Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Immigration rights organizers today will call for a nationwide boycott of work, school and shopping on May 1 to protest congressional efforts to clamp down on illegal aliens as part of pending immigration-reform legislation.

The “Great American Boycott of 2006” is only one in a series of large-scale events the protesters hope will sway lawmakers to put millions of illegal aliens on track toward permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.

“The massive March 25 march and rally in Los Angeles of well over one million immigrant workers and their supporters — along with protests and student walkouts throughout the United States — is irrefutable evidence that a new civil rights and workers’ rights movement is on the rise,” said Raul Murillo, one of the key organizers and president of the Hermandad Mexicana Nacional.

“In order to realize the goal of legalization for the millions of undocumented workers, we have the obligation to keep pressing the Congress of the United States to legislate immigration reform that grants full legalization for all immigrants.”

Sarah Sloan, a spokeswoman for boycott organizers, said the boycott, additional marches and rallies in at least 30 cities nationwide beginning next week are designed to highlight opposition to House legislation that would crack down on illegal aliens.

The Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER) coalition, which organized the Los Angeles march to win “full rights for undocumented workers,” is confident its new “national action” will prove successful.

ANSWER’s steering committee includes the Free Palestine Alliance, the Partnership for Civil Justice, the Nicaragua Network, the Korea Truth Commission, the Muslim Student Association, the Mexico Solidarity Network and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. It denounces as racism attempts to criminalize illegal aliens.

A bill approved in the House, 239-182, would, among other things, increase immigration enforcement and border security, build a fence along 698 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, make illegal entry a felony and penalize those who help illegals enter the United States.

Boycott organizers think the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the pressure of massive protests last week, adopted a series of reforms in sharp contrast to the House-approved bill.

The Senate bill that would create a guest-worker program and put millions of illegal aliens on track toward permanent residency was approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee 12-6. It now goes to the full Senate. If approved, then it and the House version must be reconciled before it can be presented to President Bush.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and author of the House bill, yesterday called border security and immigration reform “the toughest and most complex government policy issue around, and one that requires a civil, careful and thoughtful discussion to arrive at a policy that reflects that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”

“I am disappointed by the erroneous accusations lodged against the strong House-passed border-security bill, aimed at preventing illegal immigration, that I sponsored,” he said.

Mr. Sensenbrenner said alien-smuggling rings present an enormous problem and the House bill provides new tools for prosecutors to fight smuggling rings, “not the humanitarian and church groups, alleged by illegal-alien supporters.” He said targeting alien-smuggling gangs is the intent — and the effect — of the House bill.

“I would hope everyone would embrace a good-faith effort to combat alien-smuggling gangs, rather than engage in fear-mongering that clergy and good Samaritans will be thrown in jail,” he said. “That’s absolutely false — and beneath the level of dialogue this important issue deserves.”

He also noted that it is currently a crime to enter the United States illegally and that criminal prosecutions, while not frequent, are focused on the most egregious cases. But he said unlawful presence, or residing in this country illegally, is not currently a crime in the United States, as it is in Mexico and many other countries.”

Los Angeles march organizers have credited Cardinal Roger Mahony, who leads the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the country, with the turnout in Los Angeles. The archbishop attacked the House bill during Ash Wednesday Mass, saying it would turn most people and institutions that aid illegal aliens into felons.

He pledged a campaign of civil disobedience in the archdiocese’s 288 parishes if it becomes law. Another major protest march in Los Angeles is scheduled for Monday.

Hundreds of students in high schools in California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Kansas also walked out of their schools last week to protest immigration-reform measures being considered in Congress — holding flags from the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and several other Latin American countries.

There also were marches last month in Washington, Chicago, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Atlanta and other cities.

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