Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Black leaders from across the country yesterday decried a guest-worker “amnesty” plan that would legalize millions of illegal aliens and threatened to sue the U.S. government if such legislation is passed.

“We’re on the cusp of very critical legislation that centers on immigration — both legal and illegal,” Frank Morris Sr., chairman of Choose Black America, a new coalition of black Americans opposed to illegal entry, told reporters at the National Press Club in Northwest. “African Americans are going to be hurt if this legislation moves forward, [and] we are here to sound the alarm.”

Choose Black America says that illegal entry hurts all U.S. citizens, but that job displacement by illegals has especially devastated black communities.

In this region, recent marches and rallies have drawn attention away from the homeless community in the District, said Arafa Speaks, 51, a homeless woman living in the Open Door shelter in Northwest.

Area residents attending the press conference said that black students are held back in already poor school districts by peers who don’t speak English, and that monies for improved educational facilities are spent on bilingual teachers. Black teens and adults have difficulty finding low-wage jobs because they are filled by illegals, residents said.

Educated blacks, too, such as teachers who cannot speak Spanish, are released from teaching positions when illegals “flood” historically black neighborhoods, said Sammie Whiting-Ellis, an educational consultant.

“It just infuriates me that our children’s education has to be shortchanged for a subculture that in many instances doesn’t want to assimilate,” said the Northwest resident, who is in her 60s and has watched the D.C. landscape change for more than 30 years.

“We are being pushed out of the way because there is a push to legalize an illegal act,” she said. “I personally know fine educators who are losing their jobs because they can’t speak Spanish. Well, in that case, pay them pesos.”

Choose Black America is the second minority-based group created by the District-based Federation for American Immigration Reform that opposes illegal entry.

FAIR last month helped create “You Don’t Speak for Me,” a national coalition of Hispanic Americans who oppose the idea of amnesty for illegal aliens and who spoke out against immigration rallies held recently.

Leah Durant, a legal analyst for FAIR and a black activist in Virginia, said polls are beginning to show that the Hispanic and illegal alien populations are not monolithic, and that black opinions on illegal aliens aren’t either.

Several blacks earlier this month attended a rally held by the Minuteman Project, a watchdog group that patrols the border.

“People have been contacting us from all over the country asking how can we have a voice,” Miss Durant said.

The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, an outspoken critic of the civil rights establishment, said he is “disappointed” that the U.S. government has allowed the illegal alien influx to “get out of control.”

Claude Anderson, another member of the coalition, called for a lawsuit against the U.S. government for failing to protect the rights of black Americans, who he says are losing voting power and being pushed out of affirmative-action programs by illegal aliens and their supporters.

Angelita Herron, a Los Angeles-based immigration reform activist, said the opinions of black leaders and immigration movement supporters such as the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton don’t represent the majority of black Americans. “Our leadership is sitting on the same fence as the majority,” she said. “They’re trying to figure out what the leadership of the country is going to do.”

Ted Hayes, a Los Angeles-based activist for the homeless, called for a national march in the District to draw attention to the issue.

“This invasion is causing black and white people to come together as never before,” said Mr. Hayes, founder of the Crispus Attucks Brigade, another black group opposed to illegal aliens.

An estimated 10 million to 12 million illegals live in the United States, with about 250,000 each in Maryland and Virginia, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

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