Portraying Illegal Immigrants as Victims for May Day Amnesty Rallies

Julia Preston: "This May 1 there will be another round of rallies and marches, but this time immigrants will also be protesting a surge in deportations."

The Times marked the upcoming May Day rallies for illegal immigrants with a heart-tugging front-page story on May 1 from working-class New Bedford, Mass, which portrayedan illegal immigrant family as victims ("As Pace of Deportation Rises, Illegal Families Are Digging In").

Julia Preston, whooften delivers a slanted take onimmigration issues,wrote: "The day after his wife was deported to their home country, Honduras, Lilo Mancía grieved as though she had died.

"Neighbors arrived with doughnuts and juice for their two small children, while Mr. Mancía, an illegal immigrant like his wife, María Briselda Amaya, took telephone calls from relatives and tried not to break down.

"'The first thing I thought of was the children,' Mr. Mancía, who is fighting his own deportation order, told the visitors gathered in his second floor walkup apartment in New Bedford a couple of weeks ago. 'The future we imagined for them, it all collapsed.'"

Preston wrote a similar story heart-tugger back in December, "Immigrants' Families Figuring Out What to Do After Federal Raids."

More of Preston from Tuesday: "Last year on May 1, hoping to influence Congress to adopt legislation making illegal immigrants legal, hundreds of thousands of immigrants held marches and work stoppages across the country. This May 1 there will be another round of rallies and marches, but this time immigrants will also be protesting a surge in deportations."

Preston blamed the law for the expected smaller crowds at the upcoming rallies for amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"The events are expected to be much smaller than a year ago, organizers said, as stepped-up enforcement by the authorities has made illegal immigrants wary of protesting in public and more doubtful that Congress will soon act to give them a chance at legalization.

"Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, facing intense political pressure to toughen enforcement, removed 221,664 illegal immigrants from the country over the last year, an increase of more than 37,000 - about 20 percent - over the year before, according to the agency's tally.

"While President Bush and many Democrats have called for a path to legalize some 12 million illegal immigrants, a significant number of Republicans in Congress reject the plan because they view it as amnesty for lawbreakers. They advocate a broader campaign of deportations that would expel many illegal immigrants and, they say, drive millions more to give up and go home."

Preston managed to make standard law enforcement practice sound mean-spirited.

"Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say their priority is to locate and deport fugitive immigrants with criminal records or convicts who are finishing prison sentences. Still, thousands of illegal immigrants like the Mancías with no criminal history have been caught in raids, the officials acknowledge.

"Also, new expedited procedures have allowed agents greater flexibility to deport illegal immigrants caught in border areas, bypassing court hearings. Many immigrants, when caught, agree to leave voluntarily because it means they are not barred from returning legally in the future.

"Seen from the working class communities like New Bedford, the deportations are a blunt instrument. Frequently the deported immigrants were not alone in the United States, but came from families with a mix of legal and illegal members who were well settled in this country."


"A gaunt man with a mild voice, Mr. Mancía said he did not mind cooking for the boys or washing their clothes at the Laundromat. He said he and his wife, balancing two factory jobs, had learned they both had to do housework.

"The help he has received in fighting his deportation has allowed him to believe that he might avoid his wife's fate, even though he has no papers, no job skill to offer other than hard work and very limited legal avenues to pursue. Although Jeffrey is an American citizen, he would not be able to petition for his parents to be admitted to the country legally until he was 21.

"Mr. Mancía said he was preparing for any outcome, even the prospect of a separation from one or both sons so they could remain at least temporarily in the United States."

At the end, Preston briefly addresses concerns from an anti-immigration group:

"Ms. Jenks, of NumbersUSA, said the responsibility for the impact on children of the deportations rests with their parents.

"'If parents are going to come here illegally, unfortunately the child faces the consequences as well,' she said."