- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 23, 2005

Advocates of stronger immigration controls began a six-day lobbying effort in Washington yesterday that will include rallies, press conferences and a gathering of at least 18 radio talk-show hosts from across the country.

The event, “Hold Their Feet to the Fire,” is intended to demonstrate opposition to efforts to legalize immigrants who have entered the United States illegally, including President Bush’s plan for a temporary worker or “guest worker” program.

Participants also are pushing for legislation to ban illegal immigrants from having driver’s licenses, to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and to resume sweeps “to nab illegal aliens,” according to an event Web site, www.nomoreamnesty.com.

The lobbying effort is the brainchild of Roger Hedgecock, a radio talk show host in San Diego.

“The thing is just mushrooming out of control at the moment,” Mr. Hedgecock said. “There is no bigger issue … than the continuing frustration and the mounting concern after September 11 on the homeland security issues associated with illegal immigration.”

Immigrant advocates and civil liberties groups say the lobbying effort reflects a level of rhetoric on immigration that has escalated into fear mongering and sometimes hate speech.

“It does feel like an increase in intensity and an increase in ugliness in this debate,” said Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group. “What concerns us the most is that ugliness isn’t going to get us towards policy solutions.”

Paul Egan, director of government relations with the Federation for American Immigration Reform — a group that advocates reducing immigration and is organizing the lobbying effort — predicted that several hundred people will attend the events, many motivated by frustration with what they see as the government’s inability and unwillingness to stop illegal immigration.

“The impatience of the public is palpable,” Mr. Egan said.

The events will include a rally near the White House, brief lobbying training and the organization of teams to meet with different members of Congress, and a celebration dinner with keynote speaker Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and a leading critic of illegal immigration.

The talk show hosts will gather at a Holiday Inn near the Capitol to broadcast their shows live during the week.

Also joining the effort are Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist, organizers of the Minuteman Project, a group that has been patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border for illegal immigrants since the beginning of April.

One of the groups’ major concerns could be addressed this week, when House and Senate lawmakers are expected to try to reconcile two emergency spending bills. One contains a measure dubbed the Real I.D. Act, which would limit driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, tighten refugee asylum laws and speed completion of a fence along the southwest border between the United States and Mexico.

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