- Fact and fiction on the airwaves,
- Maryland Governor's Race 2010,
Both candidates in the Nov. 2 Maryland gubernatorial race have something to gain from the immigration issue.
Former governor Bob Ehrlich, a Republican, needs the support of tea party types who may have backed Brian Murphy, his challenger, in the primary. (Murphy had the support of Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who takes a hard line on immigration.) Incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley, meanwhile, will want to drive up Latino turnout — something Democrats nationally are having difficulty doing this year.
The two candidates staked out their respective positions during Monday's debate on WJZ. Ehrlich said he vetoed a bill giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants during his term, and that he tried to block them from getting driver's licenses.
"You have this issue of spending, the CASA de Marylands of the world," Ehrlich said. "If the CASA de Marylands of the world would just follow their original charter, if they were really about assimilation, recent immigrants into this country, teaching capitalism, democracy, teaching our culture, our singular American culture, economic empowerment, I'd be standing on the rooftops, saying 'Good for you, CASA de Maryland, we'll help you, we'll fund you, we'll assist you. Good for you.'"
"Unfortunately," Ehrlich continued, "what groups such as CASA have done over the past few years is take state tax money and print booklets to assist illegal immigrants from the long arm of the law. Our tax money is now going to assist illegal behavior. That's the clear line that really has to be drawn in this campaign."
Ehrlich explained that he supports legal immigration, and said it was OK to be proud of one's heritage — citing his 1996 German of the Year award as an example.
O'Malley didn't directly address the charges against CASA, and said it was up to the federal government to solve the immigration problem. He attacked comments Ehrlich made in 2004 calling multiculturalism "crap" and "bunk."
"We should not blame new Americans for the problems our country is going through right now," O'Malley said. "It's wrong."
Casa de Maryland is reviled by conservative activists, and it has received state funding under both O'Malley and Ehrlich. But is it actually helping immigrants break the law, as Ehrlich claimed?
Casa de Maryland provides services to Latino immigrants in the state, and is best known for the day laborer centers it operates in the Washington suburbs and in Baltimore. It also provides legal advice, offers various classes and generally helps immigrants make their way through American society. The group doesn't discriminate based on legal status.
The pamphlet Ehrlich mentions is entitled "Know Your Rights." It's eight pages long and illustrated with cartoon pictures of immigrants and law enforcement officers.
It provides advice to illegal immigrants on what to do if they are questioned by immigration officials, or if immigration officials raid their house or workplace.
None of the advice it provides involves breaking the law, however. It doesn't tell illegal immigrants how to hide from law enforcement. It doesn't give them advice on how to sneak across the border. It doesn't tell them how to create fake documentation.
Does that constitute "assist[ing] illegal behavior?"
Casa, which recently started a political arm to go along with its service activities, didn't respond to TBD's requests for comment. This post will be updated if they do.
"Know Your Rights" does outline the rights of an illegal immigrant — or anyone else arrested by law enforcement in this country— including the right to an attorney, the right to not have your home or business searched without a warrant and the right to remain silent. It's a written version of the Miranda speech.
When asked for their take on the pamphlet, Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth sent us this response: "As Bob Ehrlich said in the debate, he fully supports the concept of organizations helping legal immigrants assimilate. In his eyes, this brochure doesn’t come close to meeting that standard."
They have a point. The pamphlet is clearly intended to aid illegal immigrants, and it's not exactly a guide to baking apple pie and singing the national anthem. It's aimed to help them avoid (or at least slow down) the deportation process. But everyone is entitled to due process under the 14th Amendment. And one other consideration: If Casa is helping illegal immigrants avoid deportation, isn't that the first step toward assimilation?
There's a secondary matter here. Casa de Maryland has received state funding for years, including under Ehrlich. Most of that money was used to renovate a mansion in Langley Park that the group now uses as a multicultural center. (The group also receives funding from foundations, private donations and Montgomery County government.) Why is the governor opposed to giving them state dollars now?
Baltimore Sun Columnist Dan Rodricks wrote about this back in June, and the Ehrlich campaign never gave him a reason for the seeming flip-flop. The pamphlet looks to be the reason.
The pamphlet was released in February 2008, so Casa de Maryland did cross Ehrlich's "line" after he was voted out of office.
Ehrlich isn't a hypocrite, but he's wrong. Nothing in the "Know Your Rights" pamphlet promotes illegal activity, and it never advises immigrants to break the law. If anything, it encourages them to cooperate with law enforcement.
If a political candidate is going to accuse a non-profit of promoting illegal activity, he should have hard evidence backing up a serious charge. Ehrlich's assertion is Total Malarkey.