Rally Against Il­le­gal Im­mi­gra­tion Sched­uled

Ra­dio Hosts En­listed in Ef­fort, Which Is Aimed at Rous­ing Area Ac­tivists Be­fore Week of Lob­by­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - Metro - By Pamela Con­sta­ble and N.C. Aizenman

As the de­bate over im­mi­gra­tion re­form takes shape in Congress, ra­dio talk show hosts will head­line a rally against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion across from the White House to­day as a pre­am­ble to a week of lob­by­ing on Capi­tol Hill.

Or­ga­niz­ers hope the ra­dio per- son­al­i­ties, whose shows across the coun­try of­ten are fo­rums for heated anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric, will gal­va­nize an ar­ray of groups into a po­tent force. The ef­fort is aimed at re­flect­ing grass-roots con­cerns raised by Wash­ing­ton area res­i­dents, such as over job cen­ters for mostly im­mi­grant day la­bor­ers in Hern­don and Gaithers­burg.

“We all see the il­le­gal aliens march­ing down the streets, scream- ing, ‘We are Amer­ica’ and ‘We de­mand cit­i­zen­ship.’ We are try­ing to of­fer a venue where Amer­i­cans can come and ex­press their sup­port for se­cure borders and an equal ap­pli­ca­tion of ex­ist­ing laws,” said D.A. King, an ex-Marine from Ge­or­gia who leads the Dustin In­man So­ci­ety, which is spon­sor­ing the rally.

Sur­veys show that a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans fa­vor tight­en­ing se­cu­rity along the border with Mex­ico. But the pub­lic is di­vided on how to treat the more than 10 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants who live in the United States.

A re­cent Wash­ing­ton Post poll found that 81 per­cent of peo­ple said the gov­ern­ment was “not do­ing enough” to stop il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. But 62 per­cent said those al­ready in the coun­try should be of­fered a chance to keep their jobs and ap­ply for le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, while 35 per­cent said they should be de­ported.

Most leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als call for some path to­ward le­gal­iza­tion for those in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Or­ga­niz­ers of to­day’s demon­stra­tion say they plan to fo­cus on three is­sues: im­prov­ing border se­cu­rity, op­pos­ing amnesty for im­mi­grants liv­ing il­le­gally in the coun­try and en-

forc­ing U.S. laws, in­clud­ing those against hir­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

In the Wash­ing­ton re­gion, ac­tivists said, many res­i­dents have strong neg­a­tive opin­ions about il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion but are fear­ful of be­ing la­beled anti-Latino if they speak out. The ac­tivists also said peo­ple tend to be­come more en­er­gized by prob­lems in their com­mu­ni­ties, such as loi­ter­ing la­bor­ers or crowded hous­ing, than by na­tional pol­icy de­bates.

“Peo­ple don’t want to be vil­i­fied or called racists. They will send an anony­mous e-mail but not go to meet­ings,” said Ge­orge Taplin, who heads the Vir­ginia chap­ter of the Min­ute­man Civil De­fense Corps, an Ari­zona-based group that has led ef­forts to seal the U.S.Mex­ico border. Taplin said some lo­cal ac­tivists may go to the rally, but only if they be­long to na­tional groups.

Greg Letiecq, an ac­tivist from Manas­sas, said that the rally was “a won­der­ful idea” but that it would be dif­fi­cult to per­suade a siz­able group of res­i­dents to take part, even though many are con­cerned about lo­cal prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with il­le­gal im­mi­grants, es­pe­cially crowded hous­ing.

“Peo­ple send me e-mails say­ing we need to do some­thing, but they don’t have the time, the vi­sion or the back­ground to pull it off,” he said.

There is clearly a strong un­der­cur­rent of anger against il­le­gal im­mi­grants among area res­i­dents. In Hern­don, plans to open a job site for im­mi­grant day la­bor­ers last year led to a pro­tracted fight that bit­terly di­vided the town and drew na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion. A sim­i­lar pro­posal in Gaithers­burg also aroused lo­cal op­po­si­tion, al­though the cen­ter opened last week with­out in­ci­dent.

Re­ports in The Post about the prob­lems of il­le­gal im­mi­grants reg­u­larly elicit floods of an­gry e-mails and on­line mes­sages, of­ten anony­mous.

Some of the wor­ries are spe­cific, such as com­plaints that im­mi­grants over­bur­den schools and hos­pi­tals or bring gang vi­o­lence. Oth­ers are vague and emo­tional. They in­clude fears of be­ing in­un­dated by for­eign­ers, in­dig­na­tion at ex­pen­sive ac­com­mo­da­tions made to new­com­ers who do not speak English and con­cern that the qual­ity of com­mu­nity life is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. The com­plaints of­ten ex­press frus­tra­tion with the gov­ern­ment, which is seen as hav­ing done lit­tle to ad­dress the over­all prob­lem.

Here is a sam­pling of re­cent mes­sages:

“I don’t feel sorry for il­le­gal aliens who broke our laws cross­ing our borders.”

“When you get peo­ple who don’t re­spect the law, you have a coun­try that doesn’t re­spect the law.”

“I am so tired of watch­ing Lati­nos in my neigh­bor­hood . . . leav­ing their empty Corona bot­tles all over the yard.”

“Why are all of th­ese peo­ple still speak­ing only Span­ish af­ter so many years?”

“The emer­gency rooms in my town are packed. . . . all our money is go­ing to th­ese il­le­gals. . . . I am sim­ply out of sym­pa­thy.” “They [are] tak­ing our jobs.” “If they are crim­i­nals they de­serve no help.”

“Wait in line like my grand­par­ents did.”

“Do some­thing to fix your prob­lems at home rather than just run­ning away and be­com­ing an­other coun­try’s prob­lem.”

“If we do not de­fend our­selves there will be no USA at all worth hav­ing.” “De­port them all.” Many speak­ers sched­uled to ad­dress the rally rep­re­sent na­tional or re­gional ad­vo­cacy groups that draw on com­mon sources of fund­ing and have over­lap­ping boards or staffs.

In many cases, the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is John Tan­ton, a Michi­gan oph­thal­mol­o­gist who founded the in­flu­en­tial lob­by­ing group Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form about three decades ago.

Of 15 speak­ers, at least seven have links to ei­ther FAIR or Tan­ton’s private foun­da­tion, U.S. Inc. K.C. McAlpin is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ProEnglish, a wholly owned project of U.S. Inc. Ra­dio host Terry An­der­son has re­ceived thou­sands of dol­lars in fund­ing from U.S. Inc. and is a founder of a group of African Amer­i­cans op­posed to il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion that FAIR helped cre­ate. Col. Al Ro­driguez is chair­man of a group that FAIR coor­ga­nized for Lati­nos op­posed to il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

One speaker, Roger Hedge­cock, has achieved a na­tional fol­low­ing. He is a con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host in San Diego whose show has long been a light­ning rod for sen­ti­ment against il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Hedge­cock’s aides said the or­ga­niz­ers hope to bring more than 1,000 sup­port­ers from Cal­i­for­nia and other states, who will spend the week visit­ing mem­bers of Congress and hold­ing other events.

In con­trast to this scripted plan, a year ago, sev­eral mil­lion mostly Latino im­mi­grants un­ex­pect­edly poured into the streets of Los An­ge­les, Dal­las, Chicago and other cities to protest im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion in Congress. The largely spon­ta­neous burst of ac­tivism as­ton­ished the na­tion and ap­peared to sig­nal a po­lit­i­cal com­ing of age for the coun­try’s large Latino pop­u­la­tion.

There is no in­di­ca­tion that proim­mi­grant or Latino groups will be out in force to­day, but a group call­ing it­self D.C. Stu­dents for a Demo­cratic So­ci­ety has called for a noisy counter-demon­stra­tion. It has cir­cu­lated un­signed fliers ti­tled “No­body is Il­le­gal!” that ask sup­port­ers to bring noise­mak­ers and signs.

One rea­son for the pent-up frus­tra­tion over il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is that Congress has failed to pro­duce im­mi­gra­tion re­form for the past sev­eral years, al­though some ac­tivists ar­gue that no new law is needed. Last year’s pro­pos­als col­lapsed in par­ti­san fight­ing, and the di­vide is even more poi­sonous this year, with pre­dic­tions that no fi­nal bill will emerge.

At the state level, pro­pos­als aimed at deny­ing ben­e­fits to il­le­gal im­mi­grants have been de­feated in the Vir­ginia and Mary­land leg­is­la­tures in the past sev­eral years. Ac­tivists blame busi­ness in­ter­ests that em­ploy il­le­gal im­mi­grants for the de­feats, but oth­ers said the grow­ing in­flu­ence of Latino and im­mi­grant-rights groups has played a role.

Taplin said the high-profile con­tro­versy over the Hern­don day­la­bor site had be­gun to gal­va­nize long­time res­i­dents in other area com­mu­ni­ties. He said his or­ga­ni­za­tion is now work­ing with groups in Manas­sas, Culpeper and Har­rison­burg in Vir­ginia, where large num­bers of il­le­gal im­mi­grants work in farm­ing, poul­try plants and the ser­vice sec­tor.

“Hern­don has given peo­ple more courage,” he said. “We are try­ing to get the grass roots go­ing, and we have thou­sands of sup­port­ers. For most peo­ple, it’s only a mat­ter of keep­ing your head down un­til you’re sure it’s okay to put it up.” Staff writer Kris­sah Wil­liams con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Staff writer Pamela Con­sta­ble will be on­line to dis­cuss this ar­ti­cle to­mor­row at 10 a.m. Go to wash­ing­ton­post.com/liveon­line.

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