- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

Questionable judgment

It must have been awfully frustrating for The Washington Times’ editorial board to observe the marches and rallies in support of immigrants that have been going on the past few weeks. Peaceful, upbeat marchers, children in strollers, people eating cotton candy, signs saying “We want to be Americans” and “We want the American Dream,” and lots and lots of American flags marked the marches and rallies in cities throughout the country, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Then, finally, a handful of high school students in East Los Angeles produced what Thursday’s editorial ” ‘Room but for one flag’ ” indicates the paper had been waiting for — some Mexican flags and a couple of placards with some silly ‘60s-era sloganeering. “Aha!” seems to be the theme of the editorial.

For people who purport to be devoted to the rule of law, the editors at The Washington Times seem awfully quick to jettison one of the principal tenets of our law when it comes to the Latino community. We are presumed guilty of not being sufficiently loyal to this country and, moreover, the burden of proof is on us to absolve ourselves of this charge. Now The Times is asking us to condemn the actions of a couple of teenagers to once again “prove” our loyalty to this country.

It is hard to overemphasize what a profound insult this is, and not just to the National Council of La Raza. It maligns the hundreds of years of contributions Latinos have made, from helping to build this country’s infrastructure to curing diseases to standing proudly as Olympic champions while the “Star Spangled Banner” played. It disparages the people who put food on our table, take care of the most vulnerable members of our society — our children, the sick and the elderly — and make sure many of us have a roof over our heads.

It dishonors every Hispanic who has served in this country’s armed forces, from the Revolutionary War to the war on terror, and the dozens who have won this country’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. It also is deeply offensive to the thousands of Latino soldiers who are fighting with courage and distinction in Iraq and a grave disservice to the memory of the hundreds who have come home from that region in body bags.

The Times put it correctly when it said that the beef here is with some in Congress, not with America — but then what was the point of this editorial but shamefully to impugn millions of hardworking people who contribute mightily to the well-being of this country every single day?

LISA NAVARRETE

CECILIA MUNOZ

Vice presidents

National Council of La Raza

Washington

Putting the brakes on eminent domain

Is redevelopment eminently unfair? The answer is yes, and despite the recent Supreme Court decision, taking property for redevelopment’s sake is eminently unconstitutional.

The Constitution is specific when it says that citizens shall not “be deprived of life, liberty, or property … nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” It is relatively certain that the Founding Fathers were not thinking luxury yachts, or even tax base, when they wrote “public use.” Just how “just” is the compensation to the property owner as the eminent domain gun is held to his head when he is asked to sell? Is a mugger just if you are unscathed after he takes your wallet?

Riviera Beach, Fla., Mayor Michael Brown points to the benefits of his project (“Redevelopment: Eminently unfair?” Page 1, Sunday), including affordable housing. How absurd is it that the central theme of his plan is to boot out people who already live in affordable houses and bulldoze those homes just so the city can build new affordable housing for new residents?

This brings us to the true central theme of redevelopment — it is big business, where everybody makes out except the unfortunate property owner. The legal industry enriches itself by representing each side of the eminent domain conflict. Financial institutions profit by floating the bonds that finance the redevelopment. Developers profit by enticing the government to use eminent domain to circumvent the free market. The government is lured by the prospect of increasing the tax base. And finally, local politicians get to make over their particular corner of the world to fit their “vision.” The property owners’ only sin is occupying a spot that someone with deeper pockets covets, and this is what sets the process in motion.

As the Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. New London, Conn., suggests, it is up to local and state politicians who still believe in property rights to put the brakes on this redevelopment-industrial complex. Ultimately, we must deprive the machine of its fuel, which is our property.

BRIAN T. PETERSON

San Diego

Fix America’s borders

I don’t know anything about building walls or fences, but at $100 or even $1,000 per foot, I am eager to learn. In Paul Greenberg’s commentary, “Assimilation fog … and forecast,” (Commentary, Saturday), he claims that “Building a 2,000-mile wall along the Mexican border alone would cost billions.” He claimed that erecting a 14-mile barrier near San Diego cost $70 million. Using his numbers and my grade school math skills, the cost per foot of that San Diego barrier was $1,000. If the cost of a 2,000-mile barrier was only $1 billion instead of “billions,” the price of that barrier would still be about $100 per foot.

To put this into perspective, visualize someone walking along our southern border dropping $100 or even $1,000 bills every foot along the way. Thousands of skilled fencing contractors would surely follow behind him, eagerly picking up those big bills and agreeing to build him a very nice fence in return. For that kind of money, they could even hire legal workers to build it.

Knowing next to nothing about fence construction or border security, I’ll be the first to suggest that building a fence may not be the most cost-effective way to secure our borders. Don’t tell me, however, that it can’t be done or that it is too expensive. What is expensive is the political cost of not securing our borders. Some of our elected officials who don’t understand that, both Republican and Democrat, may experience a career change this November. The good news is that with more time on their hands, and at $1,000 per foot, even a laid-off politician could eventually learn how to fix our borders.

STEVE DIRLIK

Montgomery County Republican

Central Committee, District 18

Silver Spring

‘Poor running mate’

The Washington Times reported on the defeat in the Maryland House of Delegates of efforts to extend the statute of limitations for dealing with sexual abuse of minors, apparently at the behest of some church leaders (“Delegate’s shift baffles victims of church abuse,” Metropolitan, Friday). The same day, The Times reported on the still rising payouts by Catholic Church officials for clerical sexual abuse and its elaborate cover-up. To date, this has cost church officials in the U.S. $1.3 billion (“Catholic sex-abuse payouts still rising,” Page 1, Friday).

Of course, this problem is not confined to the U.S. It is an equally serious problem in Canada, Ireland, Spain and many other countries as well. It also has seriously hurt the reputation of the Catholic Church.

Delegate Anthony Brown’s cave-in on this issue makes him a poor running mate for gubernatorial aspirant Martin O’Malley.

EDD DOERR

Silver Spring

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