Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hearings scheduled

Last week Republican House leadership startled the nation by announcing that they would organize hearings around the country to "listen to Americans" on immigration reform. Most commentators saw this as delay tactic that may likely result in the death of immigration reform legislation in this Congress.

This week the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations announced the specifics about the hearings they are planning for July 5 in San Diego, California and July 7 in Laredo, Texas. The set-up of the hearings in antithetical to the Republican House leader Hastert's assertion that these hearings are meant to get a pulse of what the public is thinking on immigration.

Obtaining logistical information on the hearings is not easy: it's not readily available (for example: buried on the House webpage). The San Diego meeting is being held at 9:00 a.m. the day after a major holiday in the offices of the Border Patrol and the speakers are ALL immigration enforcement folks or from 'Friends of the Border Patrol'. There are only 100 seats on a first come first serve basis. Need they say any more clearly that they don't want immigrants or pro-immigrant advocates there? At least the Laredo meeting is being held in a hotel (even though the speakers are the same ilk).

AFSC staff in San Diego are planning their own shadow hearing the same day at 5:30. Unlike the House Subcommittee, we'll post the info here to help advertise our hearing: Mountain View Recreation Center, 641 So. Boundary Street, San Diego, CA (between Ocean View and T Street). For information, call 619.233.4114.

The same day as the San Diego hearing, Senator Arlen Specter will hold a hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform at 9:30 am at the National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St, Independence Mall, Philadelphia. This hearing will focus on business needs and employment-based immigration. Another hearing is being planned by Specter's office (possibly for late July or early August) on earned legalization and other issues related to the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Funnily enough there is no information on Senator Specter's website and we only obtained this information from the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition.

Advocates are pointing out how utterly undemocratic the immigration reform debate has been thus far. These hearings just add more fuel to this point of view. It's shocking how blatantly one-sided they are. Haven't we had enough of "P.R. Politics"? Isn't it time for REAL/TRUE/REALLY REAL/HONEST-TO-GOODNESS Comprehensive Immigration Reform rather than all this posturing?

But YOU can voice your concerns about the process!

ACTION STEP: Join us in voicing opposition to these biased hearings, by contacting members of the House Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation TODAY!

- Denounce these "open" hearings as a farce; obviously biased toward one side of border issues, as observed through selection of panelists and location of the hearing in San Diego.
- Exclusionary practices and lack of transparency in the planning of this hearing; the voice of human rights groups and community- based organizations in the border region has been deliberately excluded from the dialogue on the hearing, making the event inaccessible to the communities most affected by border enforcement.
- Such one-sided proceedings, masquerading as public hearings, only increase the tensions surrounding border policy and immigration reform, instead of promoting solutions to these debates.
-These so-called "public" hearings are an affront to the dignity of border communities, who have fundamentally opposed increased border enforcement measures since the implementation of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994.
-The hearing legitimizes border vigilantism, by providing an undemocratic, paramilitary organization such as the Friends of the Border Patrol with an official voice in the hearing.

Telephone numbers for the House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation

Chairman: Edward Royce (R-CA) 202.515.0524
Peter T. King (R-NY), tel: 202.225.7896, e-mail:
Brad Sherman (D-CA) tel: 202.225.5911
Thomas Tancredo (R-CO) tel: 202.225.7882
Robert Wexler (D-FL) tel: 202.225.3001
Darrel Issa (R-CA) tel: 202.225.3906
Diane Watson (D-CA) tel: 202.225.7084
Michael McCaul (R-TX) tel:202.225.4401
Adam Smith (D-WA) tel: 202.225.8901
Ted Poe (R-TX) 202.225.6565, Toll Free - 866.425.6565
Ben Chandler (D-KY) tel: 202.225.4706
Jerry Weller (R-IL) tel: 202.225.3635
Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) tel: 202.225.6131, 800-356-6424
J. Gresham Barrett (R-SC) tel: 202.225.5301
Russ Carnahan (D-MO) tel: 202.225.2671