Sweeping Up the Aliens | The Nation


Sweeping Up the Aliens

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The Manzo Area Council has served its constituents in southern Arizona and northern Sonora for ten-years, but became involved in immigration counseling only a year and a half ago, when the Border Patrol became more aggressive in the Tucson area, waiting outside churches and stalking people at laundromats and schools. Cowan and her staff, untrained in immigration counseling, then toured the Southwest, visiting other centers and seeking advice from attorneys and community workers in Los Angeles, Phoenix and other cities. They eventually, drafted a proposal for federal funds which stipulated that they would be doing immigration counseling with two goals in mind: explaining to people without resources that they could not immigrate, and providing a comprehensive program for those able to immigrate by helping them fill out applications, gather documents and accompanying them to their appointments. Once their program was underway, they began to attract the unfriendly attention of the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and that led to the April 9th raid.

About the Author

Mark Day
Mark Day taught journalism at Los Angeles Southwest College. He is the author of Forty Acres: Cesar Chavez and the Farm...

The implications of the Manzo case are far-reaching, since thousands of agencies, attorneys and counselors offer such services from coast to coast. In addition, Cowan, and her assistants are receiving letters from schoolteachers, public health nurses, nutritionists and other agency personnel, asking if they, too, will have to check their clients' immigrant status before giving an injection, a free lunch or rendering any other services.

On November 26 the Los Angeles Times published a strong editorial referring to the prosecution of the Manzo 4 as "bad business." It said that the stated purpose of the raid was to uncover evidence that the counselors were helping aliens make illegal claims for welfare and food stamps. "But apparently," the Times continued, ''no such evidence was forthcoming. We are left to speculate whether a red-faced Border Patrol then may have sought to cover its embarrassment by going to court to "challenge the whole premise of counseling for illegal aliens."

The editorial also referred to the contradictions of federal law which punished those who counsel undocumented immigrants while ignoring those who exploit them, such as employers, merchants and unscrupulous landlords. "The respect for the system of justice can only be eroded by efforts to deny counsel to those who seek it," concluded the Times.

Meanwhile, the Manzo defendants are taking their case to the public, arranging speaking engagements and fund-raisers, and devising a strategy that will include a top-level meeting between sympathetic members of Congress and Griffin B. Bell, the newly appointed U.S. Attorney General, asking the latter to drop the charges and to curb the repressive practices of the INS which have grown to alarming proportions during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Many observers of immigration law and procedures see the Manzo case as a recurrence of the periodic cycle of repression and scapegoating that is felt whenever the country is beset by economic crisis and inflation. While the raids continue in factories and Hispanic neighborhoods throughout the country (a soccer game and theatre were recently raided in Washington, D.C., with more than 100 arrests), several stringent immigration bills are now before Congress. The most comprehensive bill, H.R. 16188, sponsored by Rep. Peter W. Rodino, (D., N.J.) passed in the House on September 12, 1972 but is still pending in the Senate. It provides three steps before serious measures are taken against employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. The employer is given two warnings for hiring the workers; if he violates the law a third time, he is subject to a $1,000 fine and/or one year in prison for each undocumented immigrant.

This bill, heavily supported by the AFL-CIO executive board, has met strong opposition from Chicano civil rights groups, who claim that putting the burden on the employer to discover the immigrant status of a worker can only diminish the civil rights of all Americans, especially those of Hispanic descent.

Another bill, by Rep. Joshua Eilberg (D., Pa.) was signed by President Ford on October 20, minutes before the termination of a ten-day period after which it would have received a pocket (automatic) veto. The Eilberg bill, pending in the House for years, had passed once, but was rejected by the Senate because of protests from Chicano and Latino groups. This time, in order to assure its passage, it was held in committee until the day before the 94th Congress adjourned, then sent to the full House as a noncontroversial measure and rushed through the Senate with no opportunity for debate or discussion.

Normally, the bill would have gone to the immigration committee of the Senate, but Sen. James O. Eastland (D., Miss.) asked that it be held at the desk by Speaker. Then, at the last moment, Eaktland asked that the bill be passed by common consent, since it simply "cleaned up a few routine immigration matters."

The "routine" immigration matters Eastland referred to included cutting immigration quotas from Mexico by 60 per cent. Even though the new legislation imposes on the Western Hemisphere the same quotas as have beenused for the Eastern Hemisphere, it allots 25 per cent fewer visas to the Western Hemisphere. Under its terms the parents of U.S. citizens and parents of immigrants would no longer qualiiy for visas. The Senator has also introduced a bill of his own which seeks to reintroduce the controversial 1bracero program. Braceros are Mexican workers imported to the United States under contract to work for specified periods of time. A Chicano aide to President Ford has said that Eastland agreed to assure passage of Eilberg's measure if the latter helped him get his own (bracero) bill through the House in the coming session. A previous attempt to extend the bracero program was defeated in the late 1960s by the combined efforts of churches and labor unions. Promoted by the agriculturaI bloc in Congress, of which Eastland is a prominent figure, the program is an economic boon to growers, since the workers can be paid substandard wages and herded into camps, many of them unsanitary to the point of being health hazards. Though the Eastland bill might legalize the presence of hundreds of thousands of otherwise undocumented field workers, it would not stop the exploitation and would continue to thwart union drives to organize farm workers from both the United States and Mexico. "cleaned up a few routine immigration matters." Now the question that arises is whether President Carter will support the present trend for more restrictionist immigration laws and practices. Bert Corona, a long-time Chicano activist, says Carter may have his hands tied, since he was elected with the support of the AFL-CIO and of Senator Eastland's forces in the South. Much will depend on the advisers Carter chooses to guide his immigration policies. One of his strongest supporters, Sen. Alan Cranston (D., Calif.), has said he will urge Carter 'to appoint persons of "real knowledge and deep sensitivity" to positions of authority in the Immigration Service and other agencies dealing with immigrants. Such persons will be needed when the trial of the Manzo 4 begins on March 8, for it will be a major test case for those who counsel and aid the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants seeking legal status in the United States. But the implications of thc Manzo case go even deeper. Recently a prominent civil liberties attorney wrote to the defendants, offering the "It is a chilling reminder that the knock on the door in the middle of the night is still a very real threat to all freedom-loving Americans."

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