By Julie Mason, Houston Chronicle
October 5, 2007
In separate rooms on overlapping morning hours at the National Press Club this week, two very different groups were launching the next rounds in the simmering immigration fight.
In the Zenger Room, named for German immigrant John Peter Zenger, who helped establish free speech law, Californians for Population Stabilization released a study claiming there are 20 million to 38 million illegal immigrants in America, not the 12 million the federal government says.
"Immigration is in a state of anarchy," organization member James Walsh, a former Immigration and Naturalization Service lawyer, fervently told the room. "Not chaos, anarchy."
Two doors down in the Murrow Room, named for American broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, the Spanish-language network Telemundo debuted a series of upbeat public service announcements urging their audience to register and vote.
News anchor Jose Diaz-Balart said Telemundo wants to leverage the passion from last year’s immigration rallies into a stronger turnout among Latinos, who historically vote at disproportionately low rates.
"Hispanics in the U.S. will now have a way to channel all that frustration and do some good," Diaz-Balart said.
Whether the two groups were aware of each other, neither side let on. But each represents emerging new strategies stirring out of the void left by the failure of immigration reform.
The population group from California believes its more alarming population figures, which are not credited or supported by other independent research, will result in tougher policies on immigration.
Result of mistrust
Diana Hull, a behavioral scientist and former Houstonian who is president of Californians for Population Stabilization, said the federal government’s alleged undercount of illegal immigrants is partly the result of mistrust.
"We have a very large group of people who don’t have the same feeling about responding to legitimate questions from their government," Hull said.
For example, she said, large numbers of illegal immigrants living in a single house may not tell a census-taker how many people are really living there.
"The fact of the matter is they don’t answer the question," she said.
The population figure presented by the group was tabulated by Fred Elbel, a computer specialist and anti-immigration activist from Colorado. The Social Contract Press, which published his report, also publishes racist works, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Around the corner at the Telemundo event, cheery VJ "Crash" had her own statistic that would no doubt alarm the population stabilization group in the Zenger room.
She said 50,000 Hispanics turn 18 in this country every month, and not enough are registering to vote.
"I am super-excited for this upcoming election, and I really feel like this time we are going to make a difference," Crash said.
Added Alfredo Richard, senior vice president of communications and talent development for the network, "It’s not enough to grow in numbers, but to gain in political strength."