I had the privilege of speaking for NumbersUSA last week at a fireworks-filled field briefing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the potential civil rights' impacts of state-passed immigration laws.
Instead of a civil discussion on the merits of state-passed laws, the Commission, led by Chairman Martin Castro, allowed the briefing to become a pro-illegal immigration demonstration.
Here are some of the headlines from Friday's briefing:
"Protest interrupts federal hearing in Birmingham on state immigration laws"
"Undocumented immigrants confront author of strict immigration laws"
"Civil rights panel holds quarrelsome hearing on illegal immigration laws"
"Kobach shouted down in Alabama"
SPLC INVITED TO DISCREDIT PRO-ENFORCEMENT SPEAKERS -- PROTESTORS DISRUPT TESTIMONY
The list of other speakers in support of state-passed immigration-enforcement laws included: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies, Dan Stein from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Alabama State Sen. Scott Beason, who authored the state's immigration-enforcement law, HB56, and Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain, among others.
When the speakers were first announced by the Commission on August 3, the list was evenly balanced between those who support state immigration-enforcement efforts, and those who oppose. But days before the briefing, the Commission announced that they were adding the Southern Poverty Law Center to the list. Let's be clear, the SPLC wasn't invited to debate for or against state-passed immigration laws. Instead, they were invited for the sole purpose of defaming and discrediting the speakers speaking on behalf of the laws.
In addition to the SPLC, other pro-illegal immigration groups staged protests throughout the day. The briefing's first speaker was Kris Kobach, and the protests started immediately. Four women stood up and turned their backs to Kobach once he began his testimony. The protest started innocent enough, but about a minute into his testimony, one of the women faced Kobach, called him a liar, and began a lengthy diatribe. Commission Chairman Martin Castro allowed this to go on for a minute or so before the protestors left on their own.
Kobach restarted his testimony, but was interrupted once again by an illegal alien who stood up holding a sign reading "undocumented" and shouted at Kobach in Spanish. When he was finished, Kobach started again before being interrupted again by another illegal alien who stood and held up a sign reading "undocumented". This sequence of events repeated about five times before Chairman Castro finally called in security (who was in another room) to remove the disruptive individuals from the briefing.
After Kobach, and the other members of the first panel completed their prepared statements, a constructive debate occured between the panel and the Commissioners. Unfortunately, the press followed the protestors out of the briefing room, missing one of the most important discussions during the 8-hour briefing.
THE CIVIL PANEL
I spoke on the second panel, which also happened to be the most civil of all the panels during the briefing. I was joined by Albertville, Ala. City Councilman Chuck Ellis who spoke about a relative who was killed by an illegal-alien, Steve Marshall, who serves as the District Attorney for Marshall County Alabama, elementary school principal Dr. William Lawrence, and representatives from legal centers in Alabama and South Carolina.
The discussion between the Commissioners and the panelists focused mostly on how the "show me your papers" provisions were being enforced by local police.
My testimony, however, focused on two other, less-controversial, provisions of Alabama's HB56 - E-Verify and the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program. Commissioner Peter Kirsanow used the basis of my testimony to ask every panelist who followed whether they supported a national mandate of E-Verify. Almost every panelist supported the suggestion.
ONE COMMISSIONER PARTICIPATED IN PROTEST SKIT DURING LUNCH
The Commission broke for about 45 minutes between the second and third panels for lunch. During the lunch break, protestors hosted a rally featuring a skit, complete with costumes, at the intersection outside the hotel. Again, this protest drew most of the media's attention, but most concerning was the participation of one of the Commissioners, Michael Yaki.
The Commission is bipartisan, but filled by political appointees. While the Commissioners do have their own partisan ideologies, which they frequently shared throughout the briefing, I thought Mr. Yaki lost his credibility by taking part in the protests.
SPLC STOPPED IN MIDDLE OF ITS DEFAMATION
The third panel featured Dan Stein, Mark Krikorian, and Carol Swain, along with Mary Bauer from the SPLC. Clearly, this panel was established to be the most contentious of the day.
Mid-way through her opening statement, Ms. Bauer was about to read the Center's recycled talking points meant to discredit and defame Kris Kobach, FAIR, the Center for Immigration Studies, and NumbersUSA. Commissioner Todd Gaziano, who had seen her written statement in advance, objected and prevented Ms. Bauer from continuing.
During the questioning of the panel, Commissioner Roberta Achtenberg asked Ms. Bauer to detail how the Center rates, without mentioning any names, potential "hate groups". This, of course, was their ploy to subliminally discredit several of the panelists.
At the end of the panel, Dan Stein formally requested that her submitted testimony be stricken from the record. We won't know if his request is successful until a final report is filed.
Also during the third panel, many of the illegal-aliens from the lunchtime protest walked in wearing t-shirts that read "undocumented and unafraid". The protestors were peaceful, but Commissioner Michael Yaki (who participated in the protests) stood up and gave a lengthy speech recognizing and honoring them. Once again, the Commission Chariman allowed the briefing to turn from a meaningful policy discussion to an advocacy event.
The Commission will now prepare a report, which will be voted on by the eight Commissioners. Since it's split between four Republican Commissioners and four Democrat Commissioners, the final report must be bipartisan to be passed as an official recommendation that's submitted to both Congress and the President. With the focus of Friday's hearing by both the media and a few of the Commissioners, I think it's quite possible that the final report will be voted down, and the briefing will be rendered one big waste of time.
CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Aug 21st 2012 @ 9:03pm EDT
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