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Columbus follows Cleveland in opposing HR 4437, Will Toledo, Detroit, Lorain, and Lansing follow suit?


By Marivel Aguirre, La Prensa Reporter


Columbus: Over 100 leaders/members of the Latino community were on hand Monday at Columbus City Hall to add their input into a proposed council resolution condemning portions of the U.S. House of Representatives bill HR 4437—The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, a.k.a. the Sensenbrenner-King bill.   

La Prensa Reporter Marivel Aguirre


Columbus resolution 0047X-2006 was adopted without objection by any member of council, urging the U.S. Senate, and more particularly Ohio’s senators, George Voinovich and Michael DeWine, “to consider more compassionate alternative measures to respond to the issues raised by undocumented workers.”


In his introductory speech, Council President Matthew D. Habash said that due to the nature of HR 4437, the Council felt “compelled to oppose it” and that immigration policy should never be so disfigured as to “exchange punishment for compassion.”


Habash spoke on the importance of opposing such legislation and compared the political climate today to the one witnessed during the U.S. Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  


Four members from the Latino community spoke, expressing gratitude and hope: gratitude towards the United States and the City of Columbus for allowing them and others the opportunity to have “the better life” that many immigrants come to the United States in search of, and hope, that this nation would live up to its founding principles and values as a “Nation of Immigrants.”


The first speaker, Angela Johnston, the Director for Hispanic Ministry, Catholic Latino Center for the Diocese of Columbus, said that immigration is not merely “a policy issue, it is a humanitarian issue” and “an issue of moral gravity.”


She spoke at length on the importance of implementing comprehensive policy that takes into account the fact that “immigration is not a simple issue.” 


The other speakers were: attorney Rubén Castilla Herrera of Herrera and Associates; William Meléndez, president of the Columbus chapter of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens); and Bertha Santos, a business Latina and owner of the Mexican bakery, La Oaxaqueña.


Santos, a one-time Mexican immigrant and now a U.S. citizen, spoke of the gratitude she felt towards the United States and the City of Columbus for the opportunities that were presented to her and also of the hope she has for Columbus to continue supporting diversity.


Columbus is not the first city or political entity to pass a resolution condemning HR 4437. Regionally, the City of Cleveland (19 to 0, on Feb. 27), Cuyahoga County (3 to 0 on March 2), and the Grand Rapids MI City Commission (6 to 0, on Feb. 21) passed similar resolutions.


Resolutions are contemplated by Toledo, Lorain, and Cincinnati, according to Richard Romero, one of Ohio’s Commissioners on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, who has actively opposed HR 4437.  The Ohio Commission of Hispanic/Latino Affair’s director, Ezra C. Escudero, was also present during the proceedings.  


Objections to HR 4437 concern implications and ramifications of the bill:


  • HR 4437 would make it a felony offense to be in the U.S. without proper documentation, thus creating a permanent underclass that would make exploitation and abuse of workers more likely.

  • It could criminalize local services, churches, social workers, and anyone else who assists undocumented workers.

  • It would increase the mistrust between police and undocumented workers when police officers are empowered as immigration officers, making life more dangerous for everybody.

  • HR 4437 mandates the construction of 700 miles of fencing separating the United States from México, which is 35 per cent of the entire border separating these two longtime allies and neighbors. 

On January 27, HR 4437 was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary after passing in the House of Representatives by a vote of 239-182 on December 16, 2005. Resolutions condemning the bill are being passed across the United States in hopes of derailing the bill and preventing it from passing in the U.S. Senate, where alternate bills are being considered.

It is for such considerations that the Columbus resolution mandates the council clerk to send copies of the adopted resolution to DeWine and Voinovich. 

Numerous organizations such as RIO and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) are urging individuals to notify their senators to express disapproval of many of the provisions of HR 4437 in a letter or email similar to the form letter found on page 2 of this week’s La Prensa.







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