Illegal Immigrants: What Are Their Rights?

BOSTON (CBS) — Whether you visit the Amherst town common, or South Boston’s Castle Island, you’ll hear opposing views on immigration reform.

“I think the hatred is really sad.”  “We can’t be giving away this country, and that’s what we do… Auntie said it.”

“Auntie” is Zaytuni Onyango, President Obama’s aunt, living in Boston public housing.

Her case first surfaced during the 2008 presidential race.  She created a firestorm again last month with bold statements to WBZ-TV about the ruling not to have her deported.

According to Onyango, “This country is owned by Almighty God and you people are here to help people, help the poor, help other countries, and take care of women.”

South Boston Tea Party activist Susan Long is incensed.   “This woman is living in an apartment that could be used by a veteran, and I think veterans should be given preference,” Long said.

Long wants all illegal immigrants deported, no matter the cost.

Illegal immigration also surfaced during the mid-term elections.

Write-in Attorney General candidate Jim McKenna ran ads that said, “It is illegal to be illegal in Massachusetts.”

Republican candidate for the 10th Congressional District, Sandwich State Rep. Jeff Perry, was also vocal on cracking down on illegals.

This past spring, his so-called “Perry Amendment”, passed in the Massachusetts Senate but ultimately failed in the House.  Perry said, “If you’re here illegally, you shouldn’t get access to benefits.”

Perry and McKenna lost their respective races November 2nd, and MIRA, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, points to the immigrant vote in contributing to their defeat.  MIRA’s Frank Soultz says Perry lost in Quincy by more than 60 percent and more than 25 percent of Quincy’s population is foreign born.  “These are people who have their full citizenship and have the ability to vote, and say they are afraid this is becoming a civil rights issue.”

Not all immigrants agree.

Vladimir Studeny is a pharmacist who is originally from the Czech Republic.   “We always paid the taxes, we anticipate at any time that someone would give us something for free. Now we see people coming from other countries, they don’t respect the law, they expect to get things for free, and I think that’s wrong.”

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a lightning rod in the immigration debate. He has made headlines for his tough stance against illegal immigrants.

He spoke at a Republican fundraiser in Nashua New Hampshire in September.   “We have a 10 percent unemployment problem.  I should be getting an award from the White House thanking me for making more vacancies for U.S. citizens.  Instead, I’m getting sued.”

Are illegal immigrants taking away jobs from U.S. citizens? That often depends on which side of the political aisle you’re on.

According to democratic strategist Michael Goldman, “The jobs that immigrants tend to take are not necessarily the jobs that, even if they were available, other workers would find attractive.”  But, Republican strategist Gene Hartigan counters, “When I was young, we worked every lousy job there was, whether it was working as a busboy, working at a farm, or cutting grass.

Those jobs are gone, because illegals are now willing to do the work for less money.”

What are the hard numbers?  The Pew Hispanic Center finds the number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. has dropped by one million between 2007 and last year.  Still, they make up roughly 4 percent of the U.S. population.

Often times, the numbers don’t matter…just ask Mass Taxpayers Foundation head Mchael Widmer, who commissioned a study in 2006 on the cost to the state of providing in-state college tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants.

Widmer found at that time, the proposal would add 2-million dollars to state coffers,  but he says that information went nowhere.

According to Widmer, “This is one of those areas of policy debate, where the facts have very little to do with an individual’s feeling, and ultimately, whether a legislator will vote one way or the other.”

WBZ News Radio’s Mary Blake reports on the politics of immigration reform.

Next…  a look at some of those policy votes.

Listen to Mary Blake’s reports all week at 12:05 p.m. and 12:35 p.m. and then again at 5:05 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. on WBZ News Radio 1030.

More from Mary Blake

More From CBS Boston

Summer of Savings
Download Weather App

Listen Live