San Francisco Chronicle
Illegal immigration rallies attract few protesters
- By MICHAEL R. BLOOD, AP Political Writer
Saturday, January 7, 2006
(01-07) 14:22 PST Los Angeles (AP) --
Small groups of protesters rallied nationwide Saturday against illegal immigration and lax border security, demanding the government penalize employers who hire illegal workers.
The so-called "Stop the Invasion" protests were organized in 19 states, but in several cities only a smattering of opponents of illegal immigration turned out.
In Glendale, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb, about two dozen protesters waving American flags gathered outside a home-supply store, but they were surrounded and shouted down by more than 100 drum-beating supporters of immigrant rights who chanted, "Racists go home."
The two groups traded shouts and obscene gestures for more than an hour. One man was arrested for assault, police said.
"We are keeping the debate on illegal immigration in the forefront of the American consciousness," said Joseph Turner of Save Our State, which wants to shut down day labor centers set up near large home-supply stores that the group claims are magnets for illegal immigrants. The centers pair employers with people seeking temporary work, such as painting or landscaping.
In Danbury, Conn., about 50 people calling themselves the Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control spent about two hours chanting and holding signs that read "Arrest Illegal Employers."
Paul Streitz, who organized the demonstrations, said members believe illegal immigrants are taking jobs from citizens while driving down property values.
"This is not a racist thing," said Daniel Anastasia, 46, a construction worker from Westchester, N.Y. "We pay taxes, they don't. I get paid what the union says. The contractor pays them cash. It's not fair to me."
In Las Vegas, John Holiday, 43, and his son, Conner, 9, held signs near a convenience store where undocumented workers are picked up by employers. The boy, who held a sign that read "Our lawmakers encourage lawbreaking," said illegal immigration has divided the country.
"Do you think the problem will be over when I grow up?" Conner asked.
In Farmingville, N.Y., where immigration-related violence erupted several times in recent years, only about a dozen protesters showed up and argued against the growing number of day laborers on eastern Long Island.
The hiring has been a source of tension among longtime residents since at least the late 1990s. In recent months, town officials have been cracking down on illegally overcrowded houses, leaving many of the day laborers scrambling to find new housing.
"Close our borders," protester Bill Pearson said. "Close down the businesses that are hiring these people."
In Framingham, Mass., near Boston, a small group protesting illegal immigration was met by a much larger group of counter-demonstrators, some of whom surrounded them and temporarily disrupted the protest.
"What they are doing is just harassing people who are out here to go to work every day, and they're doing it in a hateful manner, which is against everything this country stands for," said Manuel Olivera, pastor of the nearby New Life Presbyterian Community Church.