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 CNS Story:

DEMS-IMMIGRATION Aug-26-2008 (460 words) With photo. xxxn

Convention panel stakes out interests on immigration

By Jim Myers
Catholic News Service

DENVER (CNS) -- Reform, rather than enforcement of the broken U.S. immigration system, is the most viable way to address illegal immigration, a panel of speakers said during the first day of the Democratic National Convention Aug. 25.

"We have to make sure that ... right-wing radicals like Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs aren't tainting this debate," said Andres Ramirez, vice president of host organization NDN, formerly known as the New Democrat Network.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House immigration subcommittee, said one institutional problem in need of change is that there is no comprehensive computer system for immigration agencies. She also took to task the way Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, has been run, particularly under Julie Myers, its director since 2007.

Lofgren called Myers unqualified for the position and said the agency has "been run in a way that has elicited condemnation from many circles."

Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, said some people's opposition to immigration reform is based in racism and bigotry.

"(Opponents) are referring to our community in animallike terms," said Murguia, adding that hate speech "is being parroted by cable news shows every night."

Panelists said a comprehensive approach to immigration reform is necessary to end illegal immigration. Marco Lopez, incoming director of commerce for the state of Arizona, said he had a unique insight into the illegal immigration problem as mayor of Nogales, Ariz., directly on the border. Arizona has joined with the government of the Mexican border state of Sonora and at the federal level to mitigate the damage from illegal immigration and better enforce laws, he said.

One joint project Lopez described teams the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with Mexican federal agencies in tracking guns that end up being used in Mexican crimes. Arizona and Sonora have also tightened restrictions on criminals being able to flee prosecution by jumping the border.

"These criminal elements understand and realize it is no longer easy to move around Arizona," said Lopez, noting that the harsh Arizona desert climate results in the death of 250 migrants crossing the border each year.

The NDN event was held the same day as the latest large-scale immigration raid by ICE. Immigration authorities said they arrested more than 350 workers at Howard Industries, a Laurel, Miss., electrical equipment manufacturer.

The raid effectively shut down the plant in southeastern Mississippi as workers suspected of being in the country illegally were taken away. The New York Times reported dozens of families had gathered at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Laurel seeking help in figuring out what had happened to relatives who were arrested.


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