The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437) was introduced in the 109th United States Congress in December 2005. It was passed by the United States House of Representatives on December 16, 2005 by a vote of 239 to 182 (with 92% of Republicans supporting, 82% of Democrats opposing), but did not pass the Senate. It was also known as the "Sensenbrenner Bill," for its sponsor in the House of Representatives, Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner. The bill was the catalyst for the 2006 U.S. national immigration reform protests and was the first piece of legislation passed by a house of Congress in the United States illegal immigration debate.
The House version of the bill was opposed by a variety of migrant, social justice, humanitarian, and religious organizations, and other groups. Among the criticisms raised by opposition groups were that the proposed legislation might negatively affect over 11 million illegal immigrants and those associated with them, that it included measures which would create substantial barriers to community policing, and that it represented the most draconian anti-illegal immigration bill in nearly a century.
Los Angeles Catholic Church Cardinal Roger Mahony spoke out on provisions in the immigration bills, He wrote to President George Bush that certain proposed measures would effectively outlaw the provision of charitable assistance and religious ministry to individuals not in valid immigration status. On Ash Wednesday, 2006, Cardinal Mahony announced that he would order the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to ignore H.R. 4437 if it were to become law. He personally lobbied senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to have the Senate consider a comprehensive immigration reform bill, rather than the enforcement-only bill that passed the House of Representatives. Mahony also blamed the Congress for the illegal immigration crisis due to their failure to act on the issue in the previous 20 years, opposed H.R. 4437 as punitive and open to abusive interpretation, and supported S. 2611.
In February 2006 a national conference was attended in Riverside, California by primarily Chicano and Latino opponents to the Sensenbrenner Bill H.R. 4437. The conference was organized by the National Alliance for Human Rights and Dr. Armando Navarro, UC Riverside professor. Representatives from all over the U.S. participated in formulating plans to oppose this legislation. Heritage of America and students from the Latino Academy attended the conference and saw first hand the seeds of protest being planted that eventually led to the national protests that started in March and April of 2006.
In March 2006 Dr. Jess Nieto of Heritage and Dr. Gonzalo Santos, sociology professor at California State University Bakersfield, discussed the need to respond to the anti-immigrant attacks that had started not only across the nation but also here locally in Bakersfield and Kern County. Heritage and the Latino Academy had just premiered a film entitled "Walkout" (produced by Montezuma Esparsa and directed by Edward James Olmos) about the 1968 East Los Angeles student walkouts. Many Kern County high school Chicano - Latino students indicated that they had been inspired to walkout from school in support of the immigrant community and to protest the anti-immigrant sentiment in Kern County. Students from the Latino Academy actively participated in the planning and actual protests.
Thousands of students walked out of area high schools. Dr. Nieto and Dr. Santos decided the time was ripe to bring students together to discuss the whole situation. A meeting was organized that day and the word spread quickly. Approximately 100 people showed up, including members of other organizations including the UFW and the Dolores Huerta Foundation. This meeting was the initial event that acted as a rallying catalyst for the largest mobilization of social protest in the history of Bakersfield and Kern County where several protests were eventually organized and implemented in the next several months. It became part of a national movement, the largest in the country - even larger than any of the Vietnam anti-war protests against the U.S. involvement in that unpopular war. This new civil rights movement was largely made up of immigrants, "los de abajo" - not the traditional standard bearers of the Chicano - Latino communities and in hundreds of cities and communities across the America, undocumented immigrants, the powerless, the poor, and the sons and daughters of immigrants formed a powerful coalition to kill the re-emergence of the Sensenbrenner Bill.
The videos of this series of news casts are a reflection of the immigration protests and events that took place during that tumultuous period. Local television stations, KGET 17, KBAK 29, and KERO 23 (as well as Univision and Telemundo television networks in Spanish) were actively involved in the coverage of these protest marches. These stations also provided our local viewership with glimpses and summaries of the national scene where hundreds of U.S. cities also witnessed these immigration protests where millions of people actively participated in these events.
There was also a proposal by a Bakersfield City Councilman, David Couch to (1) make English the "official" language of Bakersfield; (2) to deny undocumented immigrants city services; and (3) to not make Bakersfield a sanctuary city that supported undocumented immigrants. This proposal was hotly debated within the Bakersfield City Council, and there was an enormous wave of protest against this proposal by a wide spectrum of the Bakersfield community. The proposal was defeated. These proceedings can also be watched on this webpage with YouTube.
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