HOUSTON — U.S. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) has introduced controversial legislation to sharply curtail the rights and daily activities of immigrants. The legislation would block undocumented workers in the U.S. from opening bank accounts and deny them any access to Social Security payments.
Culberson has cloaked this reactionary legislation, an amendment to a House appropriations bill, as a measure to enhance national security. Attempting to exploit the fears generated by the Bush administration rhetoric about “terrorists,” Culberson claims that Middle Eastern terrorists have disguised themselves by using “Hispanic” names and that his bill will help keep such terrorists out.
Among other things, the amendment would make it much more difficult for immigrants to use foreign IDs, such as the “matricula consular” issued by the Mexican government, to open bank accounts.
Culberson’s legislation has been roundly criticized by human rights organizations as well as representatives from the Service Employees International Union. They point out that undocumented workers are making substantial contributions to our economy.
The Houston chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has challenged Culberson to a debate on his proposed legislation. LULAC has pointed out that denying immigrants access to bank accounts leaves them vulnerable to being robbed because they must carry cash.
John Martinez is Culberson’s opponent in the November election. In his web site, he clearly opposes Culberson’s “anti-immigrant legislation.” Martinez’ statement reads, “While the amendment will not keep us secure, it will hurt millions of honest, hardworking, but unauthorized workers who are trying to develop roots in the community.” He points out that curtailing the civil rights of immigrants hurts everyone.
Culberson’s campaign materials are blatantly racist and attempt to incite the fears of U.S. citizens. He has a page titled “Winning the war begins with protecting our borders,” featuring a reprint of a Norman Rockwell painting depicting Caucasian parents tucking their children into bed. The materials say, “We cannot win the war on terror and protect our families unless we protect our borders.”
Culberson adds, “If necessary, I would support deploying enough troops to line the entire southern border from Brownsville to San Diego to stop the flood [of immigrants].”
More than one observer has noted that Culberson’s legislative assault on immigrants is similar to the ideas expounded by a number of right-wing extremists, including Germany’s Adolf Hitler, France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, Austria’s Jeorg Haider and Louisiana’s David Duke.
The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.