Illegals Want 'Special Rights,' Not Civil Rights, Group Alleges

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - Project 21, a conservative African American group, is arguing on this May Day that immigration reform protesters seeking a path to permanent residency are not asking for civil rights, but "special rights."

Last month, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) called the controversy involving individuals who illegally emigrated from Mexico and Latin America to the U.S., the "civil rights issue of our time," and compared it to the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

But, David Almasi, director of Project 21, disputed the claim by illegal immigrants, that they are treated like second class citizens. They are not citizens of any class, he said. "Civil rights is always something that people try to attach to things, to make [people] sympathetic and inoculate them from criticism," Almasi told Cybercast News Service .

"Special rights are being assigned in the name of civil rights," he added. "Back in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, you had people marching for equal rights, for the right to sit wherever they wanted, whereas now people are asking for the right to cut in line," said Almasi.

He emphasized that there is no "correlation you can draw" between African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement and illegal immigrants.

But Jackson Lee charged that Congress debated her bill, which would have amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide undocumented aliens working in the U.S. a path to permanent residency, "as if they had no sense of humanity, no sense of family and no sense of what this country was built on." Jackson Lee spoke on the syndicated radio program Democracy Now!

"African Americans came to this country not as documented citizens and did not obtain citizenship until very, very late, so I'm disappointed at the level of debate," said Jackson Lee.

"My bill attempted to craft this as a civil rights issue, and that is, to give a sense of fairness to individuals who had been in this country and had worked and paid taxes and wanted to come from under the shadows,' she added.

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