- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sparse attendance and rain at yesterday’s “March on Washington” did not deter supporters of legalizing illegal aliens, even as the Senate approved a measure to clamp down on the Mexico border.

Only about 1,000 supporters showed up on the Mall yesterday in the latest of a string of nationwide rallies for creating legislation that ultimately would legalize the nation’s estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens.

The rally — dubbed the “March on Washington” in honor of Martin Luther King’s famous 1963 rally — capped a day that featured a lobbying blitz of Senate members by immigration activists.

“We understand and support the need for increased border security, though we don’t think building walls is going to resolve anything,” said Kim Propeack, a spokeswoman for immigrant advocacy group CASA of Maryland. “We think the work we’ve beendoing has really moved this issue. We do not believe we have been doing this in vain.”

Despite the effort, the Senate yesterday approved an amendment to build 370 miles of triple-layered fencing along the border to prevent unlawful entry into the United States. The measure also would prevent illegal aliens convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors from staying in the U.S. or of ever having a chance to become a U.S. citizen.

Immigrant-rights groups yesterday denounced President Bush’s call to deploy National Guard troops to help the U.S. Border Patrol stem the flow of illegals across the Mexico border.

Several people at the Mall rally also said the Senate’s action is pointless.

“I think it’s a waste of time and money because people who want to come here are going to come regardless,” said Paola Tinta, a legal immigrant from Ecuador. The 19-year-old Johns Hopkins University student also said deploying troops on the border is a bad use of the military, as there has not been any evidence of terrorists coming from Mexico.

Earlier in the day, congressional leaders — including Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, an outspoken critic of illegal immigration — touted a border-security enforcement bill that the House passed last year that, among other things, effectively would classify illegal aliens as felons. Mr. Tancredo said the guest-worker program that Mr. Bush touted Monday would encourage more aliens to crash the border in hopes of ending up in the country legally.

“The president’s guest-worker program is nothing more than amnesty in makeup,” said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, North Carolina Republican. “It’s pretty to look at, but it’s ugly underneath.”

Armando Morales, 25, does not think much of Mr. Bush’s guest-worker plan, either.

“If you read the history of immigrants, they’ve tried similar things in the past [as in Germany], and it hasn’t worked, so why should it work now?” Mr. Morales asked.

The D.C. resident is not in favor of a blanket amnesty, either.

“If some of them are criminals, fine, they should go. But, if not, then they deserve the opportunity to stay and earn a living,” he said.

During a 20-minute televised address on immigration Monday, President Bush issued a five-point plan that included adding Border Patrol agents, punishing the employers of illegal aliens and granting a path to citizenship for long-term illegals if they pay back taxes and learn English.

“All elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all,” he said.

Retired Army Col. Al Rodriguez of “You Don’t Speak for Me,” a group of Hispanic Americans who oppose illegal immigration, said yesterday: “To reward people who came here the wrong way is a slap in the faces of people who came here legally.”

At a press conference before yesterday’s rally, he outlined a seven-point plan to blunt illegal immigration. The plan includes work-site enforcement, involvement of state and local police in immigration enforcement, and barring illegals from serving in the health care and education sectors.

“It’s very, very simple, and it can be done. It’s [just] that someone doesn’t want to do it,” Col. Rodriguez said.

Springfield lawyer Miguel Rivera cruised the Mall rally, handing out business cards in hopes of contacting illegal aliens before their situation becomes more difficult. He said illegal aliens often are denied an opportunity for citizenship because they are unaware of their tenuous status.

“If they make a fence, they will have to make it 3,000 miles long,” Mr. Rivera said. “It is reminiscent of the Berlin Wall in the way it would separate families.” Saying that the situation was too emotional at the moment, Mr. Rivera said, “I think cooler heads will prevail [in Congress].”

Lawmakers hope to pass an immigration-reform bill by Memorial Day.

Tarron Lively and Mike Hunsberger contributed to this article.

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