Friday, January 26, 2007

Immigration: Changing the conversation in Lancaster

Tuesday night the Lancaster City Council approved a resolution urging the President and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The council was motivated in part by the actions in Hazleton and other PA municipalities that have taken immigration enforcement into their own hands:
"For every illegal person who lives in the country, there are 10 or 20 people who look like them that are affected by this," (Councilman Jose Urdaneta) said.

He, Graupera and Lancaster City Council President Julianne Dickson said Lancaster's action is also being prompted because they believe illegal immigrants are being demonized for political reasons.

"Hazleton is part of the reason that we are doing it, but it is also the talk about the construction of walls at our borders and the divisive rhetoric the president had in the last election in which he was equating illegal immigrants with terrorists," said Urdaneta.

Thumbs up to the council for recognizing the importance of showing immigrants that they are welcome in Pennsylvania. And thumbs down to the Lancaster New Era, which headlined Tuesday's article on the resolution by calling it "earned amnesty" with the phrase in quotes, as if it came from the resolution. In fact, the resolution calls for "earned legalization."

Here's a powerful statement by Norman Bristol Colon of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs:
"I am proud to be a resident of this great city of ours and I commend the leadership of this City Council. Immigration was the top issue in 2006 dividing us as a nation. Tonight, this resolution reflects our spirit of unity, respect and understanding."

So why does this matter? After all, it's only a non-binding resolution. It's a statement with no force of law, but the fact is that it is a statement. That's a step forward in this discussion. What Hazleton and other PA municipalities like Altoona and Bridgeport have done is divide the community with their corrosive rhetoric. Lancaster City Council is saying, "We're uniters, not dividers."

Andy in the HBG

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