Friday, June 06, 2008

Times-Picayune Again Editorializes on Immigration

I have to give it to the editors at the Times-Picayune. They have been relentless in their coverage of the immigration bills before the Louisiana legislature, and they have been clear in their opposition to such bills. Today's editorial, titled "Give up flawed effort," is the third editorial in as many weeks on the topic. In case you missed it, here it is in full:

Friday, June 06, 2008

It's comforting that some lawmakers have finally raised concerns about the misguided immigration bills proposed by Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann.

Rep. Geymann, however, is vowing to bring his proposals back next week. He should instead heed the flaws highlighted by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee B and abandon his proposals.

House Bills 1357 and 1358 would make it a crime to "harbor, conceal or shelter" and to transport illegal residents. Another of Rep. Geymann's proposals, House Bill 25, would require law enforcement agencies to verify citizenship and immigration status of every person arrested.

These bills are unenforceable, likely unconstitutional and a vehicle for racial profiling of people who look Hispanic, whether they are here legally or not. These are reasons enough to scrub the proposals.

Committee members apparently understand these problems. At a hearing this week, Kenner Sen. Danny Martiny questioned how police officers could determine whether someone is here legally or illegally.

That's a good question, considering most Americans don't carry passports, birth certificates or other proof of citizenship. Many people don't even have those records readily available.

Sen. Eric LaFleur of Ville Plate worried about many innocent residents and employers being trapped by the dragnet these bills would cast.

Defending the measures, Rep. Geymann said the bills aim at people who exploit illegal immigrants or businesses that hire them knowing of their illegal status.

But as Sen. Butch Gautreaux of Morgan City pointed out, the proposals do not make those distinctions. Sen. Gautreaux said the result would be profiling against people who "look a little different" or "are not speaking the king's Cajun English."

That's the most pernicious of these bill's flaws. Yet Rep. Geymann assured his colleagues that such profiling would not take place and that prosecutors would not abuse the bills. If he truly believes that, he's being naive.

Profiling was one of the problems Louisiana courts found in a 2002 law that made it a felony to drive without proof of legal U.S. residency.

Having no way to discern who may be here legally and who may not, police officers used the bill to unfairly target Latinos. Several U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent were wrongly charged for failing to carry documents proving citizenship -- which no American is expected to have on them. The courts appropriately ruled the law unconstitutional last year.

Our country needs strict border control and a sensible immigration policy that gives illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Trying to pass constitutionally questionable proposals at the state level is not the answer.

The Senate committee members can see that -- so should Rep. Geymann.
I agree with every word. [And the Times-Picayune finally got Rep. Geymann's first name correct, too!]

Other states may find it more to their liking to go after undocumented immigrants with such legislative initiatives; but it just isn't in the spirit of the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic gumbo that is Louisiana to follow the same path. We are a very heterogenous, welcoming, and culturally pluralistic state, especially in the more populous Southern parts of the state. And the majority of the Senators in Judiciary Committee B come from Southern Louisiana. These bills just don't fit who we are. For these reasons, I'm confident that they'll be defeated. Rest assured that I'll be in Baton Rouge this coming week to testify when these bills will be scheduled for a hearing once again.

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