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The words that ignited a national debate

Year in Review: Santa Clarita City Councilman’s remarks in January on illegal immigration create an

Posted: December 28, 2010 10:53 p.m.
Updated: December 29, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

It was the anti-illegal immigration potshot heard ‘round the world.

Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar made national headlines when he declared that if being against illegal immigration makes him a racist, then he’s a proud racist.

The outspoken third-term councilman refused to apologize and steered the conversation back to the issue at hand: the “war at home,” the battle between Americans and their illegal immigrant neighbors.

The controversy
Kellar attended an anti-illegal immigration rally in January that was organized by local Minutemen and conservative tea party leaders.

Standing before a crowd, Kellar gripped a microphone and said he agreed with former President Theodore Roosevelt’s philosophy: This nation has room for only one flag — the American one — and one language: English.

He said he once voiced that opinion at a City Council meeting and people told him he sounded like a racist.

“I said, ‘That’s good. If that’s what you think I am because I happen to believe in America, (then) I’m a proud racist,’” Kellar told the crowd.

A fiery reaction
Kellar’s words kicked off a political debate involving immigration advocates, opponents and Santa Clarita leaders.

At a City Council meeting in late January, protestors gathered outside City Hall as local and Southern California media outlets looked on.

The Minutemen and their supporters held signs calling Kellar “an American hero.”

Members of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition and other immigrant-support groups, held signs saying “Fire ‘proud racist’ Bob Keller (sic) now!”

Inside Council Chambers, a standing-room-only crowd included Kellar supporters and opponents, who spoke during public comment.

Kellar didn’t apologize for his remarks, as many demanded. But he did elaborate on his comments after the rally.

“I care about America,” Kellar told The Signal. “I recognize we are a melting pot. We all are, including me. But we are now Americans.

“We have one flag. We have one language. That is a piece of the big puzzle that makes this nation great.”

Kellar said it is the responsibility of every elected official to speak out about the issue of illegal immigration.

“Shame on elected representatives who don’t have the intestinal fortitude to address the issue,” Kellar said.

“I will not deviate that illegal immigration is wrong.”

He added: “If there are people out there who differ with me, then so be it, because we are Americans.”

Santa Clarita’s
immigration forum
In an effort to openly discuss Santa Clarita’s involvement in the immigration debate, in March, the Santa Clarita City Council endorsed seven pieces of federal legislation intended to cut government benefits to the children of illegal immigrants.

The action was a symbolic show of support for the legislation, all of which is sponsored by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

About four months later, the city hosted a forum to discuss the issues associated with illegal immigration, featuring law enforcement representatives, immigration attorneys and professors who have studied the issue.

“I just want to make sure we become part of the solution and not part of the problem,” then-Mayor Laurene Weste said during the June meeting. “It didn’t take overnight to create the problem, and it won’t come apart overnight.”

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