The United States is not wealthy enough to throw open its doors to everyone, Dan M. Rose explained Saturday as he marched past a "Deport Illegals" banner on the Alumni Road overpass on New Circle Road in Lexington.
"We're not against immigration. And we're not against immigrants. We're against illegal immigration and the government's failure to enforce laws that protect the rights of its citizens," said Rose, a Lexington lawyer and president of Americans First, a nonprofit advocacy group that claims about 300 members.
More than a dozen people joined Rose on Saturday to protest "immigration reform," waving American flags and signs in a light drizzle while passing motorists honked horns and occasionally delivered a thumbs-up. The protest was one of hundreds planned this weekend around the country by like-minded groups, organized on the Internet.
Lexington-based Americans First has a sweeping "action agenda" on its website. It wants laws to ban any immigration until all American citizens are fully employed and wages are rising; to require proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote; to eliminate U.S. aid to other countries; to close "unneeded" U.S. military bases in other countries; and to avoid foreign wars.
Saturday's protest was focused on sealing the border with Mexico and opposing any legislation in Congress that gives illegal immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship. Illegal immigrants take American jobs, burden schools and welfare services and sometimes commit crimes, protesters said. One of their banners showed the faces of three people killed by "illegal aliens" in Central Kentucky since 1997.
"Folks say 'Let's have amnesty, let's work out a way for them to stay here after they've come here illegally,'" Rose said. "Well, what other laws will we not obey now? We're not supposed to pick and choose which laws are enforced. The law is the law."
"It's also the employers that don't obey the law," said Wendy DeVier, a retired horse trainer. "They're the ones hiring these people illegally, under the table, because it's cheaper."
"That's right," Rose agreed. "Look at Microsoft. You've got Bill Gates and Warren Buffett writing these op-ed pieces about how we need to issue more H1-B visas to bring in skilled foreign workers because we just can't find enough workers. But then, just last week, Microsoft says it's going to cut 18,000 jobs."
This summer, the U.S. government is struggling with tens of thousands of Latin American children streaming into the country from Mexico, often without their parents. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to respond. Much of that is budgeted for detention facilities to hold the children while the legal process reviews their cases and decides their fates.
The children must be deported, said Ron Vissing, a protester who co-hosts a weekly Americans First radio show with Rose on WVLK-590 AM.
"I do feel bad because they are escaping crimes and gangs," Vissing said. "But we have crimes and gangs here, too. Why aren't we addressing that first? Guatemala is really no different than Chicago, but we're not sending federal dollars to Chicago."