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Immigration in America: Protest & Support for HR 4437

By March 26, 2006

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immigrationprotestmarch252006.jpg While 500,000 people marched in the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, I was 20 miles south of them, at a community forum with Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), one of the co-sponsors of House immigration bill 4437, the same bill that these people were protesting. (Photo: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times)

Immigrants enter this country illegally because American businesses give them jobs. If US employers didn't illegally hire millions of undocumented workers to whom they can offer low wages, no benefits and poor working conditions, 11 million illegal immigrants would not be in this country. It's really that simple.

When I asked Rep. Royce if HR 4437 provides stiff penalties and federal enforcement against these massive illegal hiring practices, he shrugged and replied that existing laws cover that. When I pointed out that the Bush Administration does NOT enforce those laws, he quietly agreed and moved on to another topic.

I also asked Rep. Royce to specifically comment on the Cardinal Roger Mahony-led Catholic community objection to HR 4437's "alien smuggling" section, which makes it illegal for people, including family, and organizations, including churches and non-profits, to offer services or assistance to anyone who might be illegally in the US. Under HR 4437, services can mean offering Holy Communion, a meal at a soup kitchen or used clothing for babies.

Rep. Royce publicly acknowledged that this was an oversight and that he is confident that HR 4437's wording will be modified when reconciled to the Senate bill. In private, however, he inferred that the Catholic community is being unrealistically extreme in interpreting HR 4437. (To Royce's credit, he nodded in sheepish agreement when I responded that, under the Bush Administration, words are frequently interpreted in extreme ways one could never have imagined.)

Rep. Royce exuded enthusiasm over his amendment to HR 4437 for a 700-mile, double-wall to be built along the US-Mexico border. And he repeatedly mischaracterized Senator Arlen Specter's (R-PA) proposed immigration/guest worker bill as the Specter-Kennedy amnesty bill for illegals.

Rep. Royce, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Terrorism, made many excellent points about the ability of terrorists to sneak over the US-Mexico border, and to smuggle deadly weapons with them. Clearly, this is a matter of national urgency that must be addressed......but it's barely addressed by HR 4437.

There are many disturbing and irrational aspects to HR 4437, which was passed by the House in December 2005, but one of the most dangerous is the criminalization of immigrants. HR 4437 changes illegal presence in the US from a civil violation to a felony and a federal crime. It also causes most minor offenses to be classified as aggravated felonies.

At first glance, changing such offenses from civil violations to felonies sounds semi-harmless. But think about it.....11 million men, women and children would instantly be transformed into felons, and consigned to living fearfully in the shadows. They would be afraid to report crimes, fires, emergencies and suspicious activities. They would live at the brutal mercy of those who knew of their existence, and be deterred from contacting churches. Local police and fire fighters would be prohibited from protecting them from danger. They could be fearful of shopping for food or obtaining medical services. Their children could no longer attend school.

On March 26, 2006, conservative pundit George Will pointed out to ABC This Week moderator George Stephanopoulos that, to deport 11 million men, women and children, it would take 200,000 buses stretching 1,700 miles. Mr. Will was absolutely correct when he pragmatically commented "It's not going to happen."

US borders have been horribly broken for years because George Bush (and to a lesser extent, Bill Clinton) purposely banished enforcement of all border-security and illegal immigration laws....solely to provide businesses with a cheap labor force.

Eleven million people have established lives and families in the United States, with the explicit permission of the White House. The US economy undoubtedly would suffer a gigantic downturn if millions of undocumented workers were forced to leave the US. And the beleaguered US Social Security system would likewise suffer an unsustainable loss if that were to occur.

But even more, it's inhumane and wrong to uproot millions of families who came to the United States with the political permission of the President.

And it's immoral and dangerous to force them live in the crime-infested shadows and margins of our country.

HR 4437 is immoral and dangerous legislation. 500,000 people were right to protest HR 4437 in the streets of Los Angeles.
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Related articles
-- Illegal Immigration Explained: Profits & Poverty, Social Security & Starvation
-- Pros & Cons of Immigration Reform Proposals
-- Cardinal Roger Mahony Pledges to Defy Proposed Immigration Law HR 4437
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