- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Immigration advocates on Capitol Hill yesterday called for an end to proposed restrictions and announced plans for a national day of protest.

“We are not going to stand by while Congress tries to change the very structure of our nation by trying to pass laws that relegate immigrants to a perennial underclass,” said Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO executive vice president.

Mrs. Chavez-Thompson was joined by union leaders, dozens of families and other immigration-advocacy groups, including CASA of Maryland, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the National Council of La Raza.

Among their biggest concerns is a House bill passed three months ago that calls for employers to verify the legal status of applicants.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, includes a provision that calls for a maximum five-year sentence for those who knowingly assist or allow illegal aliens to remain in the United States, under a broadened definition of alien smuggling.

HR 4437 also calls for up to $40,000 in fines for nonprofit groups and others that fail to check the legal status of immigrants while helping them find work.

“We need an immigration policy that provides a real path to citizenship for those workers already here, paying taxes and contributing to their communities, and that helps meet the future need for workers in a fair way,” Mrs. Chavez-Thompson said. “As a nation that prides itself on fair treatment and equality, we simply cannot settle for anything less.”

Polls show that the majority of U.S. residents are concerned about immigration.

In a nationwide poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., 88 percent of respondents thought illegal immigration was a serious issue. At least 25 percent opposed driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.

The poll was conducted in late February and surveyed 1,892 registered voters. The margin of error was 2.3 percentage points.

Quinnipiac found that 39 percent want to reduce the level of legal immigration and as many as 62 percent oppose easing requirements for illegal aliens to become citizens.

Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said the immigration system is broken and that legislation such as Mrs. Sensenbrenner’s would do little to rectify it.

“With measures like HR 4437, Congress appears to be heading down a dangerous and discriminatory path,” he said.

Advocates will call for comprehensive immigration reform April 10 during a National Day of Action on Immigrant Rights.

Protests are scheduled for the District, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Las Cruces, N.M., and Tucson, Ariz.

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