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Farmers Branch Issues Clarified on Radio KNON

Attorney Marisol Perez was the guest on the "Workers Beat" program on KNON radio (89.3 FM and January 24. The Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund (MALDEF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have sued the City Council of Farmers Branch over an anti-immigrant ordinance. Perez said that the slightly-tweaked new version of the ordinance which the City Council passed on January 24 as a substitute for their slightly older version did not basically modify the problem from a legal point of view: The City of Farmers Branch is still trying to substitute itself for the federal government on constitutional issues.

Politicians at Farmers Branch want to force apartment owners to police their tenants for citizenship. Heavy fines would result if they allowed undocumented workers to live on the premises. The same politicians want to connect their police force with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) part of the federal government. Perez called this arrangement a "287G contract" that uses a federal statute in effect since 1996. It would allow local governments to get federal money for training of their police. Afterward, they would be allowed more leeway in questioning people about their citizenship status. Presently, Perez said, they can only ask people about their citizenship when they are already in custody over some other violation. The days of pulling people over for "driving while brown" or "walking while brown" have not yet been legally instituted.

Several callers to the radio show envisioned such radical racial profiling as being very close in America. There have been a lot of rumors about local police setting up barricades to ask everybody about their citizenship status. Perez implied that such rumors are unfounded, but the powers that the City Council of Farmers Branch want constitute a grave danger nontheless.

The attorney noted that Farmers Branch residents forced the City Council to have an election on their anti-immigrant proposal. She encouraged people to register to vote and get involved in the political process. One caller, an employer in the construction industry, said that immigrants do not really want to work. Another caller, a construction worker, said that they do.

The most important point made was that working people win benefits only when they organize, and that means organizing everybody on a worksite -- those with and those without documents. The anti-immigrant movement today is nothing but another attempt to divide and defeat working people.

At its January meeting, North Texas Jobs with Justice voted to support the MALDEF lawsuit.

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