(by Jeff Johnson, CNSNews.com) – Tens of thousands of immigrants from nations all over the world – many unable to speak English and some admitting that they entered the U.S. illegally – gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Monday to demand “liberty and justice for all.”
They were protesting legislation in the House of Representatives that would crack down on illegal aliens by making unlawful entry into the U.S. a felony. The crowd carried signs reading, “Who Are You Calling Immigrant, Pilgrim?” and “God Loves Us Too,” and stretched from near the U.S. Capitol almost half-way to the Washington Monument.
The crowd cheered as speakers, alternating between Spanish and English, led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Yellow sheets of paper, which representatives of the Service Employees International Union distributed to those in the crowd, contained the words of the Pledge broken down into phrases with a phonetic pronunciation guide for those who did not speak English.
Thousands of people carried large and small American flags. Many also held flags representing Mexico, Cuba, Bolivia and other countries.
Bonard Molina-Garcia, of Takoma Park, Md., was a small child when he and his parents entered the U.S. from Mexico illegally. They applied for amnesty in the 1980s and received permanent resident alien status. He has since completed his bachelor’s degree and, after becoming a U.S. citizen last year, will graduate from Georgetown Law School next month.
Molina-Garcia carried a sign that read, “I was undocumented. Now I am a U.S. Citizen thanks to amnesty. I met my wife. I went to college. I am in law school. I vote. America is better off because I’m here.”
The Mexican native is opposed to the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437), which would elevate unlawful entry into the U.S. from a civil violation to a felony.
“It’s wrong morally. It’s wrong ethically and I think it’s a bad idea for our country. I’m an example, I think of the type of opportunity the U.S. provides, what the American dream means, everything that we stand for,” Molina-Garcia said. See Video.
He believes the U.S. should extend amnesty to any illegal alien currently living in the country who is otherwise obeying the law and contributing to society.
“It’s good not just for the people that are coming in but the types of things that we bring. People like me, now, contribute to the U.S. in ways that I don’t think people would be able to otherwise,” Molina-Garcia said.
The aspiring lawyer does not agree with detractors who say offering amnesty to illegal aliens discourages citizens of other countries from following the long process to legally immigrate to the U.S.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who do it the established way have to be left behind,” Molina-Garcia argued. “The trick is just to make sure that the people that are here, undocumented, but that are still here legitimately that are working hard that want to get ahead have an opportunity to do so.”
Domingo Alvarado of Gainesville, Va., emigrated to the U.S. legally from the Philippines in 1982 and became a citizen in 1987. He is now an accountant and a business owner. Alvarado also opposes the House plan to block future illegal immigration and to make it harder for those who live in the U.S., illegally to get jobs.
“It’s a little bit harsh. We should not penalize these people who are already here,” Alvarado said. “These people have families. They have worked. They are here to work, basically.” See Video.
Alvarado rejects the fact that illegal immigrants are criminals.
“To me, as long as they’re not breaking the law and they’re not killing people, or selling drugs, or doing bad things to other people, to me that’s okay I guess?” Alvarado said.
Lucinda Megill, of Washington, D.C., and Judy Stermer, of Montpelier, Vt., both U.S. citizens, came to the rally to show their support for illegal immigrants and their opposition to H.R. 4437.
“We need to make laws that make sense and there’s [sic] obviously a lot of people here that are needing to speak and I’m just here to speak with them because, I don’t know, this is the future of America,” Megill said. We have to make sure of their rights.” See Video.
Stermer was more pragmatic in her reason for attending the rally.
“I just want to be a part of this. I mean, this is like the civil rights movement of our time, you know,” Stermer said. “I just want to be here to support and show my solidarity with people that deserve to be here just as much as I do.”
Like Alvarado, Megill disagrees with laws against unauthorized entry into the U.S. and does not accept the descriptor, “illegal alien.”
“They’re not criminals. They’re doing work and they need representation. They need to be recognized and they need fairness,” Megill concluded. “They don’t have a voice and I don’t want that to be happening in my country.”
Alvarado admitted that – even as a citizen who followed the rules and as a successful businessman – it is difficult for him to justify paying higher wages to a legal worker for unskilled labor when he knows an “undocumented immigrant” is willing to perform the same job for much less money.
“If I go out there and hire [someone] to fix my plumbing, clean something or cut my grass, I mean, it’s hard,” Alvarado said. “It’s hard to hire people charging me $25, $30 or even $100, whereas you can hire [an illegal alien] for less than that.”
But that it exactly why Kevin Lancaster of Frederick, Md., criticizes illegal immigration and opposes any legislation that would offer amnesty to illegal aliens already living in the U.S.
“If you have three guys who will work for the price of one, who do you think you’re going to hire?” Lancaster asked. “And if those three guys don’t have to pay any taxes, guess what? Your business has just saved paying all those taxes.” See Video.
Lancaster and seven other individuals who support better control of the U.S. border and harsher penalties for employers hiring illegal aliens organized a counter-demonstration. After initially being surrounded and shouted-down by Spanish-speaking protesters, Lancaster’s group was surrounded by U.S. Park Police and an area was cordoned off for their gathering.
“I work in the construction field. I’ve seen it happen,” Lancaster continued. “I know dry-wallers that can’t get the wages they got back in 1985 because now [employers] can hire illegal aliens at below minimum wage, not pay the taxes and not pay Social Security.
“It’s all over,” he concluded. “It’s exploitation by the businesses.”
Legislative efforts in the U.S. Senate, aimed at putting most of the nation’s illegal immigrants on the path toward legal status, broke down last week. The Senate and House will return to the subject when members return from their two week recess.
Reprinted here with permission from Cybercast News Service. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.
1. What was the main reason for yesterday’s protest?
2. In previous protests, most people carried flags of their native countries. Why do you think that most protesters carried U.S. flags yesterday?
3. Several people attending the protest were interviewed for this article. For each person, explain who they are, where they’re from and why they attended the protest:
-First person, paragraphs 5-12
-Second person, paragraphs 13-16 and 23-24
-Third and fourth, paragraphs 17-22
-Fifth, paragraphs 25-29
4. In general, how do people attending the protests feel about illegal immigrants?
5. The following are some different view points on immigration:
- The U.S. should have open borders – all are welcome; people currently here illegally should be granted legal status
- The U.S. should secure the borders, raise the number of legal immigrants allowed in each year, and people here illegally should be given legal status.
- The U.S. should raise the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country each year to a much higher level (currently, approximately 1 million people are allowed to emigrate to the U.S. legally each year) and give illegals guest worker status
- The U.S. should close the borders and enforce the current immigration laws; people currently here illegally should be sent back and required to get in line
What immigration policy do you support? …One of the above or a combination of different ideas?…describe the policy you support and explain your choice. Describe the pros and cons of the policy you support (at least two for each).
Remember to stay calm when expressing your point of view with classmates, friends or teachers. Don’t be intimidated if your view is unpopular. Just state it reasonably and clearly. You should be able to support your view with facts, not feelings. If a discussion becomes heated, it is better to end it. Shouting your views at someone won’t change their opinion. It is important that you learn as many facts as possible about this issue to support your opinion and to discuss the issue reasonably.
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