Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Dos Mundos Bilingual Newspaper

Dos Mundos Bilingual Newspaper

“Harmful” laws and a Congressional medal to Cesar Chavez occupy Rep. Karen McCarthy’s time

By Carmen Cardinal

Partisan politics are at an all time high in Washington D.C. these days.
“In the decade since I went there, I have never seen the atmosphere be this partisan,” Rep. Karen McCarthy (5th District) told Dos Mundos.

When she first went to Congress in 1994, there was a change in power and Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich had his “Contract with America.” Things were highly partisan then, but things are worse than ever, she observes.

“Even the think tanks like the Brookings Institute have said things are really divided, and other Congressional leaders have mentioned it to me. What this means is, instead of focusing on the needs of the people, we are fighting over rhetoric and are not supporting each other.
Rep. Karen McCarthy
That is a loss for everyone. Intolerance is causing harmful legislation in Washington.”

“Education in the Hispanic community must be top priority. We must value the future of children. ‘No Child Left Behind’ is a measure that is not funded adequately, and even the president did not request more funds,” McCarthy added.

She finds the current Iraqi scandals unsettling. She said when she first saw the photos of the Iraqi prisoners, she said she felt physical discomfort and revulsion.

“Then I felt a sadness for the people. I am concerned that this will affect all our soldiers there. I fear that this will make our soldiers vulnerable and targets of future violence.

“This leads us back to the subject of education,” she said. “We should learn from history to not repeat it. It was the atrocities in Vietnam that turned the tide of popular American support.

“That picture of the little Vietnamese girl with the burns on her body is permanently fixed in my mind. I fear the picture of the Iraqi prisoners will become imbedded for the future.”

Two “harmful” measures up for a vote in Washington are of particular concern to her.
One is the Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments of 2004, amendments to the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. It would prohibit federal reimbursement of funds to hospitals that provide emergency and certain transportation services to undocumented aliens unless the hospital provides information to the Secretary of Homeland Security regarding an alien’s citizenship, immigration status, financial data and employer. The law would make the employer of certain undocumented aliens responsible for such costs. It directs the Secretary to initiate removal procedures against an alien determined to be “removable” under federal immigration law.

This would direct the Secretary of State to analyze the feasibility of effecting treaties for international medical evacuations. In effect this would penalize hospitals for treating undocumented immigrants. It is sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, (R-CA). It would make hospital and emergency rooms serve as extensions of the INS.

Those who oppose this say that it would severely undermine public health, create financial havoc in local hospitals and ER rooms and create additional financial burdens in the nation’s public health system. It would affect people who need to be tested and treated for communicable diseases like tuberculosis. It would hamper the primary care mission, which is tending to the sick and injured. It would be an unfunded mandate which would force the medical system to become overburdened financially. Many organizations representing the medical community already oppose the Rohrabacher proposal.

“This would be a tragedy all over the country,” McCarthy said. “It speaks to the issue of harmful intolerance and is currently on the agenda to be voted on.”

Clinics are being closed all over the country. She fears that without clinics, many Hispanics would wait until illness or injuries become severe and then would use the more costly emergency rooms for treatment.

“Another harmful bill, the worst of all, is the CLEAR Act,” she said.

The Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR), introduced by Rep. Charles Norwood (R-GA) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) would add federal immigration law enforcement to the list of duties that state and local police carry out and would withhold funding to state or local law enforcement that do not comply.

The act says that jurisdictions that fail to enact such statues, authorizing law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws, may not be federally reimbursed for incarcerating non-citizens. The funds would be reallocated to jurisdictions that are in compliance with the CLEAR Act. It would criminalize “unlawful presence” and would greatly increase penalties for immigration violations. Non-citizens would be fined and imprisoned for a year and be subject to “asset forfeiture.” It increases the penalties for illegal entry from six months imprisonment to one year. Civil penalties for illegal entry would increase from $50 and $250 to a new penalty of $500 for a first violation, $2,500 for a second, $5,000 for a third and $10,000 for more than three.

Anyone whose civil rights are violated could not sue an individual, such as an abusive officer. Only the agency involved, such as a police department, could be sued. Federal officers are immune to lawsuits. Fifty state and local jurisdictions across the United States have already adopted policies opposing requirements that their police officers enforce immigration laws. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, as well as Hispanic organizations has opposed it.

Local area departments have already taken a stand on this issue. In Kansas City, Kan., Chief Ronald Miller wrote to Sen. Brownback and Roberts (Nov. 19, 2003) that the police department has taken the lead in establishing meaningful relations with minority communities, especially Hispanics. If the CLEAR Act becomes law it will have a devastating effect on law enforcement and police services.

Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said in a letter to Rep. Dennis Moore, that it would be a detriment to all whom live, work and visit Overland Park, saying police protection is available to everyone. Lenexa, Chief Ellen T. Hanson, said the most troubling aspect is that it would cause members of certain groups not to report crimes or come forward with information for fear of being deported.

McCarthy said people who are untrained for specific jobs cause the scandalous acts in the Iraqi prisons. She fears that abuses by individuals who are not trained in immigration could also lead to similar abuses throughout the country.

The CLEAR Act has 121 sponsors but is not expected to go to the floor this year.

This year, McCarthy has secured more than $17 million for Kansas City Area Projects in the Transportation Equity Act, approved in the House of Representatives. Among the projects receiving funds are upgrades to Highway 350 through Raytown, U.S. Highway 50 and I-470 interchange; expansion of Chouteau Trafficway and South Riverfront Expressway; and public transportation including the Kansas City Phase 2 Bus Rapid Transit Project.

Additionally, $2 million will support the Lewis and Clark Expressway, a 23-mile stretch that will link the National Highway System Routes I-70, I-29 and I-35 with I-435. Other projects include safety improvements to the Grandview Triangle.

She is supporting a measure, proposed March 31, 2004, to award a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of Cesar Chavez in recognition of his service to the nation. A measure to create a national Cesar Chavez holiday is also being discussed.


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