By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
Photo by Jack GouldOpponents of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants couldn't have prayed for a better spokesperson than Lupe Moreno, whose experiences with the undocumented play out with the lurid melodrama of a telenovela. In the 1960s, Moreno's father used the family's Santa Ana abode as a halfway home for the immigrants he smuggled into the country, housing dozens at a time. These immigrants, she says, beat Lupe for refusing their sexual advances, molested her siblings and forced her to translate documents. A high school dropout, she married one of these illegals at age 14, and he repeatedly abused her and forbade her to venture more than a mile away from their neighborhood. An illegal immigrant murdered Moreno's 13-year-old nephew in 1990 on a desolate Northern California road.
You see the theme.
Moreno is a familiar presence at anti-immigrant rallies across the county, mostly because she's the only brown face in a sea of wrinkled lily-white ones. The 46-year-old Santa Anan is like the most voluble member at an AA meeting, regaling listeners with her open-border horrors. Now, she'll take her show big-time, thanks to a lawsuit demanding that illegal immigrants be prevented from obtaining California vehicle-operating licenses.
Moreno is the lead plaintiff in the Pacific Legal Foundation's (PLF) effort to overturn Senate Bill 60, which was signed into law by former Governor Gray Davis in September, allowing illegal immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.
She is not only the lead plaintiff, but also an expert witness. "America is a land of hope for immigrants—a free and prosperous nation—because America is a land where the law is something you can count on, something that is respected," Moreno says in a PLF press release. "SB 60 dangerously undermines the rule of law."
Arguments can be made for and against SB 60—the PLF claims it violates federal immigration law—but what is indisputable is that the anti-SB 60 crowd is counting on Moreno's harsh autobiography to win over the public and push illegals back into the shadows.
Moreno's testimony is powerful only if you ignore the tremendous leaps in logic—that her remarkably bad luck with illegal immigrants is somehow the everyday standard by which all illegals ought to be judged.
Even if voters accept that sob story (and its brain-freezing illogic), they may find her opinions on a wide range of other issues more difficult to comprehend. Those views are laid out in a rambling, nearly 12,000-word e-mail Moreno sent members of the Yahoo.com Santa Ana Citizens discussion board on Sept. 27. (You can read the article for yourself at groups.yahoo.com/group/SantaAnaCitizens/message/6919.)
There, the self-identified Chicana blames the college club MEChA for the gang shootings that plague Latinos because the student organization's founders "were a bunch of communists and socialists." She says meeting Barbara Coe, chairwoman of the virulently anti-immigrant California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR), "was God's plan and my destiny" and compares the septuagenarian Coe to "those great heroes I had read about all my life. Some of my heroes are John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Barbara Coe and anyone who stands up for this nation." In an odd reversal, she compares illegal immigration to the Holocaust—except that, in this case, America's white middle class plays the roles of Good Germans and European Jewry, while Hitler's Nazi Party embodies all the dangers of illegal immigration.
"I would wonder how was it possible that a whole nation of people, millions and millions, would let something as evil as the Holocaust happen?" she wrote in the posting. "How could they be so passive to lose their lives without putting up much of a fight? . . . They could not believe that such evil would befall them. So little by little, they let corruption eat away at their way of life. No one spoke out when bad things started to happen. And so it began. No one spoke out."
Moreno is speaking out—and the more she does, the better chance SB 60 has of surviving.