Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

500,000 Angelenos Protest Immigration Bill

An estimated 500,000 protesters took to the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, Saturday, March 25th, 2006 to protest of the provisions of the HR 4437. The immigration bill authored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner [R-WI] has caused much concern among immigrants because the new law effectively criminality illegal immigration. Any immigrant who illegally entered the country would be subject to a felony conviction and jail time. A felony conviction would essentially deny these immigrants legal residency and U.S. Citizenship.

The recently passed law has widened the rift between Democrats and Republicans. The bill passed the Senate floor with most Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against the measure. A detailed list of the votes is provided here. The bills author Rep. Sensenbrenner has drawn sharp criticism from Democrats such as Sen. Hillary Rodham who has called the new legislation "mean spirited".

The contentious debate on illegal immigration and HR4437 goes back to December 2005 when Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, Democrat from Arizona, made the following statement on the bill when, the bill was introduced on the House floor:
Though Americans continue to ask that Congress create orderly, legal venues for new immigrants and for safe and legal ways in which immigrants already here can declare their presence, H.R. 4437 does not even come close to fulfilling these requests. In fact, it promotes a shadow culture in which immigrants need and want to hide, which then puts our country at a greater security risk.

With one hasty line, this bill makes all immigrants criminals. It turns an immigration-law violation into an aggravated felony. Thus, legal permanent residents, who initially may have had an unlawful entry but were able to pursue a legal venue thereafter, would be categorized as felons and prevented from becoming U.S. citizens as the current law allows.

H.R. 4437 also endangers checks and balances and progress that our Nation has made towards equality. With its expansion of expedited removal programs, H.R. 4437 removes important checks that currently protect against erroneous arrests and deportations. In the realm of civil rights, immigrants that are victim to domestic violence would be discouraged from seeking protection in fear of being charged with an aggravated felony. Furthermore, immigrants dealing with Federal agencies or the judicial system would nolonger have the opportunity to appeal, thereby weakening even more checks and balances in our government.

I am ashamed of the Republican leadership for bringing this bill to the floor, for ignoring the American people, and for supporting a bill that will expand the immigration crisis. Worse than all the harm that this bill would cause is the fact that it fails to include any of the immigration reforms that Americans have asked for. 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.

As lawmakers, we can do better. We can bring to the floor a comprehensive and realistic approach to immigration that addresses border security, changes to current immigration law--including earned legalization--and upholds labor rights for all U.S. employees, be they citizens or foreign born. H.R. 4437 is not this bill. It ignores the need to address societal, economic and national security shortfalls and I encourage my colleagues to denounce this insulting response to the American people and vote ``no'' on H.R. 4437 .

Pres. Bush has urged that both sides maintain a civil tone as they attempt to find workable solutions on the issue of illegal immigration. The call for civility from Pres. Bush also goes to his own party who has become increasingly divided amongs itself on how to resolve the issue of illegal immigration.

This Saturday, March 25, 2006, the immigrant community was galvanized and produced a march which depending on which organizations figures you find more credible resulted in an estimated 200,000 (mainstream medias figures) or 500,000 (march organizers figures) took to the streets of Los Angeles in what was categorized as a peaceful and well organized protest. The Los Angeles Independent Media Center website provides the following video footage of the march.

In 1994 California passed Proposition 187 by a 60% margin which was the beginning of an anti-immigrant backlash. The controversial provisions were later struck down by the courts as unconstitutional but before that 70,000 people protested the state initiative in downtown Los Angeles. It is not suprsing the the protests against HR 4437 like the protests of Prop. 187 which both sought to punish and deny benefits to undocumented migrants both failed to consider the potential backlash from a group now estimated at over 10 million.

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