Candidates' Immigration Policy Criticized at D.C. Event
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the Sun | September 11, 2008
WASHINGTON — Scores of anti-immigration activists have come to the capital to voice their dissatisfaction with the presidential candidates, the 14th Amendment, and federal efforts to secure the country's southern border.
Yesterday more than two dozen conservative radio hosts and CNN's Lou Dobbs broadcast from the Phoenix Park Hotel, within sight of the Capitol. The annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire event, hosted by the anti-immigration organization Federation for American Immigration Reform, also has attracted hundreds of citizens whose prime political concern appears to be immigration.
Ruth Ellsworth, 85, of Silver Spring, Md., said the key to stemming immigration was to repeal the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1868 to guarantee citizenship and its attendant rights to former slaves. The amendment guarantees the principle of "birthright citizenship," that any baby born in America is, with few exceptions, a citizen regardless of the parents' immigration status.
"We passed it to free the slaves, but there are no slaves anymore," Ms. Ellsworth said of the amendment. "Now they come across the border to have border babies. The 14th Amendment is out of date. I wish they'd repeal it."
Ms. Ellsworth, who yesterday made the first lobbying trip of her life to Capitol Hill, said she did not support Senator Obama, the Democratic candidate for president, or Senator McCain, the Republican candidate. She said she suspects that Mr. Obama, who is black, harbors a dislike of white people, an assessment she said is based solely on inflammatory statements by Mr. Obama's former pastor in Chicago, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
As for Mr. McCain, Ms. Ellsworth said she disapproves of legislation the senator authored in 2006 to create a process for undocumented immigrants to seek legal status. "I oppose that," she said. "It cheapens our citizenship."
Anti-immigration activists said they saw both Mr. Obama, who is the son of a Kenyan man and an American woman, and Mr. McCain as holding to similarly pro-immigration platforms.
"In a certain sense people into this issue don't care who gets elected," a former mayor of San Diego and talk show host, Roger Hedgecock, said in an interview before his broadcast. Mr. Hedgecock said 100 of his listeners had paid $1,500 each to join him in Washington to hear his broadcasts and lobby legislators.
"The candidates are in a conundrum because they don't know how to bring in that independent vote," the Florida director of the anti-immigration group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Bill Landes, said. "And they won't unless they come and say they are going to be about border protection first. The American people want their country back."