'When Aliens Live in Your Land' | Sojourners

'When Aliens Live in Your Land'

Late last September it looked like so-called immigration reform, a veiled attempt to deny immigrants' rights, was finally dead. The sweeping law that had aroused passion and prejudice, that Congress had debated, revised, and fought over for some three years, was quietly put to rest by a procedural motion. Then, less than two weeks later, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives. A month later President Reagan signed it into law.

A primary reason for the law's resurrection: calls and letters to members of Congress from constituents who complained about increasing crime, violence, and drugs along the U.S.-Mexico border and who said they were scared for their safety, their jobs, and their children.

Last November an initiative to make English the "official" state language in California passed with an overwhelming 74 percent of the vote. USENGLISH, a 260,000-member national organization, played on age-old pride, fear, and resentment against immigrants to garner the support of millions - including many Californians of Hispanic descent - for Proposition 63. The law threatens to eliminate bilingual state services for some two million California residents and drastically curtail the state's bilingual education program, which serves almost 600,000 children.

Meanwhile, residents in Texas' Rio Grande Valley were working to keep Central American refugees out of their towns and neighborhoods. Their complaints forced Casa Romero, a four-year-old shelter for refugees operated by the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, to close its doors temporarily. When church officials began trying to relocate the shelter, residents mounted another campaign, symbolized by a drawing of a house with a slash through it, next to the words "Casa Romero No!"

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