- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

A coalition of pro-immigration advocates will march on Washington next month to pressure the Senate into defeating pending House-approved legislation making illegal entry a criminal offense and calling for the construction of 700 miles of high-security fences on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Led by the National Alliance for Human Rights (NAHR), the march was approved last week during a meeting in Riverside, Calif., of more than 500 immigration advocates who mapped out a strategy of “social justice and political empowerment” involving Hispanic groups from throughout the United States and Mexico.

NAHR Coordinator Armando Navarro, chairman and professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Riverside, said coalition members agreed not only to respond to the legislation — written by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee — but to defeat it and call for immigration reform.

Mr. Navarro told The Washington Times that 2006 will be a year of “massive mobilizations, activism and political participation to countervail the heinous, racist and nativist crusade” of those who support the bill and the construction of “an Iron Curtain” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addition to efforts by the coalition, the foreign ministers of 11 Latin American countries opposed to the Sensenbrenner bill met in Cartagena, Colombia, last week and also agreed to begin a massive lobbying campaign in Washington to defeat the legislation.

The ministers will send a team to Capitol Hill this week to identify key members of Congress on the immigration issue. They will call for the implementation of a guest-worker program, outline their opposition to the criminalization of illegal entry, demand better treatment of migrants, and condemn proposals for tighter control of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ministers who attended the meeting were from Colombia, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Migrants from those countries are believed by U.S. authorities to send about $32 billion in remittances to relatives at home each year.

Mr. Navarro said the U.S. coalition will focus on strategically formulating “a Mexicano-Latino coordinated response” to the legislation and on what he called the “escalating attacks” on the Mexican and Hispanic communities in this country.

“You have to galvanize what you got and go after what you don’t have,” he said, adding that the coalition eventually will seek its own immigration-reform program.

Known as the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, the Sensenbrenner bill directs Homeland Security to take “all appropriate actions, including development of a national border strategy, to maintain operational control over the U.S. international land and maritime borders.”

The bill passed Dec. 16 in the House on a 239-182 vote. Sent to the Senate on Jan. 27, the Sensenbrenner bill is expected to be debated before the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning next month.

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