- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation to tighten state immigration laws would hurt efforts to document illegal aliens and such efforts should be left to federal agents, Hispanic leaders said yesterday.

“We don’t want to drive people underground,” said Luis Borunda, president of the Hispanic Republicans of Maryland, the official outreach arm for the state’s Republican Party started last year, which has 45 members. “We want to know who is here. I think it could add to fear within the immigrant community.”

Mr. Borunda’s comments come just days after House lawmakers presented six bills to cracking down on immigrants in Maryland.

The bills call for incarcerating illegal aliens as soon as they are discovered; ban them from having driver’s licenses; punish U.S. residents who allow illegal aliens to use their cars during the commission of a crime and crack down on embassies issuing identification cards to illegal aliens.The final bills call for a study on the effect illegal aliens have on the state economy.

The bill that proposes to jail illegal aliens is a major concern among Hispanics.

“We believe that if a suspect is found to be an undocumented alien he or she should be dealt with,” Mr. Borunda said. “But we also believe that law enforcement agencies are burdened with many responsibilities and acting solely in the capacity of a immigration official goes beyond the scope of a law enforcement agency’s duty.”

Jorge L. Ribas, chairman of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus, which is no longer endorsed by the Republican Party, agrees with Mr. Borunda.

“We are a country of laws [but] we need to find a rational way of dealing with that incarceration,” he said.

Mr. Ribas, whose 300-member group lost its party endorsement in the fall for his disparaging comments about the lack of Hispanics within the Ehrlich administration, said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, Republicans, are “witch hunting.”

“They are damaging Maryland,” he said. “They are damaging this society.”

Mr. Ribas also said legislators’ latest attempts are out of sync with the national party.

“This is a national issue.” he said. “I certainly would not like to see people at the local level making decisions on federal issues. I think they should let their thoughts be known to the president of the United States. But I think the Maryland assembly acting like the president of the United States is ridiculous.”

Mr. Ribas, also said most who supporttighter restrictions on illegal aliens “tend to be African-Americans.”

“They think that immigrants come and take opportunities away from African-Americans,” he said. “Is it a fact that the immigrants deny opportunities to African-Americans, or is it really jobs that no one wants? I don’t see people fighting and protesting to dig a ditch, I just don’t.”

Delegates Patrick L. McDonough and Richard K. Impallaria, Baltimore and Harford counties Republicans respectively, have been joined by about 15 other Republicans and a handful of Democrats — including Delegates Emmett C. Burns Jr. of Baltimore County and Rosetta C. Parker of Prince George’s County, who are black.

The group of lawmakers is concerned about legislation that nearly passed last year that would have given more privileges to illegal aliens. A bill that would have recognized illegal aliens as in-state students was defeated, and a bill that would have given driver’s licenses to illegals was converted into a study.

Mr. Borunda and Mr. Ribas are opposed to all of the legislation proposed this year by Republicans, except for giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.

However, they support the Bush administration’s plan to give undocumented immigrants an opportunity to work.

“People are calling it an amnesty program, [but] it is a work program.”

“I think the plan is a good start and it will require bipartisan cooperation,” Mr. Ribas added.

“People don’t understand the Republican Party. [It] is concerned about job creation. We are not concerned about how many jobs are taken.”

Mr. Borunda said vehicles used in crimes should be impounded, but to expect a U.S. citizens to ask if a immigrant is here illegally is an “invasion of privacy…that goes beyond common sense.”

He said he is also concerned about cracking down on embassy-issued consular matricular identification cards having implications on Americans traveling abroad.

“Prohibiting the use of an identification that is issued by a foreign government to its citizens in a lawful manner may result in that foreign government’s denial of certain types of issued IDs or documents,” he said.

“So, we suggest that the issue be studied thoroughly and that the ramifications be explored as well.”

Mr. Borunda is meeting with party leadership about his concerns.

“We want to make sure that they understand the implications from a Hispanic perspective,” he said. “We understand that it is a sensitive issue and that there are no quick fixes or easy answers.”

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