Friday, January 20, 2006

Advance America Makes Anti-Immigrant Push Ala KKK

Advance America and Eric Miller have officially entered the anti-immigrant political fray. In a recent legislative alert to the organization’s followers, the organization weighed in on two competing Republican-sponsored bills in the House of Representatives, which pertain to illegal immigrants and which are scheduled for a public hearing in the House next week. Not surprisingly, Advance America has chosen to support the more anti-immigrant bill, HB 1383, a bill we criticized last week.

HB 1383, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, would prohibit public schools from admitting children of illegal immigrants, prohibit state education institutions from enrolling illegal aliens, deny any public assistance benefits to illegal aliens (other than emergency medical care), or permit a government from issuing or renewing a license, permit or other official authorization to an illegal alien. The bill also makes it a Class C felony to "make, utter or possess" forged documents. And it requires Indiana law enforcement officials to get into the business of rounding up illegal aliens and turning them over to federal authorities.

As we pointed out last week, HB 1383 runs afoul of a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe. The Supreme Court in that case struck down a Texas statute which withheld from local school districts any state funds for the education of children who were not "legally admitted" into the United States, and which authorized local school districts to deny enrollment to such children as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Similarly, a federal court struck down California’s Proposition 187 approved by voters there which barred illegal aliens from receiving any taxpayer-paid benefits and services.

Not unlike the KKK’s Americanization agenda of the 1920s, Advance America is promoting a decisively anti-immigrant legislative agenda. Explaining its support of HB 1383, Advance America says it “believes that individuals who are in the state of Indiana illegally should not be treated the same as a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant.” In the 1920s, the KKK supported a legislative agenda which aroused anti-immigrant sentiments towards Eastern Europeans, Catholics and Jews. Today, Advance America targets the growing Hispanic immigrant population with anti-immigrant sentiment.

In sharp contrast to its support of HB 1383, Advance America attacks a bill offered by Rep. Mike Murphy (R-Indianapolis), HB 1310. The organization contends that Murphy’s bill “would pave the way for illegal immigrants to obtain a drivers license in the state of Indiana.” In fact, there is an equally strong anti-immigrant flavor to Murphy’s bill as well.

HB 1310 would create a special driver’s certificate in lieu of a driver’s license which the Bureau of Motor Vehicles would be required to issue to an individual who is otherwise qualified to drive a motor vehicle but cannot provide proof of residency in the United States. It also requires law enforcement agencies to report any person who is arrested and holds a “driver’s certificate” to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, presumably to put the federal immigration agency on notice of the presence of the illegal alien.

One of the purported reasons for HB 1310 is to allow illegal aliens to obtain legal driving privileges in the state so more of them will obtain insurance and protect Indiana residents from the risks of being involved in an accident with an uninsured, unlicensed illegal alien. But why would anyone of reasonable intelligence register with the state of Indiana as an “illegal alien” so that their status could immediately become available to federal immigration authorities? The bill will not do anything to dissuade illegal aliens from obtaining false documents, such as birth certificates and social security numbers, so they can obtain a driver’s license just like other residents hold and otherwise obtain employment.

Murphy’s bill also does nothing to address the problem that legal non-immigrants have in obtaining a driver’s license in Indiana legally because of the requirement that they provide proof of a social security number when applying for a driver’s license. Many otherwise legal, non-immigrant residents, such as students and the spouses of non-immigrant worker visa holders, are not eligible to work in the U.S. so they cannot obtain a social security number. Indiana used to allow such non-immigrant visa holders to obtain driver’s licenses as long as they could prove their current legal status in the country.

The BMV under Gov. Daniels began interpreting Indiana’s statute literally to require all applicants to provide proof of a social security number, a requirement that is in clear violation of the federal Real ID Act, which specifically provides that a driver’s license applicant be allowed to provide verification of their ineligibility for a social security number if their non-immigrant status does not include working privileges. All legal non-immigrants should be allowed to obtain a driver's license just as any other drivers are allowed to do, and not a driver' certificate as Murphy's bill would afford them.

Advance America’s suggestion that even an anti-immigrant bill like Murphy’s HB 1310 paves the way for conferring a benefit on illegal immigrants could not be further from the truth. The organization is so blinded by its prejudice towards the state’s growing Hispanic population that is unable to see HB 1310 as the anti-immigrant bill it is.

Both bills are scheduled for a hearing in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee next Tuesday, January 24th at 8:30 a.m. The committee should see fit to defeat both bills, leaving immigration policy to the federal government, which it alone has the constitutional authority to determine.

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