"Rather than work with us, from the start, everyone assumed we were guilty," Lopez said.

Maybe not everyone. Latino leaders say support for Hermandad within their community has never been stronger.

"People in our community realize that the aggressive attacks on Hermandad are just an extension of what has been happening to us for years," said Amin David, head of the Santa Ana-based group Los Amigos of Orange County. "We're always the scapegoats for the power structure."

But the face of that power structure is destined to change. Latino leaders estimate that an additional 60,000 to 80,000 legal Latino residents will become citizens in Orange County by the year 2000. And it will be tougher and tougher for right-wing politicians like Dornan to get into office. These changes will cause a ripple across California. No longer will statewide GOP candidates be able to rely on a solid Republican voting block from Orange County.

"That's why the Republicans want to lop off Hermandad's head now," Lopez said. "They know the change is coming, and they don't want to face it. But there is nothing they can do. With or without Hermandad, it's going to happen."

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