U.S. Congressman Gutierrez Wants to Hijack the Civil Rights Movement

United States Congressman Luis Gutierrez has threatened civil disobedience if the DREAM Act, which would have offered a pathway to American citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, is not passed into law.

"We're going to make it uncomfortable for the Democratic Party," Gutierrez said, adding that immigration advocates would step up the pressure by drawing lessons from the movements for civil rights and women's suffrage.  "There'll probably be civil disobedience.  There will probably be a number of different actions.  What we have to do is we have to break through this wall of silence, because we're invisible."

Well, the DREAM Act was voted down in the Senate over the last weekend, and I am anxiously waiting to see if Congressman Gutierrez, who is also a former leader of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, makes good on his threats.

If Congressman Gutierrez does take the path of civil disobedience in order to achieve his goals of obtaining American citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, it will serve only to display the self-serving nature of his agenda along with his ignorance of American history generally and the history of the civil rights movement in particular.

The fact is that Americans of African descent did have to struggle to achieve full civil rights.  The civil rights movement of the 1960s arose as a result of legitimate grievances.  Americans of African descent were enslaved and denied full civil rights and legal equality for many years, beginning with the founding of the United States.  To compare the situation of the 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants -- many, but not all, of Hispanic descent -- to that of African-Americans in the first half of the 20th century is laughable at best.

No Americans in the early years of our country went to Latin American countries to enslave their people and bring them back to the United States to pick cotton on Southern plantations.  There has never been a history of separate restrooms, or separate water fountains, or "separate but equal" schools which segregated Americans of Hispanic descent from Americans of European descent in the way the Jim Crow laws segregated African-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  And there was never a criminal gang such as the Ku Klux Klan running around in white sheets to threaten Americans of Hispanic descent who stepped out of line.

The fact is the there are large communities of Americans of Hispanic descent in the southwestern United States whose families have been here for generations and who have had full civil rights and legal equality ever since they came here. Any American citizen of Hispanic descent is living in this country for one reason and one reason only.  No one forced any of them to come here.  They, or their ancestors, wanted to come here and live the American dream.

But the situation of the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens currently in our country, and whose cause Congressman Gutierrez champions, is a different matter entirely.  The presence of these millions of illegal aliens is due entirely to the collusion of greedy employers looking for cheap labor and corrupt politicians looking for cheap votes.  And the fact is that the swelling of the labor market with millions of illegal aliens over the last couple of decades has done the most harm to Americans at the lowest socioeconomic strata of our society, and especially to African-Americans and Americans of Hispanic descent.

Harvard University economist George Borjas has studied the effect of illegal immigration on our economy.  In his book Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy, he showed that the swelling of the labor market with millions of illegal aliens in the last two decades of the 20th century, from 1980 to 2000, caused a drop in wages and opportunities for advancement for all American workers.  What is most significant, however, is that Borjas compared the effects of illegal immigration on Americans across ethnic lines.  He found that the drop in wages was 3.5% for white workers, 4.5% for African-Americans, and 5% for Americans of Hispanic descent.  In other words, Americans of Hispanic descent are harmed the most by illegal immigration.  They are seeing the evaporation of the American dream before their eyes due to unfair competition from illegal immigrant labor.

It is useless to discuss the status of the millions of illegal immigrants in our country as long as our borders are not secured and our immigration laws are not being enforced.  At a time when we have almost 10% unemployment, it makes no sense to continue to allow jobs to go to those who are not U.S. citizens or legal residents of our country.  Illegal aliens should be encouraged as much as possible to return to their home countries.  In some cases, that may not be possible due to their having lived in the United States for decades, having family ties here, etc.  The status of those illegal aliens for whom return to their home country is not a realistic option could be dealt with at some point -- but only after our borders are secured and our immigration laws enforced.

However, in no way does it make sense to turn the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens into some sort of victimized group who have been deprived of the civil rights and for whom a campaign of civil disobedience is appropriate, as Congressman Gutierrez proposes.  His attempt to hijack the verbiage and tactics of the civil rights movement of the 1960s is a travesty.  It is a transparent attempt to use millions of illegal immigrants as pawns to promote his particular political agenda, and it is an insult to the African-Americans who fought for true civil rights not so long ago.
United States Congressman Luis Gutierrez has threatened civil disobedience if the DREAM Act, which would have offered a pathway to American citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, is not passed into law.

"We're going to make it uncomfortable for the Democratic Party," Gutierrez said, adding that immigration advocates would step up the pressure by drawing lessons from the movements for civil rights and women's suffrage.  "There'll probably be civil disobedience.  There will probably be a number of different actions.  What we have to do is we have to break through this wall of silence, because we're invisible."

Well, the DREAM Act was voted down in the Senate over the last weekend, and I am anxiously waiting to see if Congressman Gutierrez, who is also a former leader of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, makes good on his threats.

If Congressman Gutierrez does take the path of civil disobedience in order to achieve his goals of obtaining American citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, it will serve only to display the self-serving nature of his agenda along with his ignorance of American history generally and the history of the civil rights movement in particular.

The fact is that Americans of African descent did have to struggle to achieve full civil rights.  The civil rights movement of the 1960s arose as a result of legitimate grievances.  Americans of African descent were enslaved and denied full civil rights and legal equality for many years, beginning with the founding of the United States.  To compare the situation of the 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants -- many, but not all, of Hispanic descent -- to that of African-Americans in the first half of the 20th century is laughable at best.

No Americans in the early years of our country went to Latin American countries to enslave their people and bring them back to the United States to pick cotton on Southern plantations.  There has never been a history of separate restrooms, or separate water fountains, or "separate but equal" schools which segregated Americans of Hispanic descent from Americans of European descent in the way the Jim Crow laws segregated African-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  And there was never a criminal gang such as the Ku Klux Klan running around in white sheets to threaten Americans of Hispanic descent who stepped out of line.

The fact is the there are large communities of Americans of Hispanic descent in the southwestern United States whose families have been here for generations and who have had full civil rights and legal equality ever since they came here. Any American citizen of Hispanic descent is living in this country for one reason and one reason only.  No one forced any of them to come here.  They, or their ancestors, wanted to come here and live the American dream.

But the situation of the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens currently in our country, and whose cause Congressman Gutierrez champions, is a different matter entirely.  The presence of these millions of illegal aliens is due entirely to the collusion of greedy employers looking for cheap labor and corrupt politicians looking for cheap votes.  And the fact is that the swelling of the labor market with millions of illegal aliens over the last couple of decades has done the most harm to Americans at the lowest socioeconomic strata of our society, and especially to African-Americans and Americans of Hispanic descent.

Harvard University economist George Borjas has studied the effect of illegal immigration on our economy.  In his book Heaven's Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy, he showed that the swelling of the labor market with millions of illegal aliens in the last two decades of the 20th century, from 1980 to 2000, caused a drop in wages and opportunities for advancement for all American workers.  What is most significant, however, is that Borjas compared the effects of illegal immigration on Americans across ethnic lines.  He found that the drop in wages was 3.5% for white workers, 4.5% for African-Americans, and 5% for Americans of Hispanic descent.  In other words, Americans of Hispanic descent are harmed the most by illegal immigration.  They are seeing the evaporation of the American dream before their eyes due to unfair competition from illegal immigrant labor.

It is useless to discuss the status of the millions of illegal immigrants in our country as long as our borders are not secured and our immigration laws are not being enforced.  At a time when we have almost 10% unemployment, it makes no sense to continue to allow jobs to go to those who are not U.S. citizens or legal residents of our country.  Illegal aliens should be encouraged as much as possible to return to their home countries.  In some cases, that may not be possible due to their having lived in the United States for decades, having family ties here, etc.  The status of those illegal aliens for whom return to their home country is not a realistic option could be dealt with at some point -- but only after our borders are secured and our immigration laws enforced.

However, in no way does it make sense to turn the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens into some sort of victimized group who have been deprived of the civil rights and for whom a campaign of civil disobedience is appropriate, as Congressman Gutierrez proposes.  His attempt to hijack the verbiage and tactics of the civil rights movement of the 1960s is a travesty.  It is a transparent attempt to use millions of illegal immigrants as pawns to promote his particular political agenda, and it is an insult to the African-Americans who fought for true civil rights not so long ago.

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