President Bush's new initiatives on illegal immigration still leave much to be desired, say activists.
By JOSE CARDENAS
Published May 17, 2006
Florida activists on both sides of the immigration issue say it is unlikely President Bush's plan to put 6,000 National Guard troops on the Mexican border will slow illegal immigration.
That approach presumes immigrants to be criminals and overlooks their economic struggles, said Juan Pablo Chavez, a community organizer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
"I worry because within all this there is a lot of racism," said Chavez, who lives in Largo. "They don't realize the immigrant suffers and has a family. They want to arrest him."
Luis Ibarra, president of United Latino Immigrants of Florida based in Arcadia, said militarization of the border would not stop immigrants desperate for jobs.
"The trip will be more dangerous," said Ibarra. But "people have the need to work. And people will insist on setting their feet on this ground."
For Luis F. Gomez, an attorney who advised immigrants about their civil rights during a recent protest march in Orlando, using the military on the border is a misuse of resources.
"As a Marine that I've been all my life, I hate to see the Guard being put in a position of playing cop," said Gomez. "I find it very unpleasant, especially when those people have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the map. They are being misused one more time in my opinion."
Conservatives also did not see the National Guard proposal as a significant step in addressing illegal immigration.
Andy Rariden, a lawyer in Orlando, said he was happy with Bush's speech because it signals the president wants to address illegal immigration.
"I'm not happy with the amount" of troops proposed, said Rariden, who said he quit the Orange County Republic Executive Committee two years ago because the party was not addressing illegal immigration. "I don't think it's in any way intended to solve the problem of securing the borders."
Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition in Miami said she was concerned with the proposal to get local law enforcement agencies more involved in immigration enforcement.
But, like other advocates, Rodriguez said she was pleased Bush spoke out in favor of "comprehensive" immigration reform.
"We are very glad that the president is proposing a comprehensive program ... a path for citizenship, which he had never articulated before," said Rodriguez.
Conservatives were happy because they said Bush acknowledged the burden undocumented immigrants put on schools and the health care system, and that he favors getting tough on employers.
But they disagreed with his plan to allow millions of immigrants to eventually become citizens.
Guard units to man borders in June: Administration officials say they expect National Guard troops to begin deploying in support of the Border Patrol on the U.S. border with Mexico in June, but they have yet to work out many of the key details. By today the Department of Homeland Security is to provide to the Defense Department a list of the specific support missions it wants the Guard to perform in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Once that happens the Pentagon will work with the individual states to match the mission requirements with available Guard units.
Senate pushes ahead: The Senate rejected a call Tuesday to secure the nation's borders before tackling other immigration-related concerns such as citizenship for millions of men and women in the country illegally, a victory for President Bush and supporters of a comprehensive approach to a volatile issue. Meanwhile, hundreds of immigration advocates from at least 20 states were expected today.