During the last few weeks there has been a Freedom Ride across America, a phrase conjuring images of the 1960's civil rights campaign, Martin Luther King Junior’s peaceful protests and the end of the Jim Crow South. But one of the highlights of the civil rights movement is being hijacked by radical left-wing activists seeking to gain legal rights, even citizenship, for illegal aliens in the United States.
The Immigrant Worker's Freedom Ride kicked off on September 20th as approximately one thousand immigrant workers boarded buses in 10 cities for a 12 day trek across America to culminate in Washington, D.C., on October 1st and 2nd for a mass protest, meetings with the Bush administration and Congress to be followed with a rally at Flushing Meadows in New York City on October 4th. Originating in Seattle, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Portland, Minneapolis and Chicago with stops all across the nation, the Freedom Ride organizers claim their goal is to bring attention to the “injustice of current policies toward immigrants.”
According to the official website (www.iwfr.org) “Immigrant workers work hard, pay taxes, and sacrifice for their families. They work as construction workers, doctors, nurses, janitors, meat packers, chefs, busboys, engineers, farm workers, and soldiers. They care for our children, tend to our elderly, pick and serve our food, build and clean our houses, and want what we all want: a fair shot at the American Dream.” Such touching sentiments appeal to the sense of justice and fairness Americans are known for, but hidden behind their seemingly innocuous agenda lies their real motives: all but eliminating our nation's borders. As they state in their press release: “The road to citizenship needs a new map. The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride intends to help draw that map.” But where will this map lead us as a nation?
National spokesman for IWFR, David Koff expressed hope that the ride “will allow the public to see that immigrants are real people. They will see and recognize folks that are maybe looking after their children, or making up the beds in their hotel rooms or working side by side with them in some high-tech factory."
By playing to that kind of sympathy and not differentiating between legal immigrants and illegals, supporters of the Freedom Ride blur the issue in an attempt to redefine citizenship based on their desire for open borders. By using the rhetoric of the civil rights movement of the 60's, organizers seek to gain legitimacy for their cause. Sixties Freedom Rider Congressman John D. Lewis, D-GA, said to the Freedom Riders as they arrived in D.C., "You have rekindled the struggle for justice in this country!”
As Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) spokesman David Ray told Frontpagemag.com, "The poor reception the freedom riders had on Capital Hill is an indicator of how easily people in Washington saw through the smoke screen they made in arguing that this wasn't only about an amnesty for illegal aliens but about the rights of legal immigrants, as well. Everyone knows that people who are in the country legally are protected by the same labor laws that protect the rest of us. People see this for what it is, namely a bus tour for illegal aliens calling for open borders and uncontrolled, mass illegal immigration. Equating this to the civil rights movement is nauseating."
Protesters along the route have made the same observation. The director of the Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration, Dave Gorak commented in the Washington Post, "This is a real slap in the face to black Americans in this country. The Freedom Riders of 40 years ago were American citizens who had been denied their Constitutional rights. This is aimed at legalizing illegal aliens. They have no rights except due process." Randy Lewis, a Durham, S.C., protester with Stop the Invasion explained to the Herald-Sun, "The purpose of us being here is to demand those people to be arrested and deported. To call them ‘undocumented workers’ is like calling a burglar an ‘uninvited house guest’.”
And rest assured illegals are among the riders. The Miami Herald identified 10 aliens among the Riders from Miami alone. Critics of the ride have called for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) to raid the protest and enforce immigration laws. Outside of Houston two busses were stopped by the Border Patrol and detained for a few hours, but the riders were released and continued on their way. IWFR organizers believe the fear of bad publicity will protect them from being arrested by authorities but have issued cards to all the illegal riders stating “I wish to exercise my right to remain silent. I will not speak to anyone, answer questions, respond to accusations, waive any of my legal rights . . . until I have first obtained the advice of an attorney,” in case they are arrested. On the Ride's official website they list “Rider Profiles” detailing some Riders’ illegal entry to the United States.
Quoting one of the illegal riders, Noemi Palma as saying she fears arrest and deportation, the Miami Herald reported that she stands defiant, ''I have no fear. What we are fighting for is good. I won't hide. I pay my rent, my electricity. I'm in the phone book.''
And what are the riders fighting for? The supporters of the Freedom Ride list five items that they claim will rectify the “injustice” they see in the current immigration policy:
· Reward work by granting legal status to hardworking, taxpaying, law-abiding immigrant workers already established in the United States.
This first point reveals the protestors’ true goal: a call for a blanket amnesty for all illegals. Citing statistics showing that nearly half of all new workers in the United State over the last decade have been immigrants, they express outrage that American immigration policy “continues to criminalize millions of immigrants who fill available jobs and contribute to our prosperity.”
They say critics of their policy “fail to acknowledge…that the problem is bad laws that harm good people.” They recommend changing ”the laws so our policies reward work, embrace reality, and live up to our ideals.” Unfortunately the organizers fail to acknowledge the harm a blanket amnesty of this magnitude would cause to national security, the economy and our ability to maintain sustainable immigration levels. Because a vast majority of so-called undocumented workers are from Latin American countries, this amnesty would punish Asian and European immigrants who have obeyed the rules in legally seeking citizenship. And, as was the case following the last mass amnesty in 1986, the number of illegal immigrants would increase as millions more seek the same opportunity their predecessors were rewarded with.
· Renew our democracy by clearing the path to citizenship and full political participation for our newest Americans.
In their logical progression from the first step of granting blanket amnesty to the estimated 10 million illegal aliens in the United States, the IWFR supporters would then seek to grant them full citizenship. Since the first step would make all aliens legal, non-citizen residents why not go all the way and give “eligible immigrants who are living and working in America to claim their rightful place as full members of our community who have the power to vote for their elected representatives?”
In two steps their plan all but eliminates federal control over the borders and eliminates our ability to limit immigration to sustainable levels. Of course, the newly minted citizens would then be eligible not only to vote but also to receive government services, draining on social programs and busting already strained budgets. The economic impact would be devastating.
· Restore labor protections so that all workers, including immigrant workers, have the right to fair treatment on the job.
Lamenting the poor working conditions migrant workers often face, they call for granting illegals the right to unionize and other “basic labor rights.” For proof of these workers’ second-class status, IWFR cites the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hoffman Plastics v. The National Labor Relations Board, which stated illegals cannot sue for back wages if they are fired for attempting to unionize. IWFR again plays the liberals’ heartstrings, saying these workers are ”trapped...outside the very laws that were intended to give all workers the right to organize a union, to be protected from discriminatory and dangerous conditions, and to seek redress of grievances without fear of retaliation.”
The Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986 made it illegal for employers to hire workers without documents proving they are in this nation legally. IWFR neglects the fact that if current immigration laws were enforced, the ability to exploit the illegal employees would be eliminated, because illegals would not be employed. As Ray commented, "People who play by the rules are protected by the laws of the land and aren't exploited."
· Reunite families in a timely fashion by streamlining our outdated immigration policies.
This demand would allow these new citizens the ability to act as an anchor, granting preferential treatment to their relatives in their home countries seeking to immigrate to the U.S. Once again they seek to open the borders by creating an end-run around current immigration standards.
· Respect the rights and civil liberties of all so that immigrants are treated equally under the law, the federal government remains subject to checks and balances, and civil rights laws are meaningfully enforced.
This last item is a call for “social justice” by granting illegals equal protection before the law. Lamenting the “two-tiered justice system” that denies illegal aliens the same rights as legal citizens, the IWFR mission statement claims there is a “constitutional imperative to protect 'persons' and not just 'citizens.'”
Fretting over the War on Terrorism and the subsequent crackdown on immigration violations, these Riders call for an end to aggressive law enforcement, claiming this weakness will “gain the trust of immigrant communities.” They deride securing the nation’s borders as “busywork…which diverts [law enforcement agencies] from the kind of targeted intelligence work and analysis needed to identify potential terrorists.”
At Freedom Ride rallies hosted at along their route and in the Capitol, speakers have voiced their support of these five measures, along with the demand for driver's licenses, in-state tuition benefits, general public assistance and Affirmative Action status for illegal workers.
On October 1, as the Freedom Ride entered Washington, support for open borders gained some heat in Congress. Reps Hilda L. Solis and Michael Honda, both California Democrats, introduced a failed resolution praising the Riders’ “courageous campaign” and urging lawmakers to adopt the Freedom Ride's radical agenda. "Immigrant workers make indispensable contributions to our economy and our communities. Like in 1961, today's Freedom Riders are fighting for an end to unjust policies," said Congresswoman Solis. "I urge my colleagues in Congress to show their support for the Freedom Riders and the urgent need for reform by supporting the resolution I introduced today." Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams showed his support by declaring Oct. 2nd “Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Day” in the nation’s capital.
Among the speakers at the October 2nd rally were Congressional Representatives Mike Honda, John D. Lewis, Hilda L. Solis, Luis Gutierrez, Sheila Jackson Lee, Janice Schakowsky, George Miller and Sen. Edward M, Kennedy.
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney addressed the D.C. rally saying, "Hopefully, we will be able to raise the focus on how immigrant workers are being exploited and how much they need to be covered with the protections of the law."
At the Oct. 4th rally held at New York's Flushing Meadows park over 100,000 protesters turned up to lend support to the ride including thousands of illegals from dozens of countries, large numbers of union members, local and national politicians, campaign workers for Howard Dean and Cardinal Edward Egan, the leader of the Archdiocese of New York who said, "We cannot go on simply ignoring or tolerating the plight of those brothers and sisters of ours." New York city councilman Gifford Miller called for granting continued sanctuary policies to prevent law enforcement from cooperating with BICE on immigration enforcement.
While the theme was to have been promoting the elimination our nation's ability to control immigration, much of the actual rhetoric was political in nature as speakers Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY, Rep. John Lewis, D-GA, and others used the opportunity to call for President Bush's defeat in 2004. The Dean campaign handed out literature pledging the candidate's support for illegals if elected.
Among the other speakers were John Sweeney, president of the. AFL-CIO; Arturo Rodriguez, head of the United Farmworkers; Rev. James Lawson, a civil rights activist who took part in the original 1961 freedom ride; Maude Hurd, president of the left-wing ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now); Karen Narasaki, president of the Asian Pacific Legal Consortium; John Wilhelm, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union; and Terrance O’Sullivan. All trumpeted their support for total amnesty for the 8-to-10-million illegals in the United States.
How successful the ride is has yet to be determined, but the political currents seem favorable. With the Bush administration's high-level discussions of amnesty and the efforts by those in Congress – both Democrat and Republican – to weaken existing laws, the move to legitimize the millions of illegals already on our shores threatens to become a reality. The voice of common sense immigration reform is being ignored as those seeking open borders take to the streets. Perhaps it's time for the majority of Americans who oppose the elimination of the border to take a stand and organize a march on Washington of our own.