By Charles Lam
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"The amount of hate mail and derogatory comments that has been directed at our school district and at the school is, No. 1, unnecessary and, No. 2, unneeded at this time," says Carter.
CUSD trustee Anna Bryson received a call from Minutewoman Moreno just after the protest; she says she immediately went to the superintendent. "I was taking issue with the fact that it wasn't approved in an appropriate way," says Bryson of the consulate's presence at the adult school. Carter discovered that the consulate had not applied for a Facilities Joint Use Agreement, which would have been processed between the district, the school site and the consulate, he says. The consulate had received verbal permission from the school's principal long before Carter became superintendent, which has not been an uncommon practice in the past for other organizations, Carter says.
"The board policy that we have on joint-use facilities has been loosely applied and loosely enforced in years past," he says, adding that last fall, the district began an overhaul of the system to ensure proper protocols would be followed for any organization wishing to rent school grounds.
Within a matter of days, Bryson says, the superintendent dealt with the issue.
"The district and the consulate came to the mutual agreement not to hold services on school grounds anymore," Carter says. The decision was prompted, in part, he says, by the number of complaints the district and the school received. "We continue to receive some very intensely worded e-mails and letters and phone calls about this alleged incident, and it does concern me." The decision had nothing to do with the consulate's activities, Carter says.
District spokeswoman Beverly DeNicola says she spoke with Mariscal—who had always been the district's contact—about no longer having the mobile consulates at CUSD schools. Deputy consul Herrera Rábago declined to comment on previous incidents, but he did say the mobile consulates will now be handled directly by the consulate and will not involve any outside organizations, such as Mariscal's, to facilitate the visits.
On Feb. 11, before a district board meeting, both Carter and Bryson were perplexed by the Minuteman press conference staged in front of district headquarters. "What we're going to demand today is that they do not allow a foreign government to conduct foreign affairs on school grounds. [The Mexicans] have consulate offices, they have their buildings assigned to them by the federal government, and it does not include school grounds," Herrera said outside CUSD's San Juan Capistrano headquarters.
The small, familiar knot of local Minutemen gathered half an hour before the meeting. They held signs that featured enlarged images of Mariscal and read, "Deport Patricia Mariscal" and, "Illegal Aliens are Not Immigrants." Herrera, Craig and Moreno all took the podium, each denouncing the consulate and the school district. The group occasionally chanted in Spanish for the Univision camera and waved American flags. They issued a list of demands for the school district, which included a written declaration from CUSD stating their intent to prohibit a foreign government from conducting foreign affairs on school grounds and a written apology for the assault. "We're also going to reveal the name of the assailant," Herrera said.
But the district had informed the Minutemen back in December that the consulate was no longer going to be setting up its mobile consulate on school grounds. "We immediately found that there was no record and did what we would have had to do with any other organization—with the Girl Scouts, with anyone who didn't follow appropriate protocol," Bryson says about the termination of the mobile consulate's campus privileges. "And it should have stopped there because the problem was handled.
"[The Minutemen] came and acted as if nothing had been done," Bryson continues. "I had told Lupe [Moreno], 'If you have any other questions, please just call me.' She never called me back. I think, at some point, maybe the publicity began to be attractive to them because we rectified it immediately."
Carter says he had been informed that the group would be coming to a January meeting to express their gratitude for the district's handling of the situation. The group postponed their press conference until February, but the protest was uncalled for, says Carter. "I currently have no plans to meet the requests that the speakers gave to us two weeks ago," he says. "We have no knowledge that anything was ever done illegally by the consulate. They were assisting parents of our students and other adults in our community."
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The Capo incident wasn't the first protest of the mobile consulates, and it likely won't be the last. And the Minutemen's tactics are nothing if not consistent. The e-mail detailing the protests held infront of an Orange Teamsters office a week before the protest at the adult school in December infuriated local Teamsters president Michael Davis. "They gave my name and my telephone number, and it wasn't even my local. We got a lot of phone calls and letters when it first happened. Some people that called up were not only downright derogatory, but also filthy," he says. "Unfortunately a lot of people, when they see it on the Internet, even if it's wrong information, they believe it anyway."