- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2006

The waving of Mexican and other foreign flags at rallies across the country to protest proposed tough immigration reforms has created a backlash among conservative lawmakers, talk-radio hosts and others eager to stop the flood of illegal aliens into the United States.

Syndicated radio talk-show host Michael Savage, who has been one of the most outspoken on the issue, even urged listeners to burn the Mexican flag.

“But he says anyone who does that can expect a lot more trouble than they would face if they burned an American flag, since they could easily get away with that,” Rep. Tom Tancredo said. The Colorado Republican said he has appeared on at least a dozen radio talk shows in the past few days, including Mr. Savage’s, to address the “huge and growing problem” of illegal aliens entering the United States.

Mr. Tancredo said the hosts of all the talk shows he has appeared on have criticized the prominence of Mexican flags at the demonstrations.

For example, he said, Mike Gallagher, a talk-radio host in Los Angeles, told listeners he wants to start a fund on behalf of a young Mexican-American girl who dared to carry an American flag at one such rally and was forced to “duck and run” because of all the animosity she faced from those at the demonstration.

However, Alvaro Huerta, director of community education and advocacy for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, doubts the validity of the story.

“We wanted people to show their love for the United States, so many waved two flags: both the American flag and the flag of their country of origin,” Mr. Huerta said yesterday.

He said the “majority of flags flown” at the immigration rallies “were definitely the Stars and Stripes.”

Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, which covers the talk-radio industry, said “immigration reform and protecting the border are the ‘No. 1 topics’ ” on the air right now.

“Many of the conservative hosts are against the waving of the Mexican flag [at the rallies] and seeing such Mexican nationalism expressed in the United States, and they are quite loud” in their denunciations, Mr. Harrison said.

Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., Virginia Republican, is among those who are outraged by the prevalence of foreign flag-waving in demonstrations.

“Many of those demonstrating and waving the Mexican flag are apparently in the United States illegally,” Mr. Goode said. “I say if you are here illegally and are displaying and waving the Mexican flag, you should go back to Mexico and fly that flag there.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, also is concerned that so many immigrants are carrying and waving Mexican flags during demonstrations to protest proposed changes in the government’s immigration policy.

“The congressman feels the predominance of Mexican flags at some rallies indicates the primary [national] loyalty of the people waving the flags,” said Rick Dykema, Mr. Rohrabacher’s chief of staff.

Mr. Tancredo said he shares that concern.

“This is really the dumbest thing [those favoring weak immigration laws] have ever done. It brings home the severity and magnitude of this huge and growing problem of illegal immigration,” he said.

However, demonstrators say they carry flags from their native countries to show pride in their heritage and unity with fellow immigrants.

Carrying the flag of one’s native land “represents culture and heritage, not national identity,” Mr. Huerta said.

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