ST. GEORGE More than 100 people rallied here Wednesday, carrying American flags and signs urging the nation to secure its borders and reject amnesty for illegal aliens.
The sidewalk demonstration was organized by local members of the Utah Republican Assembly, the Citizens Council on Illegal Immigration, the Southern Utah Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and the Dixie Republican Forum.
The rally took place outside the U.S. Federal Building on Tabernacle Street, where Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, has an office. The groups' leaders presented Bennett's staff members with a letter urging the senator to vote against the Kennedy-Kyl Comprehensive Immigration Reform Proposal currently before the Senate.
"This bill should be put down the shredder," said Jon Koski with the Southern Utah Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. "It's not just illegal aliens coming across the border, either. There are the OTMs, or other than Mexicans, coming across, like people from Iran and Syria that speak Spanish. We've got to secure our borders first and foremost."
The bipartisan proposal, unveiled last month, would grant legal status to millions of people in the nation unlawfully while also mandating bolstered border security and a high-tech employment verification system to prevent illegal workers from getting jobs.
Larry Meyers, one of the rally's chief organizers, said the groups organized the demonstration because Bennett had made comments this week that led them to believe he is considering voting for the bill.
"If he is going to vote for the bill, then he will be going against the Constitution that requires states to protect their borders," Meyers said.
Bennett's press secretary, Emily Christensen, said the senator is "very aware of the wide range of opinions on immigration reform."
"Senator Bennett believes strongly that comprehensive immigration reform is needed to ensure security of our borders and prosperity of our economy," she said. "Given the complexity of the bill and the number of pending amendments, he continues to monitor the debate, listen to Utahns and review the details of the legislation."The proposal constitutes a far-reaching change in the immigration system that would admit future arrivals seeking to put down roots in the United States based on their skills, education levels and job experience, limiting the importance of family ties. A new class of guest workers would be allowed in temporarily, but only after the new security measures were in place a process that is expected to take 18 months.
Contributing: Associated Press.