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Radio DJs to lobby for border security

April 23, 2005|By REBECCA ADAMUS, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) —

Sunny San Diego will be replaced by the hustle and bustle of "suits" attached to Blackberries, the sprawl of marble monuments and drooping cherry blossoms when Roger Hedgecock's conservative radio show storms into town next week.

About 300 "ordinary citizens from all over" will join Hedgecock and 16 other Southwest and West Radio One personalities for a lobbying-broadcast combo. They'll be rallying for enhanced border security during "Hold Their Feet to the Fire: A National Drive for Immigration Reform" from Sunday through Thursday.

So don't worry, listeners. He's out of town, but his message remains the same.

"Feet to the Fire" promotes passage of the REAL ID Act, which would bar illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses and opposes Social Security and guest worker programs for illegal aliens, calling those immigrants a potential threat to homeland security.

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Those views are sharply in contrast with those of pro-immigrant groups.

But the primary issue next week, Hedgecock said, is border security.

"You can debate all the other stuff after we know who is coming across the border," Hedgecock said. "Homeland security without border security is a hoax."

"Feet to the Fire" is co-sponsored by the Federation of American Immigration Reform. Hedgecock is the primary organizer, he said, because of the "the intensity of my listeners' objections to an open border."

"Most people I know support legal immigration. Most people are the product of legal immigration. Most people are offended by illegal immigration and want it stopped," Hedgecock asserted.

Another group that will be in town to promote a different kind of debate on immigration is National People's Action, which did not purposely schedule its yearly conference in Washington to coincide with "Feet to the Fire."

"Since they're in town and since we think the subject is important, we'd like to offer an alternative voice to what we hear coming from FAIR," said Richard Muhammed, NPA spokesman.

NPA takes on a range of social justice issues, one of which is immigrant rights. It also serves as an umbrella organization for social justice groups of all political backgrounds and beliefs.

"For us to see people scapegoating immigrants and in a sense, not really talk about the contributions immigrants make to this country is wrong," he said. "One of the things we do is to challenge people who support policies that we don't agree with."

Muhammed said the NPA supports comprehensive immigration reform and some of its members will lobby Congress. He also said the group would emphasize "real true life stories" about immigrants in America.

Immigration in America is long and storied. According to William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, anti-immigrant sentiment tends to flare up when the economy isn't doing well. Frey noted that it heated up in the early 1990s when the economy was sagging.

President Bush's recent push for a temporary guest worker program is one reason for the heightened debate, he said.

In the past, the intensity of the debate has been localized to regions of California and Arizona because illegal immigrants are more concentrated there, Frey said. Since Sept. 11, immigration issues are now part of the debate on national security.

An example is the Minutemen, who are patrolling stretches of the Mexico-Arizona border. It's not jobs but an idea of defending the homeland and pointing out the government's lack of border support that "tends to energize people," Frey said.

"It's an issue that people who want to have easy answers to start talking past each other," he said.

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