Anti-immigration activists' heckling, hostility taking a toll on cities in LA's Latino suburbs

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Self-described "anti-illegal immigration" activists are expanding their protests of small city governments in South Los Angeles that they believe are overly sympathetic to residents without legal status. 

The group, called "We the People Rising," recently targeted Cudahy's Latino-dominated City Council after lawmakers declared Cudahy a "sanctuary city" — meaning the city will not generally cooperate with immigration authorities. 

Huntington Park officials appointment of two local residents without legal immigration status to city commissions drew the activists to city meetings last fall.

"Sanctuary cities can attract gang members in our country illegally — an issue that can promote lawlessness in our country," said Robin Hvidston, a Claremont resident who founded the organization in 2013 as a response to loosening local and national immigration enforcement. 

Councilman Chris Garcia said group's hostility, including heckling throughout city business, has taken a toll.

"All because we are creating safe and inclusive environment for people who are here undocumented – they don’t like that," Garcia said. 

The Council moved the location of its meetings from chambers to a "safer" space — which prompted further protests from the activists.  They filed a grievance against the Council for violating open meeting laws after protestors were interrupted during public comment. The L.A. District Attorney's Office sent a warning letter to the Council, saying the group must be allowed to protest. The letter did not threaten any penalties.

In response to the letter, Cudahy City Attorney Rick Olivarez said the Council encourages public comment.

"They just try to make us look bad," said Cudahy City Councilman Baru Sanchez. 

Council members said they don't agree with the protestors' statements, but there's not a lot they can do to prevent them.

"We have our First Amendment laws," Garcia said.

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