Utah Lawmaker Pushes for Illegal Alien Amnesty

On March 24, the House Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing called “How Would Millions of Guest Workers Impact Working Americans and Americans Seeking Employment?”

The hearing took place in connection with various “guest worker” bills pending before Congress.  Rep. Chris Cannon (search), R-Utah, a committee member, has spent extraordinary resources trying to convince voters that the bill he co-sponsors is not an amnesty, though it would not prosecute the millions of illegal aliens (search) who have committed a crime by entering or remaining in the U.S. without a current visa. Instead, it would give them a work permit.

Cannon, a lawmaker, has openly expressed his contempt for the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. “We love immigrants in Utah. We don’t make the distinction very often between legal and illegal,” he said on June 6, 2002, as he received an Excellence in Leadership award from MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (search). Cannon’s remarks are entirely consistent with the beliefs of MALDEF’s co-founder, Mario Obledo, who said in June 1998 “California is going to be a Hispanic state and anyone who doesn't like it should leave. They should go back to Europe.” 

"Reconquista" is a term employed by groups like MALDEF who want to see California and its neighboring states annexed, at least culturally, with people free to move there from Mexico. If there had ever been doubts that Cannon was doing the bidding of the "reconquistadors," they were erased at that hearing. Cannon’s bill, the Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003 (AgJOBS,” H.R. 3142 (search), would make all foreign nationals who were illegally in the United States between February 2002 and January 2003 (which Cannon estimates is 11 million people), and who had also worked for 100 days in agriculture, immune from prosecution for the crime of entering the U.S. without a current visa, and then give them work permits.

The bill also mandates payment of a penalty, and Cannon cites this as his reason to not label it an amnesty. But under the AgJOBS bill, the normal immigration law that prohibits gaining legal immigration status due to unlawful presence would be waived. Though this doesn’t fit Cannon’s definition of “amnesty,” it worked for Webster.   

Thanks to the House of Representatives’ excellent Judiciary Committee Web site, Utah’s voters can see the depths to which Chris Cannon is willing to go in an effort to smear advocates of immigration reduction as white supremacists. Rep. Cannon employed a line of questioning developed by members of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950’s. In referring to an umbrella organization of groups that advocate against massive, uncontrolled immigration, Cannon asked one witness, “Did you go to lunch with other folks that were associated with that umbrella organization?”

But according to Allison Solin of ProjectUSA (search), the Washington, DC-based social advocacy organization that has five billboards up in Utah’s 3rd Congressional district advertising Rep. Cannon’s support for an illegal alien amnesty, Rep. Cannon wants to have it both ways.

“Congressman Cannon objects to our participation in the political debate in Utah and calls us an ‘outside special interest,’” says Ms. Solin. “Yet we’re only Americans exercising our democratic rights. On the other hand, Congressman Cannon seems to have no problem with ‘outsiders’ as long its cheap foreign labor driving down American wages and making life even more difficult for struggling American families.”

Indeed, most of the hundreds of organizations listed on his website as endorsing his AgJOBS amnesty represent industries that stand to profit financially from cheaper labor, and some of the groups listed actually work in concert with the government of Mexico to influence U.S. immigration policy.

“In our view,” says Ms. Solin, “those are the real ‘outside special interests.'”

The attempt, however, to cast immigration reductionists as white supremacists did provide one humorous, if embarrassing, moment in last Wednesday’s House hearing. Rep. Cannon was deep into a rambling monologue in which he was attempting to draw links between the alleged white supremacists plotting a take-over of the Sierra Club and the alleged white supremacists driving the immigration reduction movement. At one point, Rep. Cannon, following the Southern Poverty Law Center line, asserted that five current candidates for the Sierra Club’s Board of Directors are all members of this white supremacist conspiracy. Unbeknownst to him, however, one of those Sierra Club candidates was sitting right in front of him at the witness table — Frank Morris, a black man who formerly headed the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Many observers have said that when it comes to illegal immigration, there is very little difference between the positions of the two major parties. But voters have a choice when it comes to Chris Cannon. Cannon’s positions and rhetoric do not so much resemble those of either major political party as those of the radical Left. Again and again, he speaks of a Marxist, Open Borders America in which the notion of “illegal immigrant” no longer exists. Then he legislates for it.

Rep. Cannon has found his constituency. It just doesn’t consist of American citizens.

Matt Hayes began practicing immigration law shortly after graduating from Pace University School of Law in 1994, representing new immigrants in civil and criminal matters. He is the author of The New Immigration Law and Practice, to be published in October.

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