Immigration Bill Opposed By Hispanic Coalition

A group of leaders from Hispanic advocacy organizations recently gathered at Georgetown University to express their unanimous opposition to a new federal legislation aimed at reducing the influx of illegal immigrants into the United States. In May, the Senate passed a bill called the Simpson-Mazzoli bill, which offered citizenship to certain undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S., but proposed penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants in the future. A similar bill is expected to be voted on in the House later this summer. The number of illegal immigrants in the country is estimated to be around three million, with about half of them originating from Mexico, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This proposed legislation represents the most significant change in immigration policy since the amendments to the McCarran-Walter Act in 1965, which abolished "national origins" quotas.

During the meeting, some speakers raised concerns about the naturalization system proposed in the bill, particularly its potential threat to children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants. Under the new law, if parents who arrived after 1979 were deported, their U.S.-born children would be left without someone to protect their rights, speakers argued. Adelfa Callejo, an attorney from Dallas, Texas and a member of the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, proposed that attorneys be assigned to safeguard the rights of these children in case their parents are deported. In Texas, some parents have been arrested when they came to schools to pick up their children, she added.

While most speakers at the Georgetown meeting acknowledged the need for immigration law reform, they objected to the enforcement methods proposed in the two bills before Congress, specifically the sanctions against employers. They argued that these measures would result in a backlash in society that would adversely affect all Hispanic individuals.

Antonia Hernandez, associate counsel at the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, stated that a study conducted by Notre Dame University Law School on the employer-sanction system used in European countries has already shown that penalties are rarely enforced and do not effectively deter illegal immigration, even when enforcement occurs. Several speakers also raised concerns about potential discrimination arising from these measures, as employers fearful of being targeted by federal search teams might refrain from hiring individuals who appear Hispanic or speak with accents.

Much of the discussion at the meeting focused on the role of the Catholic Church in this matter. The Church has chosen not to take a position on the proposed immigration bills. Several Church officials attended the Georgetown discussion, sponsored by the Jesuit-affiliated university. Advocacy leaders accused the Church leadership of lacking interest in protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants, as many of them, despite being Roman Catholics, are not regular churchgoers. The speakers also claimed that the absence of the Church as a lobbyist has significantly weakened their chances of defeating or amending the bill. Arnoldo S. Torres, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, expressed his disillusionment, stating, "The Church has chosen the nuclear freeze as their big issue; they’ve got tuition tax credits, they’ve got prayer in school; they’re not concerned with these undocumented workers." Cecilio J. Morales, a spokesperson from the U.S. Catholic Conference Office of Hispanic Affairs, denied these accusations, stating that the Church is equally concerned about these immigrants as it is about others. He read a prepared statement expressing the conference’s support for various reforms in immigration policy and suggested that these reforms will be implemented in due course. Currently, he said, the Church neither opposes nor supports the current Senate bill, but he expressed hope that it will soon take a stronger stance.

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  • reubenyoung

    Reuben Young is a 39-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. He has been teaching in the United States for over 10 years, and has written extensively on educational topics. He is also a member of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and has been honored with several awards.



Reuben Young is a 39-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. He has been teaching in the United States for over 10 years, and has written extensively on educational topics. He is also a member of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and has been honored with several awards.

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