Activists push immigration restrictions, hoping for illegals' self-deportation

By GIOVANNA DELL'ORTO Associated Press, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, February 26, 2006

ATLANTA - More than seven years ago, a Mexican family moved across the street from the Marietta home of D.A. King, the man who's come to personify the fight for immigration control in Georgia.

While King says he had hoped to become friends with his neighbors and even swap recipes, he soon became annoyed by the rusty cars in his neighbor's driveway, the many people regularly visiting the home, the contractors who came to pick some of them up for work on mornings.

Years later, after a climatic argument over Christmas lights - still outside the Mexicans' house on Valentine's Day - King tried to report the family to federal immigration officials, suspecting that the family's breadwinner was here legally but at least some of the other people staying with him might not be.

Despite leaving messages 15 times on the agency's automated phone system, King never heard back from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"I truly believed my government was going to come on a double, because there were people living in my country illegally," King said. "It continually occurs to me that perhaps there's two sets of laws. It seems to me that the poor down-sucker American taxpayer who trusted in his government to protect him and his borders is applying the law differently from the importers and the campaign donors who're hiring illegal aliens."

So began King's quest to end illegal immigration, have the military guard the nation's borders and prevent workers without visas from getting jobs, thus achieving his ultimate goal - the "self-deportation" of millions of people in the United States illegally who King sees as a burden and threat to the country's survival.

"We're being invaded and colonized as a nation," King said. "It's national suicide."

Activists like King are more aggressive and abrasive than professional, well-funded national lobbies like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has 70,000 members, and the 40,000-member Americans for Immigration Control. But they echo the same arguments and make the point that U.S. citizens are ready to take the fight in their own hands, the groups and scholars say.

"They help them dramatize the issues, lend credence to the idea that illegal immigration is out of control," said Wayne Cornelius, director of the University of California's Center for Comparative Immigration Studies in San Diego. "The historical motivation is perceived lack of integration and economic competition."

Giving up his savings and a longtime job as an insurance agent, the 53-year-old King has become ubiquitous both at rallies held by immigrant rights groups and at the state Capitol, where he supports measures aimed at deterring illegal immigrants from staying in Georgia.

King's fight mirrors Kathy McKee's, the Arizona woman in her 50s who led the successful push to require people to produce proof of citizenship when registering to vote and proof of immigration status when obtaining government services...,

"McKee's argument is that Washington, bought out by business interests, penalizes U.S. workers by importing an illegal work force that citizens must care for through taxpayer-funded services - making it, in her words, worse than slavery because "even slave owners provided for" those working for them.

While it's unclear whether undocumented immigrants pay enough in taxes to cover the few state services they can use, such as emergency health care and K-12 education, or even how much those services cost, the assumption that illegal immigrants get more out of U.S. coffers than Americans like King or McKee drives them, they said.

Their solution? To "demagnetize the magnets," in the words of Americans for Immigration Control spokesman Phil Kent, who lives in Atlanta. That means no guest worker programs, no automatic citizenship to U.S.-born babies, jailing employers of what he calls "wage thieves," and clamping down on public services to illegal immigrants.

"The best solution is to send them home," said Dan Stein, director of Federation for American Immigration Reform. "Raising the risk level gets them to go home."

That's what many proposals before the Georgia Legislature can do, supporters say.

The state House recently passed the first measure dealing with illegal immigration, which would tack a 5 percent surcharge on wire transfers from anyone who cannot prove they are legally in the United States. Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, also has introduced a far-reaching proposal that would deny state benefits to adults who can't prove they're here legally, require law enforcement to check the immigration status of those they arrest, and prevent employers from declaring pay for illegal immigrants as a business expense on their taxes.

Stein said his group helps write legislation that can withstand legal challenges, though he wouldn't confirm he was involved with Rogers' proposal. King said seeing it become law would make him feel "accomplished."

King and the other activists share dire predictions for the country's future unless Mexico particularly stops "sending us its excess population," in his words, and states send the message to illegal immigrants that they want them gone.

"Large areas of America are descending into a Third World status," Kent said. "There's a rising underclass of people."

Unless the influx of immigrants [[note from D.A. King...I said illegal aliens!]]is stopped, legal newcomers won't have the chance to assimilate into mainstream America, King and others say.

"I'm against this because it's tearing our nation apart," King said.

"We're not a nation of immigrants, we're a nation of law."

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