EDITORIAL: Tell Senate: Uphold immigrant rights!

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It’s a recurring theme in American history: The mass media plays up the demagogy of reactionaries who use ignorance and prejudice to blame immigrants for major social ills. Reactionary politicians who rely on disunity to achieve their goals use the resulting hysteria to push through repressive measures. This makes the immigrants more vulnerable. Businesses exploit them for superprofits and to lower the living standards of the general populace. Then the demagogues blame the victims again and so it goes.

The Bush administration and right-wing Republican congressional leaders with their media and corporate allies are making this game a key part of their agenda in this critical election year. Last Nov. 27 President Bush called for congressional action to control immigration problems. Several days later House Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the viciously repressive HR 4437 that criminalizes the undocumented. With White House support, it was railroaded through the House in mid-December.

Immigrant rights, civil liberties, religious and labor groups fought valiantly to stop the HR 4437 blitz, as over 200 groups rallied in opposition. The battle is now in the Senate. With more time a mass movement has developed, with immigrant communities in the lead, calling for comprehensive immigration reform including legalization with a clear path to citizenship for undocumented and future immigrant workers, full labor and social rights, family unification and due process protections.

The mass protest has slowed the Republican push for repressive immigration measures. There is movement in the Senate Judiciary Committee for some immigrant-friendly provisions. However, Senate leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has set March 27 as the date for full Senate debate to begin on restrictive measures.

It is urgent for all democratically-minded Americans to act to stop the Republican anti-immigrant game. Contact your senators now. Call on them to oppose repressive immigration measures and support a clear path to citizenship, labor rights, family reunification and due process for all immigrants.

Blocking this divide-and-conquer Republican blitz will build unity to end the right-wing Republican stranglehold on Congress next Nov. 7.