Immigration Legislation Update
Immigrant rights taking a hit in D.C.
It was a bad week for immigrant rights on Capitol Hill. What has been brushed aside as the fancy of Colin Hanna and the nutters who run WeNeedaFence.com, has apparently turned out to be more, as it looks like at least part of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border will soon be official. On Sept. 29, the Senate voted 80-19 to pass the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (HR 6061), which calls for building 700 miles of fence along the 2,000-mile border. In addition, the Senate approved $1.2 billion to start construction of the estimated $9 billion fence, planned to eventually be built along rural parts of California and Texas and nearly the entire border region of Arizona.
Despite pleadings from both Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon, who have practically begged Bush to veto the bill, saying it will do nothing to stop illegal immigration, it has been reported that Bush plans on signing the bill on a campaign swing through Arizona this week. Also, the House passed bills to require photo identification in order to vote (HR 4844), to allow local law enforcement to detain people based on documentation (HR 6089), and to expedite deportation proceedings (HR 6091).
Finally, with passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (S 3930), the Senate gave the president the green light to label anyone, citizen and noncitizen alike, an "enemy combatant," and to detain those people indefinitely. By taking away the right to habeas corpus, this bill offers no way for the detained to challenge the legality of their being held. It's being touted as a "Terrorist Detainee Treatment Bill," but to the immigrant community, which is highly affected by detentions, it is cause for alarm. Tuesday night, the National Immigration Solidarity Committee held an emergency conference call to figure out how best to deal with what its members called immigrant and human rights' "darkest and [most] shameful days" in the country's history.
Recalling the House Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation hearing held earlier this summer, the NISC came up with a plan to hold a series of immigration hearings across the nation. Though still in the planning stages, the hearings will consist of testimony that "dispels the myths" of immigration, such as the belief that immigrants don't pay taxes, contribute to crime, and hog social services. Also planned is to raise the question "Why isn't amnesty good?" and to "showcase the success stories of Reagan's 1986 Amnesty act" by introducing people who gained their citizenship and have gone on to be helpful in their communities.
IMMIGRATION, GLOBALIZATION, AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Thursday's panel addresses the immigration debate's ethical challenges, such as the assessment of citizen rights vs. human rights and the effect of globalization on our national borders. Panelists include: Jim Harrington (Texas Civil Rights Project), Susana Almanza (PODER), and Greg Moses (ACC Philosophy Department). 7-9pm. ACC Eastview Campus Rm. 8500, 3401 Webberville Rd. Free. www.austincc.edu/ethics.
DÍA DE LA RAZA: BECAUSE COLUMBUS DIDN'T DISCOVER AMERICA HE WAS LOST: Columbus Day (Oct. 9, this year) can be such a depressing reminder of how they lied to us in elementary school about the heroism of good ol' Christopher. But Wednesday you can turn that frown upside down at this festive celebration of all the world's indigenous cultures. Emceed by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, tonight's party will include, along with lots of dancing, an award ceremony honoring the hard work of those who have raised funds for Austin's new Mexican-American Cultural Center. 7-10pm. Red's Scoot Inn, 1308 E. Fourth, 320-0004. Free.