Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Howard Dean Calls Leading Immigration Proposal 'Insane'"

NBC6 Miami and AP:
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean called the immigration bill currently before Congress "insane" because it would require many of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants to return home before applying for citizenship.

Speaking Tuesday as advocates kicked-off rallies, forums and voter drives around the state and country to push for liberalizing the nation's immigration laws, Dean criticized the proposal as unworkable.

"This is a government that can't find a six-foot-four terrorist. How is it going to find 12 million people?" he told a group of more than 100 party supporters at Miami's Parrot Jungle Island. And if all those individuals decided to go home on their own, "imagine what will happen to our economy?" Dean added.

He originally planned to address demonstrators in Miami later Tuesday but at the last-minute canceled his appearance due to scheduling conflicts. He planned to meet privately with rally leaders.

Civil rights and immigrant groups planned major events in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and West Palm Beach in honor of May 1, International Workers Day. Smaller rallies were to be held in agricultural towns in the Everglades and in Immokalee.

"We need to get the message to Washington, not just from Miami and Florida but from all corners of the country," said Carlos Pereira, head of the Center for Immigrant Orientation in Miami. "Agriculture depends on us. Construction depends on us. The factories depend on our cheap labor. This country needs to incorporate us into the system. We need legalization."

Most events were planned for the afternoon so participants would not have to leave work -- and risk losing their jobs.

Many immigrant advocates expressed a sense of urgency, as they see a limited window for overhauling the current immigration laws before the 2008 presidential campaign heats up. But recent immigration roundups and the memory of roundups during the same period last year were also likely to keep some from taking to the streets, organizers said.

The Department of Homeland Security has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act Request filed by The Associated Press last July for the number of immigrants detained in the weeks before the April 2006 protests. During that time, swirling rumors of roundups kept many immigrants home from work for several days in Florida and other states.

"The fear exists, but we can't keep living in fear," said Pereira, who helped organize the march there. "This year, we are also calling on the employers to join with us."

Roman Catholic Bishop Felipe Estevez also planned to speak. The church is among a number of religious groups that support the latest immigration bill, which would put some illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship but would require hefty penalties, trips back home and long waits. Many conservatives call this proposal overly permissive.

Meanwhile, in America's playground of Orlando, civil rights groups planned to visit the offices of U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson to push for comprehensive reform that includes a path to citizenship for qualified immigrants here illegally.

In Tampa, a prayer vigil and voter registration drive was set up, while in West Palm Beach, indigenous Mayan groups planned to join other Central Americans and Haitians for a march downtown. In Homestead, south of Miami, Haitian and Hispanic organizers also joined for an evening forum.
Howie P.S.: The photo is from the "Sleepless Summer" rally at Westlake in August, 2003.

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