Reaction on Capitol Hill to Immigration Rallies
Reaction on Capitol Hill to Immigration Rallies
Alex Chadwick speaks with Rep. John Hostetler (R-IN), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims, about Monday's immigrant boycott and demonstrations across the country, and the future of immigration legislation now being debated in Congress.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up if you've heard coverage of the immigration rights demonstrations, you've heard this a lot.
(Soundbite of demonstrators chanting: Si, Se Puede)
CHADWICK: Si, Se Puede: it means, Yes You Can.
BRAND: And now, some people are wondering if yes, that phrase is over done. More on that in a moment. First though, pro-immigrant rallies drew crowds in most big American Cities on Monday. Los Angeles had the biggest showing, 600,000 people. In Chicago, police say there were 400,000. But in both Texas and Atlanta, organizers saw smaller turnouts than expected. Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill are watching the demonstrations.
CHADWICK: John Hostetler is a Republican congressman from Indiana and chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims. Congressman Hostetler welcome to the program.
Representative JOHN HOSTETLER (Republican, Indiana; Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims): Good to be with you.
CHADWICK: What's your reaction to the boycotts and marches of yesterday?
Rep. HOSTETLER: Well I think the boycotts and marches were in order to send a message to America, that the absence of many of these workers from the workplace, would cause a significant harm to the economy. I think that what we saw is the extent to which our, the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws, has taken us. And what I am sensing from my district is that American citizens are very concerned about the length and breath of which the illegal immigration population has become in our country.
CHADWICK: The Washington Post reports that the White House is hoping to get a deal on immigration legislation before the end of this month, ideally, including a provision for citizenship with contingencies, for people who are here illegally. And that the White House has hopes to persuade House Republicans to go along with that. Is that doable?
Rep. HOSTETLER: Well it's not doable for this House Republican because we send just a terrible message to the rest of the world. And that message is this: that if you violate our immigration laws and enter the country illegally or violate the terms of your VISA and remain in the country illegally, and you can evade law enforcement long enough, it's likely that the government will allow you to continue to stay.
CHADWICK: Congressman, you must have employers in your district who, over the last 20 years since the 1986 Immigration Reform Act, have integrated these workers into their businesses, into the economy, into the community. I mean, what do you say to those people?
Rep. HOSTETLER: Whether employers in my district or any other district in the country, we must enforce the law, including especially the law regarding the jobs' magnet.
CHADWICK: You sent a letter last month to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, suggesting that if companies shut down yesterday, closed voluntarily, that's de facto proof that they are employing people here illegally, otherwise they would've stayed open, and they should be investigated. And you cited McDonald's as an example. Did you get a response to that letter?
Rep. HOSTETLER: I have not, as of yet. We sent it late last month. These seem to me to be, potentially, a target rich environment for ICE to enforce the immigration laws. And that's the message, I guess I should say the suggestion that we sent to the Department of Homeland Security regarding these boycotts.
CHADWICK: How important is this going to be in the elections in November?
Rep. HOSTETLER: This issue will probably be either the first or second most important issue, because of timing, and the series of events that have put this in the forefront of everyone's mind. The initial demonstrations that included mass waving of foreign flags on U.S. soil, the discussion about the singing of the National Anthem in a language other than English. And then this idea of possibly hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens boycotting their jobs. And so, I think that this issue will be very prevalent in the minds of voters as they go to the election places this fall.
CHADWICK: Congressman John Hostetler, a Republican from Indiana, chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims. Thank you Congressman.
Rep. HOSTETLER: Thank you.
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