Splitsville

No border fences make for mad neighbors in Farmers Branch

Linda Haddock feels she no longer knows the community she's called home since she was 12, when Farmers Branch was still "the white 'burbs." Now 52 and a former teacher, she says she understands the concerns of O'Hare and his supporters. She agrees that overcrowding and special needs in the schools, as well as too many cars in driveways and trash in yards, have become burdensome. But she finds the anger and division in her community even more worrisome.

"This has given people a platform to voice their discrimination," she says. "The Hispanic jokes have just been rampant. There's always this uneducated voice spouting racist things." She doesn't like the push back on the other side, either, such as the calls by LULAC to boycott town stores and recall O'Hare. When she met Luis de la Garza, a LULAC member who was born in Mexico City and lives in Farmers Branch, he seemed like "a voice of reason." So she invited him to speak to the Rotary Club about "building bridges" between the Latino and Anglo communities. In his presentation he talked of the push and pull factors of immigration and suggested the creation of councils to teach new Latino residents neighborhood etiquette, such as keeping yards clean and minimizing parking. Haddock says several of the Rotary members didn't appreciate her inviting him, calling it inappropriate.

"Someone actually called me a turncoat!" she says incredulously. "This has almost given a free license to let it flow, and it's scary—this is why the Jews want us to never forget the Holocaust."

The subject of immigration has caused a rift in the community of Farmers Branch
Illustration by Craig LaRotonda
The subject of immigration has caused a rift in the community of Farmers Branch
Elizabeth Villafranca had never involved herself in politics before, but recent proposals targeting illegal immigrants in Farmers Branch prompted her to protest and speak out with her 6-year-old daughter, Natalie.
Steve Satterwhite
Elizabeth Villafranca had never involved herself in politics before, but recent proposals targeting illegal immigrants in Farmers Branch prompted her to protest and speak out with her 6-year-old daughter, Natalie.


On the Saturday after advocates held their news conference calling for a boycott and O'Hare's resignation, Salvador Parada awoke with a fever. This was inconvenient for two reasons, first because it was his son's birthday, and second because he was supposed to go to the rally to protest O'Hare's proposals. He'd even gone door to door in his neighborhood the past few days, urging people to attend. Now he felt weak and lightheaded, and his head throbbed. Over his wife's objections, he forced himself to get out of bed and dress, then drove to City Hall.

Approximately 300 people gathered in front of the building in the late summer heat with flags and signs. Elizabeth arrived with Natalie, who asked to hold the large American flag they brought. A LULAC member called out Elizabeth's name over the microphone. How do these people even know my name? she wondered. The LULAC members wanted her to address the crowd. So she pulled Natalie to the front and welcomed everyone, saying, "This isn't just a Farmers Branch thing—it's so much bigger."

About 50 counterprotesters arrived at the rally with signs supporting O'Hare. When Parada took the mike and called the proposals unjust, he was met with shouts. "Does he have papers?" someone yelled. "Was he ever really in the military?" Angry, he held up his sign for them to see. It read, "Tim O'Hare: A Black Eye on Farmers Branch." "I was really offended that they questioned whether I was in the military," he'd say later. "I was [in the Marines] to protect the Constitution, and for them to say something like that to me was upsetting."

The crowd walked around the block, and several police officers kept the two groups separated. Elizabeth walked arm in arm with her daughter on one side and Hector Flores, former LULAC president, on the other. Some chanted, "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido," the people united cannot be defeated, and "Tim O'Hare must go!"

As the protest came to an end, Elizabeth heard people talking about how O'Hare advertised "Se habla español" on his firm's Web site. When she got home, she looked it up and found they were right. She printed it out, and when she looked again a few days later, the sentence was gone.

In a taped interview with Dallas Blog, O'Hare responded to criticism that he advertised services in Spanish and had clients who were immigrants. In the video he sits on a black leather sofa wearing a black polo shirt with his dachshund, Chester, in his lap.

"I don't see a conflict," he says. "To my knowledge I don't represent a single person who's here illegally...I've never said we shouldn't help people who don't speak Spanish. There are people who speak English but they're more comfortable speaking Spanish, so we offer that as a service, and I think it would be naïve to think you could do business without doing that in Dallas, the way our demographics are set up." He distinguished offering services in Spanish as part of a business from spending tax dollars on government translations.

The September 5 council meeting was packed with residents and reporters, and stars and stripes filled the room. People sported American flag T-shirts and jackets, and a woman in the front row waved a flag throughout the meeting. O'Hare wore a red tie emblazoned with a flag and dotted with white stars. He began the meeting with a prayer. "Father, thank you for this country that we live in and thank you for this city that we live in. I pray for your blessings over this meeting tonight...I ask that you help peace to be maintained and that you help everyone to act with cool, calm reasonableness...in Jesus' name I ask these things. Amen."

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