Archive for Monday, March 5, 2007

Hispanic group sets immigration forum

March 5, 2007

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— A local Hispanic organization has plans to hold a community forum with a group that promotes reporting illegal immigrants.

Bob Hernandez, co-chairman of The People's Alliance for Latino Advancement, said his group wants to arrange the forum with the Kansas Minuteman Civil Defense Corp., so the two groups can explain their missions, discuss problems and identify immigration solutions. The date of the forum has not been announced.

The Minuteman organization encourages people to identify illegal immigrants' addresses. The group will report check-cashing facilities and landlords who do business with or rent to illegal immigrants.

"If you're here legally standing in line to become a citizen, I'm cheering you on," said Ed Hayes, founder of the Kansas Minuteman chapter. "But people who come here from countries all over the world, illegally, from the northern and southern borders, we want them to go home."

Hernandez said he agrees with the Minuteman group's mission to speak out against illegal immigration.

"If white people stand up and do it, they're called racists," he said. "If Mexicanos like myself do it, people will say, 'You have a point."'

Hernandez, a National Guardsman, said he's against open borders and people who profit from smuggling immigrants. There is no oversight for Mexico's government, which keeps wages low and caters to the rich, he said. So people flee north and send billions of dollars back home.

"We want the U.S. government to quit pandering to Mexico," Hernandez said. "We want Mexico to take care of (its) people."

The Rev. Rene Tario, of the Wichita Hispanic Ministerial Alliance, said he's against the two groups combining efforts to put on the forum.

"PALA is not speaking on behalf of the Hispanic/Latino community," he said. "Regardless of their claims, they (Minuteman) basically want to harass, discriminate and create a hostile environment in the state of Kansas."

Between 40,000 to 70,000 unauthorized migrants live in Kansas, according to a 2006 report from the Pew Hispanic Center. The figures include some people who have temporary permission to live in the United States and those whose immigration status is unresolved, which is why the report uses the term "unauthorized migrants."

The Kansas Minuteman group started in September 2006. It has chapters in Wichita, Emporia and Kansas City and its surrounding areas, and chapters under development in Hutchinson and Topeka, Hayes said.

Membership is in the hundreds, Hayes said. He couldn't provide an exact figure.

Hernandez said he wanted to learn more about the Minuteman group so he could decide for himself whether it promoted racism.

"Quite honestly, I think some of the things they're doing are not so far removed from what PALA thinks," Hernandez said. "We know there's an immigration problem that needs to be resolved."

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