Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Springfield Minutemen and Councilman Burlison's proposal on city immigration reform, in his own words

Last night I sent an e-mail to Councilman Doug Burlison. In that e-mail I told him that I was dismayed with the treatment he had received by the News-Leader in an "Our Voice" section editorial. I received a reply from him and I will be sharing parts of that reply. However, before I do that, I also want to address some other issues I had with the article published in the Springfield News-Leader.

Just supposing that some readers of JackeHammer may wonder why it is so important to me to write this, I will tell you that it is important to me because the truth is important to me. When I see an egregious misrepresentation of my fellow citizens published in the city's foremost newspaper it angers me. It angers me because there are likely some people in this city who will believe whatever opinion the News-Leader offers simply because it is in the News-Leader or simply because it is in a newspaper.

I have no reason to believe that the News-Leader will make necessary corrections because they are too busy hiding behind anonymous editorials, squealing that it's "just our opinion." But I don't write this entry out of anger (I wrote my angry piece earlier). I write this piece because the citizens of Springfield, Missouri deserve the truth.

In that editorial the anonymous News-Leader writer implied that the Springfield Chapter of the Minutemen had "arrived" in Springfield a year ago, as though they were outsiders who came in from another city or another state. According to the article they came here to "rail" against illegal immigration and they've tried to "insert" themselves into the "local" debate. The News-Leader also claimed that most of the attention the Minutemen have received has been negative.

These errors and misrepresentations were all in the very first paragraph of the article.

1). The Springfield Chapter of the Minutemen is made up of local members. They didn't "arrive" in Springfield, they were already citizen voters of Springfield.

2). I suppose one could say they "rail" against illegal immigration, or if one was not trying to give the impression that they are a bunch of outsider extremists one could say they are addressing or confronting the issue of illegal immigration.

3). They've not "inserted" themselves into the "local" debate because they were already a part of the local debate. Becoming a member of the Ozark Minutemen Chapter did not change that. They have been a part of the local debate and they remain a part of the local debate.

Some of the Springfield Minutemen's members are former or retired police officers, some are first responders, some are paramedics, and others are concerned citizens simply wishing to have a voice on the issue. These citizens have played vital roles in their community, have played roles of immense value here and are respectable citizens who deserve to be treated with respect.

4). Negative attention? From whom? I have not been aware of any negative attention other than at the News-Leader.

In fact, they have received quite positive attention from Newstalk KSGF, whose web site provides a link to their web site. Vincent David Jericho has embraced them and played a role in bringing the chapter here by his encouragement. Jericho has reported on the strict vetting process that the Minutemen Corps goes through before accepting a member. Members are expected to pay a $50.00 fee to cover the cost of the background check that each member must undergo before being accepted as a member.

THAT doesn't sound negative.

The Community Free Press recently published a story about the Ozarks Chapter of the Minutemen. It was in the May 9 issue, here is an excerpt:

All Minutemen members must pass a background check and an interview. The membership process is designed to weed out people who are racist or have other tendencies that might make them undesirable for membership.
"I want to stress that we are not racist, and we are not opposed to legal immigration," Wilburn said. "We have strict standard operating procedures and do not tolerate racism of any form."

THAT doesn't sound negative.

I didn't think this KY3 - News story treated the Minuteman Chapter "negatively," or this one either. As a matter of fact, excluding the News-Leader I'd say most press and media outlets have treated the Springfield Minutemen Chapter positively, not negatively.

Looking at the second paragraph of the News-Leader article we find that apparently, according to the News-Leader, the Minutemen should not be trying to affect city policy, at least it's implied, then, but a few short sentences later the News-Leader cites the Southern Poverty Law Center,

"which tracks hate groups of all sizes and colors. The Minutemen aren't a hate group, but a new class of what the SPLC calls "extremist nativist" groups. They're dangerous, the SPLC says, because they tend to target people, or groups of people, rather than policies."

So, while the SPLC is identifying the Minutemen as a group which targets people, or groups of people rather than policies they are busy themselves...targeting the Minutemen as people, as a group, calling them "extremist nativists," claiming "they're dangerous." Rather than debating the ideas the the Minutemen have for solving problems created by illegal immigration the Southern Poverty Law Center chooses to label them and call them names.

My question is, is the SPLC trying to affect city policy and is that okay with the News-Leader?

Is the SPLC a dangerous group because they are targeting people or groups of people rather than policies, and, if so, why doesn't the News-Leader identify them as such? Or why doesn't the SPLC monitor themselves?

You see, the Minutemen, by appealing to Councilman Burlison are trying to affect city policy, the Minutemen via Burlison are offering a proposal to address problem issues caused by illegal immigration and instead of being thanked for their effort at approaching the issue as good citizens, by law, by policy, by requesting enforcement of existing policy, they are accused of "targeting people and groups of people." It is not the Minutemen who have targeted people or a group of people, indeed, it is the Southern Poverty Law Center who has targeted the Minutemen. "Oh, what a tangled web we weave..."

Now, the real issue, and yes, I'm finally going to get to what Doug Burlison wrote to me in that e-mail, is what are the points of the proposal Doug Burlison has pledged to bring to the Council? Shouldn't that be the issue? Rather than an attack on the Minutemen and the implication that Doug Burlison has been led down some primrose path to do the bidding of "extremist nativists" who according to the SPLC are "dangerous?" Geesh. Let's get to it.

Doug Burlison, who feels it is "obviously time for some clarification," wrote:

"I am proposing that we pass an ordinance that requires locally licensed businesses who knowingly employ undocumented workers to: A. Receive a warning, B. Pay a fine of $500 for every undocumented worker in their employ, C. Pay a fine of $1,000 for every undocumented worker still in their employ, and D. Forfeit their license to operate in the city for one year if the previous measures have failed to bring about responsible business behavior.'

That is the proposal on which Councilman Burlison is working. That is what the Springfield News-Leader could have been giving serious consideration. That is focusing on policy rather than on people or groups of people. Dangerous? Perhaps it might be viewed as dangerous to those who continue to break the law "knowingly" however, for law abiding citizens there is no "danger" in this proposal.

Later, Doug wrote:

"It has been said that as a municipality, we should not deal with federal issues. Historically, this is what is communicated when we do not have the will to tackle touchy subjects....

" If we, as a city, do not involve ourselves with federal issues, why do we have a D.A.R.E. program? Why do we have “Sister Cities” when involvement with international communities is clearly a federal responsibility? The truth of the matter is that illegal immigration has not been purely a federal issue for years, now. Local communities have been affected in a big way, and to turn a blind eye to that would be shirking the duty that as a city councilman, I have been elected to serve.

"It has also been said that we already have laws on the books that address these issues. If that is the case, then the problem we have is the lack of any will to enforce said laws. Citizens of this community have tried over and over again to have officials respond to allegations, yet the only response they get is a litany of excuses as to why they can do nothing. My proposal is designed to be more specific so that local law enforcement has a clearer mandate from it’s citizenry to act on violations of this ordinance.

"It has also been said that local law enforcement does not have enough resources to deal with new arenas of enforcement measures. Since these laws were allegedly already on the books, I wonder if we, the people, could be given a list of which laws we already have, but cannot afford to enforce?

"It has also been alluded to that this is not a widespread problem in Springfield. If that is the case, then the costs of enforcement should be pretty minimal. The truth is that this is a problem, but it is not a prevailing one in Springfield at this point. Illegal immigration is widespread in the cities of some of our southwest Missouri neighbors, so now is the time for this ordinance to pass in Springfield, not just as a punitive action against existing situations, but just as much as a preventative measure against future problems.

"...Do I believe that we should have a totally documented society where periodic guards detain us and ask, “May I see your papers, please?” Definitely not. Do I seek to punish the illegal immigrant with imprisonment or deportation? Not on Springfield’s buck. Do I seek protection for my fellow citizens from unscrupulous
businesses that exploit cheap undocumented labor? You bet. Some may call this type of activity pure capitalism, kids on the playground call that sort of thing cheating. Finally, can I wait until the federal government gets it’s act together on immigration while good companies are losing business, good people are losing jobs, and good families are suffering? I don’t think so."

This is not a man who has been "convinced" by the Minutemen to follow down a primrose path. This is a man of conviction who deserves the respect that his proposal warrants.

I thank Councilman Burlison for sharing his views with me. It was an honor to share them with you.

1 comment:

The Libertarian Guy (tm) said...

Thanks for standing up for our Councilman, Jacke.