Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Barnidge: Immigration reform would be their dream come true

Barnidge: Immigration reform would be their dream come true
By Tom Barnidge Contra Costa Times columnist
Posted: 02/22/2010 01:38:29 PM PST
Updated: 02/22/2010 05:06:18 PM PST

THE REASON that more than 200 men, women and children attended an immigration reform rally Saturday morning at Ygnacio Valley High School was to hear invited advocates speak for their cause. But the voices that resonated loudest belonged to three people in the audience.
Their stories encapsulated the conflicting sentiments expressed about a bill before Congress that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens — HR 4321: The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009.
A Latina, speaking through a translator, said that Contra Costa County clinics had denied many families basic health care because they were undocumented. She told of diabetics with elevated glucose levels who were desperate to find treatment.
A health care administrator from Pittsburg said she had been forced to turn away applicants for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs because of their undocumented status. She had been moved by the sight of grown men, racked with worry, shedding tears.
Even opponents of illegal immigration would find it hard to shut their hearts to such stories. More than 5,000 undocumented county residents are without access to clinics.
Then a third speaker, a man in his 20s, stepped to the microphone and unwittingly provided fuel for the opposition.
Because of his undocumented status he was unable to get a driver's license, and every time he sat behind
the wheel of his car, he worried about being pulled over and having his vehicle impounded.
So, to recap: He entered the country illegally. He operates an automobile without a license. Which means has no insurance coverage. If he is responsible for an accident, good luck in recovering damages. So please reward him with legal status.
Is it any wonder this topic pulls people in opposite directions?
Amnesty proposals have been with us for decades. President Jimmy Carter floated a plan in 1977 that fizzled. Ronald Reagan pushed through the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1987, after which nearly 3 million undocumented workers became legal. George W. Bush lobbied for a measure in 2006 that withered in Congress.
Today, we have HR 4321, co-sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Tex., a 700-page bill that would beef up border security, overhaul the federal detention system for jailed immigrants and prevent local police from acting as immigration agents, among other things. But the crux of the bill is clearing a path to legalization for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
That was the focus of the rally.
"Immigrants who do not have legal status must be given the opportunity to come out of the shadows, to work without fear, to become U.S. citizens," attorney Nicolas Vaca told the crowd. "It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars rounding up people, breaking up families and deporting people who have set down roots in this country."
He spoke as much to Congress as the audience. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, had representatives in attendance who agreed to deliver the message.
Event co-chairwoman Connie James added a postscript: "This is a country that lets people achieve their dreams. We want for our children the same right to dream."
That's a nice thought. But it's not easy making most dreams come true.
Our guess is this one won't be any different.
http://www.contracostatimes.com/columns/ci_14449352

No comments: