Today's Rochester Post Bulletin has published reaction to Monday's "immigration reform" meeting in Austin, where a member of the Minutemen spoke to an angry crowd. State Senator Dick Day, a candidate for the GOP endorsement for the 2008 congressional race in the First, attended the meeting, according to news sources.
In an article, Austin mayor writes report on immigration, the PB reports:
As the immigration debate in Austin gets hotter, Mayor Tom Stiehm has made what he calls "an attempt to move forward" on the issue.
Stiehm issued a report on immigration Thursday to let residents know what to expect.
Stiehm was criticized Monday at a meeting sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction and led by Ron Branstner, a Minuteman from California. Some people at the meeting said they felt Stiehm promised to rectify immigration to win election. Others wondered aloud why the mayor wasn't at the meeting.
"Tom Stiehm's flip-flop is documented," former Austin resident Don Hootch-Hanson said Monday. . . .
. . .Stiehm said he wasn't at Monday's immigration meeting because he was at a city council meeting. He said he's been to two previous immigration meetings, and "you don't really get to make points. You get to listen to them. When you try to respond, ... you basically get shot down. They don't want to hear what you have to say. ... I agree with them on a lot of things, there are some things I don't agree with them, and they are kind of intolerant when they hear you don't agree with them. But there are ways you could use their organization and their techniques."
More contact with the immigrant community is needed to figure out the goals of the city and how everyone can work together, Stiehm said.
UPDATE: KAAL-TV interviews the mayor of Austin in a news segment. In part:
. . .Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm, who campaigned on a platform of dealing with the city's illegal immigrants, has faced recent criticism.
Some organizers attempting to develop a strategy for dealing with illegal immigration in the city are upset that Stiehm missed a recent meeting.
So today the Mayor shared his views on how he thinks the city should deal with illegal immigrants.
He thinks the community should welcome immigrants who live and work peacefully in Austin…
"If people are here in Austin and not getting in trouble - we're not concerned about their legal status." ...
Go read or watch rest. [end update]
Carol Anthonisen, an Austin resident, writes in Racial hatred rears its ugly head in Austin:
. . .According to the article, Paul Westrum, a resident of Albert Lea and the founder of MCFIR, said the purpose of the meeting was to work on the immigration issue, which he said is not a racial issue but a legal one.
If this is true, then why are people in the crowd yelling things at Ms. Silvestry, like "send her back?" And why is this person saying things like "welcome to America" to someone, based on her ethnic/racial appearance?
The fact that her appearance is Hispanic/Latino does not mean she is an immigrant, let alone an illegal one.
"I've been here since I was born," responded Silvestry. . . .
. . .I agree that we need to enforce our current laws and strengthen our border patrols to reduce and prevent illegal immigration. I know there is no easy answer to what is to be done with the illegal immigrants who are already in our country. But meetings like the one hosted by this MCFIR group attract a certain element that is dissatisfied with things the way they are and will blame their problems on a group of people who happen to be of a certain ethnic or national origin.
These type of meetings focus people more toward increasing prejudice and bigotry. It's human nature to feel more empowered by being in a group, and this group is being empowered (intentionally or unintentionally) to stir hatred toward anyone who has immigrated to this country, illegally or legally. Examples? Some of the reported comments:
"The constitution is being taken away from us," shouted one person.
"This is going to be a third-world country soon," said another.
"Everyone in the world is going to come here," another said.
As one man was leaving, he suggested that the group "buy bullets."
Heaven help us if we start lending legitimacy to people who would suggest buying bullets as a solution to our problems. Has our society degenerated to the point where we think we need to kill our brothers and sisters because they exist in our country when we don't want them to? . . .
The comments posted after her column illustrate the problem she's talking about. To learn more about the consequences of eliminationist rhetoric, we recommend the superlative West coast blog, Orcinus.
We're also puzzled why the press asks no questions about the Minuteman's expertise or background. As we noted in our earlier post on Tuesday, the speaker has no national reputation--and a letter in the St. Cloud Times before Monday's meeting is his only prior appearance in the press on this issue.