News

Sparks fly in "Civility Roundtable" immigration discussion

An event designed to bring some civility back into the debate on illegal immigration did just that, bringing the various sides together in Mountain View on Tuesday for a discussion that was heated at times but ended with opponents shaking hands.

Residents packed the Senior Center ballroom Thursday evening for a Civility Roundtable discussion even more well attended than the first, with 120 people signing in, said Ken Rosenberg, who organized the event along with several other members of the city's Human Relations Commission.

Residents eventually broke out into groups to talk, but the event began with a 40-minute "active demonstration of civility" with five speakers, including Jose Antonio Vargas, the former Mountain View High School student and Pulitzer-Prize winner who revealed his story of being an undocumented immigrant in The New York Times magazine nine months ago.

"This Vargas miscreant is a shining example of how vile, lawless and corrupt the Obama Regime has become," said Rosenberg as he read some quotes from the Voice's online Town Square forum, where, like most newspaper websites, immigration is a hot topic. "This creep should have been on a plane headed for Manila the day he revealed his status."

The posts represented the low watermark in terms of language that organizers hoped to stay well above.

Rosenberg read another post about the event: "What is there to discuss? Don't we all know that violation of immigration laws is criminal and people who employ these illegal immigrants are criminals as well?"

"What we are not discussing tonight is whether I am a good person or not," said moderator Chris Block, CEO of American Leadership Forum, Silicon Valley.

Dan Barich, former Congressional candidate and Tea Party member, was the most conservative at the roundtable. He said that it was not the undocumented immigrants who are at fault, but politicians who are unwilling to enforce immigration laws, "No offense to Jeff," he added, referring to Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who also sat at the roundtable.

Rosen said borders served a purpose of keeping a community's culture intact, but that had to be balanced with what he described as a religious idea, that everyone was "created in God's image."

Rosen said his office did not regard illegal immigration as a criminal matter, unless someone who has been deported, especially a convict, returns illegally.

"If you are in the country illegally and without documentation, from the perspective of the District Attorney's office and the local police department, you are sort of off our radar screen." Deporting people "is not what we're interested in."

"If you are a tax-paying citizen, you go, gosh there's all these people coming here, they are going on assisted housing and welfare, their kids are in the school," Barich said. "There's something wrong with our system."

"I believe there are legal laws and moral laws," said Maria Marroquin, director of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View. The sentiment was later echoed by Vargas, who said he met a minister in Birmingham Alabama who noted to Vargas, "You know how many laws I broke during the Civil Rights struggle?"

"We want to be able to give back to the country that has provided for us," Vargas said of himself and others who were brought to the country as children, but are not here legally. He called them the "Dream Act kids" -- well-educated youths forced to work under-the-table jobs.

Oscar Garcia, CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce, said he was the son of an undocumented woman. He said that it didn't make any sense that highly skilled young workers like Vargas are denied legal status when other immigrants can work in the U.S. with H1 visas.

Barich said unemployed U.S. citizens should get first priority. "There are a lot of people looking for jobs," he said.

Vargas said he didn't want to be "first in line." He just wants to be able to get in line at some point.

"When Mitt Romney says in Cedar Rapids that people like me should get in the back of the line, I would love to know where that line is," Vargas said.

At one point Barich made the claim that 30 percent of the country's prisoners were not here legally. District Attorney Jeff Rosen later addressed the issue in his breakout group, where he said the undocumented make up 10 percent of the County's jail and prison population while they make up the same proportion of the county's general population. He added that most victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants are other undocumented immigrants.

The assertion that undocumented immigrants don't make up a disproportionate part of the local prison population was eye-opening to one older man in the group. "I think that's a big deal," he said.

In other groups language barriers were a common topic. A group who surrounded Vargas compared their European parents and grandparents to today's immigrants from Mexico and Asia. "My mother would say 'I came here to be an American, not an Italian American,'" said one man who said he was a former police officer in San Francisco.

"Why can't you answer the question as to why these people don't want to learn English?" said a middle aged man to some younger Latina women, one of who responded by saying, "Why should you have to do that? This is Silicon valley. We should embrace other cultures. We should be open-minded."

Before he attended the event, resident Konrad Sosnow wrote on the Voice's Town Square that "It makes me sick to see the way they (undocumented immigrants) thumb their noses at our laws. They think that they are better than U.S. citizens and don't need to have drivers' licenses, car insurance, or pay taxes."

Much energy was spent trying to convince people with such views that undocumented immigrants do want to do all the things law-abiding citizens do, but face many obstacles.

At the end of the event, Sosnow shook Vargas' hand, as did the former police officer who had hurled a litany of complaints toward Vargas. He wore a vest that said "America's freedom" and "the right to bear arms."

Rosenberg said the city had found the cure to the lack of civility in the country's political discussions: people talking to each other face to face.

When he walked out of the first event, on corporate responsibility, "I wasn't sure we accomplished anything," he told the crowd as the event ended. But when he saw people from different backgrounds talking with each other "I was convinced immediately that we accomplished something tonight."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Pretty silly statement about illegal immigrants wanting to do all the things law-abiding citizens do. Maybe everything except that 'law-abiding' bit...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken Dreger
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

The term undocumented immigrants is purposely incorrect in order to sway the public in favor of special interest groups and only clouds the reality of the situation... The term illegal alien is broader and more accurate because it includes undocumented aliens and nonimmigrant visa overstayers. ...the term illegal alien, being broader in scope, is the accurate term to use. In that immigrant connotes legality, the term illegal immigrant is really an oxymoron.
To clarify, an alien is any person who is not a citizen or national of the United States. An immigrant is an alien admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
An illegal alien is someone who enters the United States without immigration inspection or without an appropriate visa authorizing entry.
The term illegal immigrant is often used interchangeably with illegal alien. However, the correct term for a person entering the United States unlawfully is illegal alien.
The politically-correct phrase undocumented immigrant has no legal basis - it is simply a term used by those who support open borders as an attempt to reframe terminology used in the immigration debate.
A permanent resident alien is an alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residency. Permanent residents are also sometimes referred to as immigrants. Note that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) broadly defines an immigrant as any alien in the United States, except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrant categories (INA section 101(a)(15)).
Only legal permanent residents may reside permanently in the United States. The Department of State issues visas for this purpose. Other agencies can adjust one's immigration status to permanent resident alien.
If you continue to use Illegal Immigrant why not use the term Undocumented Pharmacists for drug dealers, or Undocumented asset managers for a thief?
You see, it is only the media who tries to be politically correct when in reality nobody can, something will offend someone at sometime, so let's just tell it like it is and be truthful about it.
People who overstay visa, sneak over ANY countries borders without documentation ARE "ILLEGAL ALIENS" PERIOD.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by stee
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Didn't we try the whole amnesty thing during the Reagan administration?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jupiterk
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Rosenberg and other liberals are proof of what kind of ignorant idiots liberals have become. The sanctuary cities like Mountain View, San Jose , San Francisco are sucking blood out of average tax paying citizens and trying to help the law violating and welfare claiming unlawful and undocumented immigrants.
The liberals are spinnign the truth and changing the discussion from how to stop illegal immigration and enforce immigration laws into how to put up with illegal immigration and how to help them out and how we are all responsible to take care of the illegal immigrants and how we should welcome more illegal immigrants in our country. I can't even describe how outraged I am by these rotten liberals who are getting rich at the expense of middle class people and exploiting cheap labor.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Equal rights for all
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Yes, we did do "that amnesty thing" during the Reagan era, and as far as I can tell has worked out fine. Those people are here working, paying taxes, integrating, and contributing to society to help America be the best it can be. The parents of the SF State student I mentor were beneficiaries of that amnesty and are hard-working people who have raised three law-abiding children who attend school and do volunteer work. That's more than I can say for some of the US citizens I know!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ted
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm

"Yes, we did do "that amnesty thing" during the Reagan era, and as far as I can tell has worked out fine."

Yes, "as far as you can tell." That sentence speaks VOLUMES.

So then, your idea is to just not enforce our borders and every 20 years or so, just convert all the new millions of illegals into US citizens by way of amnesty. Delightful.

I'm thrilled, there, Mr. Equal Rights for All, that you've had nothing but positive experiences with illegal immigration. Many of us, however, have not.

Twenty years ago my neighborhood was a nice, middle-class area. Today it is a slum, a ghetto, a barrio, with trash filling the streets, graffiti everywhere, unchecked gang violence. This is one neighborhood in Southern California. I have a feeling - but prove me wrong, pal - that this is not the only neighborhood affected thusly.

Your user name is hysterical and of course typical: "Equal rights for all." Yes, yes, yes, equal rights for all, but only if it comes with absolutely ZERO responsibility, right? That's what you're advocating for. Thank goodness the tide is finally turning against the likes of you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. DePortum
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Round em all up and ship em one way back to mexico.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura Macias
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Great summary of the often challenging, difficult conversation and dialogue, Dan!
The American Leadership Forum approach is to hear differing opinions and really listen rather than react. I think Chris Block, the ALF SV director modeled that behavior as did the panelists. They are not easy conversations yet it is better to have them than not to.
I look forward to the next Civility Roundtable in MV.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Even if you don't agree with rounding up and deporting illegals proactively, what's the argument against deporting them if they commit crimes rather than to have them in our already overcrowded prison system? If it's really 10% of inmates?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm

So what are you saying Ms. Macias? Let's just talk about secondary issues and not the primary one of illegals being lawbreakers?

It's like feeding stray cats. The more food you put out, the more that come around.

Ms. Macias, you are partly to blame with your support of the Day Worker Center.

Beyond that, it's a gross double standard. Only some of us are expected to respect the laws of the land.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:28 am

You all can argue about this issue until the cows come home, but it still won't change one unalterable fact - the people being talked about are "ILLEGAL ALIENS". Not "should be legal", but "illegal". No matter how pretty you try to dress it up, that is a FACT that currently has not been changed. So it seems unfair to some of you - well guess what? Life is unfair. Some may think that it's unfair that they can't drive a Lamborghini, but that doesn't mean that they can go out and just take one. Why? Because we are a nation of LAWS. You all remember that pesky little word, right? Well, until certain laws are changed, it is illegal to sneak across, or even be snuck across borders by well-meaning parents. So, arguing about how unfair it is on a largely anonymous, small-time paper's web page is a pointless and futile time waster. They are ILLEGAL ALIENS. How thick are you people anyway? This is not hard to comprehend. We have laws, and we have to follow those laws or suffer the consequences, whatever they may be. End of story.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Le dude
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 24, 2012 at 7:31 am

Rosen said borders served a purpose of keeping a community's culture intact, but that had to be balanced with what he described as a religious idea, that everyone was "created in God's image."

Where to begin with that one! We have a DA who will not enforce the laws uniformly and does not believe in the separation of Church and State!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:43 am

The DA doesn't see illegal immigration as an issue?! Oh jeez... Thanks for doing your job!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

This is so funny. Let's avoid the real issue--illegal immigration--and talk about civility. It's illegal immigration uncivil behavior action?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

The amount of strain illegal immigrants particularly put on schools should be noted. It is clear if you go to most of the elementary schools in mountain view. Property owners should be outraged as their tax dollars are used to take care of illegals -- day care center, english programs, mixing non-english speaking students...

Bascially all these resources need to support illegal immagrants and students need to come from somewhere and that also means other improvements get effected as we have limited resources..

Mountain View and Santa Clara County politicans are taking their political stance as they are democrats. I am a democrat too but if you live in Mountain View it is hard to overlook at overcrowding of our schools, degrading scores and over-crowding of some the parks. Not well maintained apartment buildings with 2 to 3 families living in a single bedroom apratment. It is a clear problem in Mountain View.

It effects particularly property owners with children as some of their property tax and city resources is not being used for the benefit of the legal citizens or for the legal coommunity. I can atleast smell a civil lawsuit... I wonder why no one has sued a city for misusing its funds to benefit non-community members and baised treatment


 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm

"Much energy was spent trying to convince people with such views that undocumented immigrants do want to do all the things law-abiding citizens do, but face many obstacles."

Seriously, Dan? Wow. I know that Nick and you cannot bring yourselves to be able to type the word "illegal", but ... really?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm

This excerpt is telling:

"Why can't you answer the question as to why these people don't want to learn English?" said a middle aged man to some younger Latina women, one of who responded by saying, "Why should you have to do that? This is Silicon valley. We should embrace other cultures. We should be open-minded."

So-called "Hispanic" immigrants are the first to come here and demand services in their native language. We may all be descended from immigrants, but ALL of those immigrants learned English. A common language facilitates unity and harmony in a multicultural society. Immigrants adapt to the new land. Only colonials expect the new land to adapt to them.

And enough already with all the "Primer mi Raza" nonsense. That and "Viva la Raza" are blatantly racist expressions. How would you feel if "white" people started marching around saying "First my Race" or "Life to the Race"?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm

USA -
Welcome to the "unbiased" reporting skills of Dan and Nick. I have been complaining about comments that Nick has written for quite some time. He seems incapable of using the word "illegal", or any iteration of it. You hit the nail on the head. His reporting is definitely lacking. Hence his position as a writer for our little paper...
Oh, and I'm sure this post will be removed because it has "objectionable content". You all know what I'm talking about.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Someone who is here without documents has not necessarily entered the country illegally, and it is important to make this distinction, although many people find it convenient not to do so. Many people enter legally with a visa (e.g. a student visa) and stay after the visa expires. They are then here without documents but have not committed the crime of entering illegally. Technically they have committed a violation that is punishable by a fine, and they have not committed a crime that is punishable by deportation. Calling all undocumented aliens "illegal" is incorrect and is not useful when trying to address the complex problems that we are facing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Donald:

So are these same people allowed to work? Apply for public benefits? Or is these questions too complex?

You are splitting hairs. You need to study the matter further. I know someone from Germany who was just deported. He was in the country illegally. Call it what you like.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. DePortum
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 26, 2012 at 6:46 am

Just because we took Calif. away from them they think they are entitled
to ruin our Sweet California, time to take off the kid gloves and take the bull by the horns. Bleeding heart liberals, church advocates step aside.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:01 am

@Equal rights

"Yes, we did do "that amnesty thing" during the Reagan era, and as far as I can tell has worked out fine"

Then why are there more illegal aliens than ever in the country? It did not "work out fine" as all it did was encourage more illegal aliens - with the hope of future amnesties.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

Stop providing services in languages other than English. Stop providing public assistance of any kind to non-citizens. That'll work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:17 am

"We want to be able to give back to the country that has provided for us," Vargas said of himself and others who were brought to the country as children, but are not here legally. He called them the "Dream Act kids" -- well-educated youths forced to work under-the-table jobs.

The existing immigration laws do not prevent "giving back". Just follow the laws and apply for immigration, and once accepted, you can "give back" all you want. In the internet age, you can even "give back" while living outside the US. So being able to "give back" is not a motivation. When you say "give back", what you mean is "be treated as though you followed the law even though you didn't".

Yes, we understand it was the parents that are responsible for you being here illegally. You'll need to discuss that issue with them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:22 am

"a minister in Birmingham Alabama who noted to Vargas, "You know how many laws I broke during the Civil Rights struggle?""

straw man argument. Definitely not the same laws that are being discussed here, nor for the same reason.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:37 am

"District Attorney Jeff Rosen later addressed the issue in his breakout group, where he said the undocumented make up 10 percent of the County's jail and prison population while they make up the same proportion of the county's general population."

How would the county know how many undocumented people are in prison - since they do not check for documentation? It should be noted that since immigration violations are a federal offense, undocumented offenders are held in federal prisons - not in county or state jails or prisons.


" Citing an Urban Institute study, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies Steven Camorata noted in 2004: "Roughly 17 percent of the prison population at the federal level are illegal aliens. That's a huge number since illegal aliens only account for about 3 percent of the total population."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

@Donald

"Technically they have committed a violation that is punishable by a fine, and they have not committed a crime that is punishable by deportation. "

Wrong. If you've over-stayed your visa, you can be deported. Also, deportation is not punishment, it's simply sending you out of the country.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm

"Rosen said borders served a purpose of keeping a community's culture intact"

So Rosen is saying that borders were intended to keep the US' culture intact (white)? What a terrible misunderstanding and racist statement.

Borders mark the jurisdiction of the government of the country. And the government of this country has legislated immigration laws. Individuals are not free to decide which laws apply.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rked
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm

"When Mitt Romney says in Cedar Rapids that people like me should get in the back of the line, I would love to know where that line is," Vargas said

I Can tell vargas "Where the Line Is" [Portions removed. Please refrain from personal attacks.]...the line IS returning to the Phillipines, AND applying for a Visa The RIGHT Way....but of course "mr 1 topic vargas" Already Knows this But has NO intention of emmigrating here LEGALLY....nuff said!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ester
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

So if Obamacare goes into effect in 2014, would illegals be required to purchase health insurance, or would they be given a pass on that as well?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

If I "lose" my documents and become an "undocumented native", will I get the same treatment as these "undocumented immigrants"? That's the bottom line, here. Will I get the same exemption from DMV requirements? I tend to doubt it.


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