didn't have driver's licenses.
  • In January, the City Council passed a resolution opposing a proposed federal law that would criminalize illegal immigration and make local police departments enforce immigration law.
  • Some community members want to rename one of the city's elementary schools after former Mexican President Benito Juarez.
  • Maywood leaders hope their actions will serve as a counterpoint to other cities -- such as Costa Mesa in Orange County -- that have moved forward with crackdowns on illegal immigrants, and to groups like the Minutemen border patrols.

However, Maywood is unlikely to be a political trailblazer since the population is officially about 29,000 -- nearly 45,000 when illegal residents are factored in -- and the city is a compact 1.2 square miles of tightly packed homes, apartments, strip malls and mom-and-pop shops.

Furthermore, Maywood's actions have made the town a lightning rod for criticism from conservative radio shows, websites and members of the community; longtime residents believe the City Council has gone too far and they question whether Maywood can handle more illegal immigrants, says Becerra.

Source: Hector Becerra, "Welcome to Maywood, Where Roads Open Up for Immigrants," Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2006.


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