Latinos protest, fast for residency bill

The Associated Press
Saturday September 30, 2000

PASADENA – Latino activists protested outside Republican Party offices, trying to drudge up support for a bill that would make permanent residency possible for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. 

Outside the Republican Club of Pasadena Thursday, some took part in the nationwide mobilization by beginning a symbolic two-day fast across the street from the Republican storefront in Pasadena. They object to congressional Republicans’ blocking a bill called the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act, sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. 

“The Republicans are courting the Latino vote, but they don’t want to vote for us,” said Angela Sanbrano, executive director of the Central American Resource Center. 

The bill would give amnesty to illegal immigrants and others who have lived in the United States since 1986. The current cutoff date is 1972. 

It also would give green cards to Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Haitians who have been living in the United States since December 1995. That same treatment is currently given to Nicaraguans and Cubans. 

A third element of the bill would allow illegal immigrants eligible for green cards the chance to apply without having to return to their home countries. 

Unofficial estimates placed the number of people who could be helped by the legislation at more than 800,000. 

Opponents call the bill a blatant pre-election move that rewards lawbreakers and encourages illegal immigration. 

“We are a government of laws, and they are here illegally,” said John Lampmann, spokesman for Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, head of the House Immigration Subcommittee. “When you encourage people to come in illegally, which amnesties do, you’re undercutting the opportunity for those who have played by the rules.” 

Protesters said the legislation, which the Clinton administration supports, would help hundreds of thousands of immigrants who contribute to the U.S. economy and consider this country home. 

“I don’t know anyone in El Salvador,” said Jose Panameo, 22, who arrived as a teen-ager from Central America and was among the protesters Thursday in Pasadena. He is fighting deportation as he studies computer science at Los Angeles City College. 

“I can“t imagine what kind of a future I would face back there,” Panameo said.