The Imperial Beach city government's passage of a Welcoming Cities Proclamation in mid August was a positive and benevolent occasion, but it is has generated a backlash among local right-wing voices recently.
"This means a lot to me," said mayor Serge Dedina during the presentation of the proclamation. "My dad came to this country in 1939 as a refugee. He escaped the Nazi occupation of Europe. My mom was bombed by the Germans and ended up coming to America."
The proclamation was intended to officially welcome immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Imperial Beach.
Other speakers remembered times closer to home.
"I remember the days of long ago when what we called the skinhead surfers used to pick fights with kids from my area, the Del Sol area," said Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee, one of the organizations supporting the proclamation. "This is definitely a step forward, I certainly commend you, the mayor, and city staff for recommending that Imperial Beach should be a welcoming city."
"I actually grew up in the middle of the country, in rural Indiana, and it was not a very welcoming city, it was one of those cities that had been a hotbed of Klan activity," said Ginger Jacobs of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, "and everybody knew that if you were a person of color, you didn't live in my town, you lived in the next town over."
"Our beach has become the Ellis Island and town square of America," Dedina continued. "If you look at beaches now, especially our beach, they are places where people express themselves with joy, and more important, they come together regardless of race, religion, background, class, ethnicity, whatever differences, and have a beautiful time with their families...you can see that in kids that find themselves immediately and play together."
Despite these testimonials, the support of many local community and human rights organizations (including the Anti-Defamation League, Alliance San Diego, International Rescue Committee, SEIU Local 221, Survivors of Torture International, and Interfaith Center for Worker Justice of San Diego) and the fact that the proclamation is intended for legal immigrants, a right-wing reaction has been growing. The critics are erroneously equating the proclamation with the Sanctuary Cities movement and are calling to have the proclamation rescinded and put to a popular vote.
("Sanctuary Cities," which have legal policies to not prosecute people solely for their non-legal residency status and are designed to encourage them to be able to report crimes and otherwise participate in society, have been targeted by right-wing talk shows and other conservative outlets.)
The backlash in Imperial Beach is led by a former Tea Party activist couple from Missouri now living in Imperial Beach — John and Gina Loudon, best known for Gina Loudon's 2013 participation in the reality TV show Wife Swap, on which she called President Obama a “communist.”
Gina Loudon published an article on World Net Daily on September 11th about Imperial Beach's proclamation. The right-wing website is known for proclaiming President Obama "Muslim of the Year" in 2015 and for debunked allegations that Obama is not a native-born American citizen.
Gina Loudon charged that the Imperial Beach proclamation was "worse" than a Sanctuary City.
"The cabal pushing the proclamation on Imperial Beach was headed by the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium.... 'Welcoming Cities' is a scheme to flood communities in the United States with as many immigrants as possible, legal and illegal, without regard to resist public safety and public health," Loudon wrote.
Jacobs of the Immigrant Rights Consortium said she wanted to focus on the value of the proclamation and did not want to respond to Loudon's article directly.
"Other people may have whatever perceptions that they have," Jacobs said, "even though those perceptions are not necessarily based in reality."
(According to the Wall Street Journal, immigrants commit less crimes and are incarcerated less often than native-born Americans.)
Imperial Beach Council Welcomes Terror / Drug 'Refugees'
Then, on September 12th, a video entitled "Imperial Beach Council Welcomes Terror / Drug 'Refugees'" and featuring Gina Loudon's husband, former Missouri state politician John Loudon, appeared on the Youtube channel "Stop Obama Now San Diego."
The channel's website, run by Roger Ogden of San Diego, features articles such as "Obama’s Tax on White People" and "Satanism 101 — Obama's Luciferian Belief System." Ogden organized an "Impeach Obama" protest in 2013 that caused a ten-mile traffic jam on Interstate 5.
Ogden alleges in the video that "Leftist groups" are "pushing for cities like this all around the U.S. to promote unvetted Muslim refugees from areas dominated by terrorist groups and to promote illegal immigration in general." He also said "subversive groups" are behind the resolutions with "the left-leaning city council approving it on the sly without any input from opposition at all."
Ogden's video includes John Loudon's comments to the city council on September 7th, when Loudon proposed that the Welcoming Cities Proclamation was part of a "hidden political agenda" to bring refugees "from Africa" into the city.
"My suspicion is Imperial Beach was drawn in as kind of a pawn role," Loudon said.
Actually, the proclamation stems from a White House effort launched in 2015 called the Welcoming Communities Campaign, according to David Murphy, executive director of the International Rescue Committee's San Diego office. Other Imperial Beach residents spoke against the proclamation at the September 7th council meeting, some erroneously equating it with Sanctuary Cities.
"At least the citizens of the city should get a chance to vote on this," said Ernie Griffes. "Don't make a foolish jackass city out of us by making us a Sanctuary City."
However, Imperial Beach city manager Andy Hall clarified during the meeting that "there was no language that included 'Sanctuary City'" in the proclamation, "and it did include that all of the immigrants you're supporting must be in the country legally."