Half a million people rallied in Los Angeles last Saturday to protest an immigration bill passed by the House of Representatives. A hundred thousand marched in Chicago. Tens of thousands more gathered in Denver, Phoenix, and Milwaukee.
House Resolution 4437 is intended to "strengthen enforcement of the immigration laws and to enhance border security." Parts of the bill make sense, but what has so many people up in arms are provisions in the bill that would make the United States' 11 million illegal immigrants instant felons, subject them to immediate deportation, and levy harsh penalties for Americans who employ or assist illegal aliens.
It is simply nonsense to imagine that we can solve our immigration issues by deporting 11 million people. Children of illegals who are born here are U.S. citizens. This bill would separate families and punish millions of hard-working people whose contributions to our economy and culture (and tax base) are immense. The Republicans behind this bill know how absurd the provision is, but they are playing to their red-meat base, using the immigration issue as a potential "wedge" for the 2006 elections -- in much the same way the party used gay marriage in 2004. Only 36 Democrats voted for the bill. Sadly, included in that number were four Tennessee Democrats, including Memphis' own 9th District representative, Harold Ford.
Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona congressman, put it succinctly: "I am ashamed of the Republican leadership for bringing this bill to the floor. ... It includes penalties for employers, but no provisions allowing them to attain needed employees. It criminalizes immigrants, but provides no solutions for a legal venue for entry."
Fortunately, in the Senate, wiser heads have prevailed. A coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to strip out the harsher elements of the bill, clearing the way for undocumented workers to seek citizenship. This is a good omen. The immigration issue is too important to be allowed to become a political football for demagogues and opportunists.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor
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