Saturday, October 28, 2006

Todd Elliott Koger Candidate Pa. State Rep.: Immigrants' Rights

Public Session for Immigrants’ Rights

Todd Elliott Koger, candidate for state representative (District 24) ask that you join PFOI to protect Immigrants, Tuesday, October 31, 2006, at 10:00 A.M.. Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, Pa 15219.

To speak call: 412-255-2138.

First, a simple but often-forgotten note, in federal law, there is no such thing as an “illegal immigrant.” A person who is legally in the United States either is here as a legal immigrant or has a “non-immigrant VISA,” meaning a tourist, student or temporary worker VISA. In short, immigrants have the same rights as the rest of us. They must be treated, exactly the same as any other person. The bottom line: there are just a few exceptions: immigrants can’t become president or vice-president, and green-card holders’ can’t vote.

At issue, however, is the status of illegal aliens on the state and local level.

Congress recently passed legislation authorizing the construction of a multibillion dollar fence along the U.S. - Mexico border and appropriated money for detention centers and an additional 1,500 border agents. But, at the same time, other immigrant-friendly “rational middle ground” proposals (compromise between mass deportation and amnesty) have stalled in Washington, including legislation that will give millions of illegal aliens already in the United States a chance to become a citizen.

There is a deliberate tactic designed to advance an “enforcement first” political agenda at the state and local level that PFOI and others, will address this Tuesday, October 31, 2006, at 10:00 A.M., at the Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, 414 Grant Street.

Enforcement first advocates want to change the sequencing of border security, interior enforcement, and guest worker plans. Their strategy (partisan maneuvering) aims to force passage at the state and local level of enforcement laws in lieu of federal action. Among the policy goals of the “enforcement first” initiative PFOI protest are as follow: (1) new state laws for employment eligibility verification and denial of business licenses; (2) new state laws mandating local law enforcement agencies to identify and turn over to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) all aliens who pass through local jails and state prisons; (3) prohibition of aliens access to social services; and (4) outlawing of “sanctuary cities” through penalties in state funding. Their plan is to elect pro-enforcement officials.

What PFOI suggests an alternative policy, to foster cooperation between state and local officials, law enforcement, the human service system and the region’s immigrant communities are needed. Without cooperation an entire segment of Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) becomes alienated from the system. That is, non-citizens, even during the recent wave of gun-violence, will be reluctant to report incidents of crime or come forward as witnesses for fear of exposing themselves to immigration related charges. Consider this, while domestic-abuse survivors are typically terrified or reporting abuse under any circumstances, in households with undocumented non-citizens, the fear is compounded by the chance that they or someone they love could be deported.

Direction and inspiration at the state and local level to foster cooperation should come from our concern for those who are most affected by the “enforcement first” initiative and partisan maneuvering. When the discrimination is truly a remnant, PFOI will be able to put down their signs and petitions and call it a day. Nonetheless, until then, don’t expect PFOI to be quiet and what they say will reverberate far beyond Pittsburgh city council chambers.