Immigrant rights activists gathered in downtown Laguna Beach early today to denounce the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
About 20 people from various community groups and religious organizations in Laguna Beach and surrounding areas held signs and handed out Spanish-language materials June 25 at the Laguna Beach Bus Depot on Broadway.
The early-morning protest was organized to counter a rumored Border Patrol sting targeting employees getting off buses to work in Laguna.
No Border Patrol or immigration officials were seen at the depot. Border Patrol agents have been active in Laguna Beach due to a spate of beach landings.
The attendees carried signs reading "Stop Illegal Search & Seizure" and "Stop Racial Profiling," among other messages.
Mary Dolphin brought Spanish-language materials she obtained from the National Immigration Law Center. The fliers advised people who were stopped by immigration authorities that they did not have to answer questions or reveal their immigration status, and to tell the agents they wanted an attorney.
Lorraine Barr came from Laguna Woods at the behest of organizer Jean Raun. Barr said she came to the protest because "I believe in the cause."
Others present at the protest included homeless activist Jim Keegan, who helped initiate a lawsuit in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union against the city more than a year ago over enforcement of anti-camping laws, which led to a nightly shelter and other services for homeless people. Members of Friendship Shelter and the Laguna Beach Community Clinic were also present.
A small group from Santa Ana and Costa Mesa said they were there to observe activities of immigration officials.
Despite the lack of enforcement activities, the group members said they felt it was important to make their presence known.
"It shows an awareness that the community is coming together for a cause," said Benito Acosta, who goes by Coyotl Tezcatlipoca, of Costa Mesa.
Organizer Glenna Matthews stood alone at the bus depot, away from the larger group on Broadway, holding her sign up as people got on and off buses.
"What we are doing is not fruitless. It's showing our colors that the community will mobilize" against such enforcement actions, Matthews said. "Racial profiling is not the way our town operates."
Matthews said that her group had been informed that immigration agents would target people on their way to work, which led to the 7 a.m. protest at the bus depot.
After a while, the group moved to a location along the street, where they held up signs for motorists, some of whom honked in approval. About 40 people turned out for the protest, including a representative of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, who said the group was there to observe. The protest broke up about 9 a.m., Raun said.
The protest was peaceful and without incident, according to police Lt. Jason Kravetz.