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April 1, 2006
Demostrations For Illegals Are No Civil Rights Movement

The demonstrations this week do not have any relation to the American civil-rights movement, Joe Hicks writes in today's LA Times Op-Ed section. Hicks, a former director in the West Coast contingent of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- Martin Luther King's organization -- has spent his life working for civil rights but makes clear that those who cross the border illegally are, well, criminals by definition:

THE DEBATE over illegal immigration has reached a vigorous boil, with contrasting bills in the House and Senate and hundreds of thousands of protesters demonstrating nationwide. The complexities of this debate seem lost on many of the protesters. Many claim that what lies beneath reform efforts is raw racism, leading to the view that the recent protests signal a new civil rights movement.

It's simply not true. This nation's civil rights movement of the 1960s broke the back of white supremacy that prevented black Americans (who were citizens) from enjoying the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution. Undeniably, the freedoms codified by civil rights-era legislation have made life better for all Americans — regardless of skin color, gender or national origin.

Now, many Latino immigrant-rights organizers and their sympathizers seem to be saying that there is some inherent right being expressed when people sneak into the country, thumb their noses at the law and make fools out of those who wait patiently in foreign lands for visas to come to the United States.

It is quite clear that many of those participating in the demonstrations have adopted the stance of the beleaguered victim, perceiving frustration about illegal immigration as racism. Some comments have been painfully ignorant. One protester said: "I'm here to make sure that Mexicans get their freedom, their rights."

During the student protests, the American flag was only occasionally on display, while the Mexican flag was omnipresent. A student said he was waving the latter in support of La Raza (the race), while another asked why illegal immigrants were "treated like criminals." Perhaps he wasn't aware that crossing the U.S. border without the required visa is now, and always has been, against the law.

Hicks brings a center-left perspective to these massive embarrassments, noting that the wave of illegals creates a downward pressure on wages in all entry-level areas of the market. Hicks writes about the stunning ignorance of teens who turn out for these protests, both in their lack of sophistication about the issue itself and their failure to grasp that the illegals compete for jobs that normally would have been filled by themselves and their friends. He also notes the irony of the demonstrations taking place on a day that honors labor leader Cesar Chavez, who fought against the use of illegals in the fields by agribusiness as a means to break the strikes he called.

Hicks has it exactly correct. These demonstrations did not occur to promote civil rights, but instead to demand an entitlement from the United States. The protestors want an entitlement to violate border laws, to use government services without paying income taxes, and to ignore American law in general. The fact that officials who rely on the social contract that springs from this rule of law to execute their official duties welcomed these protestors with open arms (he specifically mentions LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) should embarrass the people who elected them.

We can debate how we want to handle the people who have already crossed the border after securing it against further incursions. Reasonable people can differ on this complicated issue. However, the basis for any practical resolution has to be the security of our southern border, as no program can succeed until we effectively stop the flood and establish credibility in our efforts. It isn't a matter of civil rights, but a matter of law enforcement and wartime security. The fools out waving Mexican flags in the streets and asserting that "the border crossed us" only shows how much credibility we have to regain.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 1, 2006 8:04 AM

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