Border war over immigration comes to Midwest
By Carey Gillam
Wednesday, September 26, 2007; 2:58 PM
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A routine city hall appointment threatens to turn Kansas City into a new front in the U.S. debate over illegal immigration, even though the closest Mexico border crossing is hundreds of miles (kilometers) away.
Anger has been simmering among Hispanic leaders since the summer, when newly elected Mayor Mark Funkhouser appointed Frances Semler, a dues-paying member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), to the city's parks and recreation board.
...The group is now seizing on the appointment controversy to increase its visibility in the Midwest, promising to make Kansas City the site of a winter leadership meeting and a public education "open house" on immigration concerns.
There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. How to deal with them and others seeking to come in has become a divisive issue for Americans and a key topic for contenders for president in the November 2008 election.
This week's battle in Washington over legislation that would grant permanent legal status to students under certain conditions is only the latest proposal that has outraged those seeking stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
La Raza and other ethnic organizations are threatening to boycott Kansas City by canceling conventions unless the mayor removes Semler -- a move the mayor has refused.
"It's a pickle," said Kendrick Blackwood, a spokesman for Funkhouser. "I'm optimistic that we're going to find some way to work through this."
Semler, who joined the Minuteman group in December because of frustration with a lack of enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, said she has been vilified in smear campaigns on the Internet and elsewhere. But she has no intention of backing away from the group.
"I feel very strongly about enforcing the law," she said.
The furor has left city and business leaders frustrated.
"I'm concerned about our image nationally," said city councilwoman Jan Marcason, who fears the controversy makes the metropolitan area of 2 million people look like a "right-wing extremist community."
"The border of Kansas and Missouri is not in jeopardy," Marcason said. "It is odd that they feel like they should even be here."
For entire article, click the title of this post