Sac County supes entertain anti-immigrant group

Save Our State pitches crackdown on undocumented day-laborers and underground economySacramento County supervisors entertain anti-immigrant agenda

There are places where one expects to hear torrid anti-immigrant sentiments—on right-wing talk radio and Fox News, even in some armpits of Placer County. But a scheduled hearing before the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors isn’t exactly one of them.

Last Tuesday, supervisors provided a platform to Save Our State, a hot-blooded activist organization vehemently opposed to illegal immigration. The zombified (twice dead, twice resurrected) group’s current chairman, Davi Anthony Rodrigues of Rosemont, convinced Supervisor Don Nottoli’s office to let him pitch an ordinance intended to crack down on the hiring of undocumented day laborers.

Rodrigues spoke to SN&R by phone the day before his group’s high-profile bid for local political sway.

His claim isn’t entirely without merit. California’s income-tax gap was estimated at $6.5 billion in 2005, due in part to this nefarious-sounding “underground economy.” In 2009, the Employment Development Department assessed $17.9 million in unpaid payroll taxes, penalties and interest, and identified 4,092 previously unreported employees. Both figures dropped from the previous year.

Rodrigues’ Sacramento County ordinance proposal would require businesses to display documentation proving compliance with state labor codes, and for day laborers to show documentation verifying they’re legally permitted to work. It also requires owners of property where day laborers gather to ensure the above provisions occur, and penalizes violators with up to $1,000 in fines and 10 days in county jail.

But don’t let the surname fool you—Rodrigues isn’t the biggest fan of undocumented Mexican immigrants. He blames them for the deterioration of his parents’ south Sacramento neighborhood and the failure of his small business installing and stripping fixtures.

“That underground economy that has taken hold has attracted so much of the underworld there,” he charged.

Incorporated in 2004 by Southern California resident Joseph Turner, SOS’ heyday of anti-immigrant sentiment piqued in 1994, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 187 but later was stomped by the courts. Rodrigues says the organization he unearthed from a shallow grave in 2009 is about 1,000-strong statewide. According to its online-discussion forum, however, membership is actually stuck at 788.

“It’s down quite a bit from what we used to be,” Rodrigues conceded.

As for his claims that Sacramento-area day-labor sites are growing and drawing a criminal element to once-safe, pale-skinned neighborhoods, he has no numbers to back that up.

Worse yet, his anecdotal proof—a day-labor site at 47th Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard—is no longer bustling.

But the decrease could also have to do with what a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center found. The April report says the net migration flow from Mexico to the Unites States is at a historic standstill—and may be reversing, due to the improving Mexican economy, the United States’ stalled one and stiffer border security.

Rodrigues isn’t convinced by the report and hopes supervisors will accept his premise that undocumented workers and neighborhood crime go hand in hand.

The board of supervisors has set its own dodgy standard, meanwhile. Despite Rodrigues’ complete lack of supportive data (beyond a couple of grainy photos shot outside a Home Depot), getting an audience before county supervisors was no sweat.

“Once you got to the right person, what goes after that is fairly simple,” Rodrigues said. “It’s a free-speech issue.”