Minutemen at Columbia
The vigilante border patrol group, The Minuteman Project, has received more than its fair share of attention in recent weeks. It all stems from an October 4th incident at Columbia University , where the group's founder, Jim Gilchrist, was invited to speak by the College Republicans.
Soon after Gilchrist began his speech, two Columbia students came onstage and unfurled a banner reading, "No One is Illegal." A tug of war over the banner ensued, and more people rushed onto the stage. Fists started to fly, and the event was shut down.
Unfortunately, a speech that should have been a blip on the media radar has instead catapulted The Minuteman Project into the national media spotlight. Lost in the wake of the spectacle and the debate about each side's free-speech rights is any serious discussion of our nation's immigration policies, which remain utterly dysfunctional and in need of comprehensive reform.
New Yorkers Protest Immigration Policies
On October 21st, hundreds of New Yorkers rallied at Union Square Park and marched to Times Square to call for full legalization, family reunification, an end to detentions and deportations, and equal rights for all workers.
Protesters constructed a Wall of Remembrance to memorialize their loved ones who have suffered under the immigration laws - in prison, in deportation, at the border, or in an abusive workplace - and a procession of mock coffins symbolized deaths at the border and the death of human rights. The protest was organized by New York United for Immigrant Rights.
Nonetheless, on October 26th, President Bush signed into law the Secure Fence Act, authorizing construction of a 700-mile border fence along the U.S./Mexico border. The fence is projected to cost at least $6 billion, though many experts doubt the wall's feasibility. The bill's enactment is widely viewed as election-year posturing by politicians who want to appear tough on illegal immigration.
Immigrants Running for State Office
Several candidates running for State Assembly this year hail from New York 's immigrant communities.
Democrat Alec Brook-Krasny is competing for an assembly seat against Republican Patricia B. Laudano in South Brooklyn 's 46th Assembly District, where the Russian American community has emerged as a potent political force. In the September primaries' tightest race, Brook-Krasny narrowly defeated his rival, Russian-language journalist Ari Kagan, by 94 votes. If he prevails in the general election, Brook-Krasny, who served as founding executive director of the Council of Jewish ?migr? Community Organizations, would become the first Russian immigrant in the country to be elected to a state legislature.
In Assembly District 22 in Flushing, Queens , Democrat Ellen Young, a former top aide to City Councilmember John Liu, will face off against Republican Christopher M. Migliaccio, a 23-year-old law student. Flushing is one of the most diverse communities in the nation, with established Irish and Italian communities living beside large Chinese and Korean immigrant populations. That diversity was reflected in the Democratic primary, where Young narrowly defeated Terrence Park and Julia Harrison by 122 votes. If elected, Young would become the first Asian woman to serve in Albany .
Norman Eng is an attorney and communications coordinator with The New York Immigration Coalition.