Immigration billboard targeted parties
By Tim Engstrom
Albert Lea Tribune
Published Thursday, June 19, 2008
An immigration organization founded in Albert Lea paid for a billboard that graced Rochester during the two major-party state political conventions.
The Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction, on a yellow billboard, posted a message in black that read: Represent U.S. Citizens! Not Illegal Aliens.
The billboard was aimed at Democratic and Republican politicians in Rochester. The Minnesota Republican Party held its convention May 29-31 at the Mayo Civic Center. The Minnesota DFL Party held its convention June 6-8 also at the Mayo Civic Center.
The billboard flashed its message on May 30, 31 and June 7, 8.
Minnesota state legislators, most of these Republicans or Democrats were at the conventions, said Paul Westrum, founder of the coalition, who resides in Albert Lea.
He said his research shows 80 percent of U.S. citizens agree that something needs to be done about immigration and said Congress and state officials accomplish little. He said it seems the politicians are more interested in helping illegals than U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
The billboard was 10 by 36 feet and featured U.S. flags. It cost the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction $200 a day. It appeared on North Broadway, and it was an electronic billboard, flipping from advertisement to advertisement.
Westrum said the Minnesota Coalition for Immigration Reduction began May 1, 1994, with six members in Albert Lea, including former Mayor Bob Haukoos. There are now 31 chapters in Minnesota and one in Iowa. There are about 2,000 members from all walks of life, doctors and lawyers and many people who are retirement age, he said.
The second chapter was in Worthington and the biggest chapter is in Owatonna. He said there are similar organizations across the United States, and new ones are popping up every week.
Westrum, who frequently writes letters to the editor, said the organization is careful to avoid throwing the issues of immigration and illegal immigration into one pot. He said the news media, politicians and everyday folks tend to do this. He said the organization sources its information to groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA.
We still havent convinced Congress that action is needed on this, he said. Theres not enough money for infrastructure, but were spending on people who dont belong here.